Is there a direct relationship between xkcd and What If? Do they inspire each other?
Mostly, I just think it's helped me because it's given me all this cool stuff to read through. I'll sometimes be researching a question and then be like, "I don't think I can turn that into a thing." But I did find this paper while I was doing it, which led me to this other paper, which led me to this blog, which led me to this comic.
And it probably made me annoying! I read this book once about this guy, A.J. Jacobs, who read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and wrote about the experience. He said he had the problem where someone would be like, "Pass the salt," and he'd be like, "Oh, did you know that salt was originally used in medicine for this kind of thing, and then we learned it causes this?" And people would be like, "Just pass the salt."
I had something similar. When I was doing the money chart, someone would say, "Oh, I can't afford to move into a new apartment," and I'd say, "Oh, I know, a lot of people are in that situation because the income has changed like this, whereas the rents in this state have shifted more than in other states, because blahblahblahblahblah -- all these economics."
It was like, "Okay, wait. Pull back. This is not interesting."
I learned very early on in life that not everyone wants to hear every fact in the world, even if you want to tell them everything you've ever read. Which is why it's probably good that I have the comic schedule that I do -- because I would figure out something to say every 30 minutes if I were forced to by my schedule. But it would not be the most interesting.
How does the weekly schedule of xkcd and What If play into that? Is it a way of forcing yourself to create with regularity?
If there's one thing I've learned from drawing xkcd, it's that I need a strict schedule. Some people who publish comics will just write whenever they have a good idea and put things up, without a regular update schedule. If I did that, I would never post anything. I have to have that deadline pressure to make me pick something.
And that was part of why I hesitated with the question-answering site, and part of why I picked it out of all the things I could have done a blog about -- because I knew that the questions were going to make me want to answer them anyway.
What about your work environment? Where do you actually do your research and your drawing?
For a long time, I was working from home. Once I got married, I started working from an office. I found that having somewhere to go that isn't my house is mentally helpful: "This is the place where I answer email and write blog posts," and "over there is the place where I do the dishes." Because otherwise, if I'm sitting around, I can go, "You know, I haven't cleaned the floor of the bathroom for a while." If you ever come to my house and the bathroom is clean, it means that I have some project I'm supposed to be doing that I can't get started on.