I’m having one of those days where there are so many things I want to get out onto the page, so many ideas, so many words, yet nothing flows. One of those days where there are a million things you want to do, yet none of them get started. Instead I had a long, detailed conversation with the man who came to fix the dishwasher, about the nature of consumerism and the pitfalls of living in a world where everything has become disposable. Even dishwashers.
I was feeling discouraged again about the challenge of getting my current manuscript accepted, repeated rejection launches an author into the throes of feeling like a hack. Yet I know it is meant to live somewhere out there in the world.
Oh, do I talk about this stuff here? Yes, I need to be frank for a minute.
So many people have asked me for the follow up book to Living Out Loud, and I know that I could write one. And it would probably be o.k. and sell pretty well, and I could just go about my life, make some money and continue on this path being the creativity guru for years (even though I don’t really know what the hell I’m talking about sometimes). But here’s the thing. I want to grow as an artist, as an author. I don’t want to be one who writes the same book over and over. I want to push myself to new places, experiment, jump up and down, do things that feel a little uncomfortable, and question things. I do not wish to be an “expert”. And so I came up with something new. Except it seems that many want me to just do “that other thing that you did the last time”, we like that best. And truthfully, “we know it will sell”. The new thing is not so sellable. Which is probably good because nothing should ever be created “to sell”.
Someone sent me a link to this article by Margaret Wheatley. The line that rang in my ears was,
“When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” -Rudold Bahro. Then the question is posed, Could insecurity, self-doubt, be a good trait? God, I hope so, because lately I must be on the cutting edge. The author goes on to say that “feeling insecure, even groundless, might actually increase my ability to stay in the work.” She quotes Valclav Havel,
“Hope, is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”
read that again.
As I take a slow, lung filling inhalation followed by an equally slow exhalation, I must tell you that deep down I feel more resolved in my ideas than ever before. That amidst the questioning, the rejection, the groundlessness, I feel a great strength stirring and it’s presence has seemed a little contradictory. But in that quote lies the answer, at some level I have accepted that there is a reason that I haven’t found a publisher yet. I feel resolved in my process, that somehow it is teaching me something.
Maybe that is why I am drawn to the print test patterns on the bottom of boxes lately. That behind everything in our contemporary world there is a tiny secret code, that only makes sense to those who created it.
today is a day for curling up on the couch with a book, being immersed in someone elses life for a change.
for making dinner for friends, (roast vegetable linguine with basil).
for doodling strange characters on the chalkboard.
for getting some exercise after consuming large amounts of food over the last two days.
for letting my fears and worries sit quietly in the corner, for allowing myself to breathe deeply for a time.
for feeling grateful for a life, short though it may have been.
for being grateful for time spent with family.
for singing harmonies.
for sinking into a hug from husband.
for sending out love to friends you’ve never met in person when they are going through a rough time.
for putting on your new favourite hat that you made yourself.
for slowing your mind and feeling more in your body.
for allowing yourself to feel good about a project, (even though you are slightly disappointed about a couple of things with it).
for turning the computer off and going outside to feel the sun.
“Making things complicated is easy. Achieving simplicity is tough.” ~Bruno Munari
I am giving a talk today for a design class at UC Davis. I always love speaking to a class, to interact more with individuals (as opposed to a large group). My talks have changed a bit over time. I feel as though I am shifting into something ‘bigger’ myself. I am less interested in speaking about my work and more interested in the development of ideas. As mentioned in the title today I think I will focus on the impact of the journal on the greater scheme. How the small details of life can be worked into design. I put together a pdf format of the 100 ideas, to aid the journal work.
100 ideas pdf (the pieces are to be cut out and picked randomly.)
I bought the book Bright Minds, Beautiful Ideas and find myself eating it up like a good piece of fruit. So great. One of my favourite photos is of Rae Eames on the floor of a gallery on all fours apparently seeking out a different perspective on a piece. I smile everytime I look at it as I like to do this myself. I also find it nearly impossible not to touch a piece of art (the pull is overwhelming), and will always try when I feel no one is looking. I wish all art was interactive in this way. While I am sympathetic to the fact that human oils deteriorate things, if a painting or a sculpture begs one to touch it, isn’t that to goal of art in some way? To entice, or to seduce? I like that feeling of wanting to be immersed in something more fully.
While viewing Monet’s water lilies at the Moma, I had to fight the urge to eat the large violet and blue chunks of paint. I smiled when I learned recently that Marti Guixe created an edible installation, (the “paper” pieces on the wall were actually the hors doeuvres). i love art that has that element of surprise.
glean, v.i. & t. Gather ears of corn left by reapers, gather (such remains); strip (field etc.), thus; collect in small quantities, scrape together, (news, facts, etc.) source: the concise oxford dictionary.
This weekend I watched the film “The Gleaners and I” by french filmmaker Agnes Varda. Following her attraction to “gleaning”, Varda documents various forms of the concept from people who harvest potatoes left in the field, to a famous chef who gleans produce from the countryside, to artists, and also the homeless. It is a fascinating and sometimes strange and painful journey. (Apparently I have always been a ‘gleaner’ and didn’t even know it.) It is also a commentary on the nature of overconsumption in our culture, and asks us to question ‘what is enough?’ In the end ‘the Gleaners and I’ left me grinning, (and hungry).
wanderings and things i like…
…a hike in the california hills (adding to the seed pod collection), oak trees, yellow hills against a blue sky, the smell of bay laurel under our feet
…collecting strange large ‘nuts’ that look like chesnuts but bigger
…squash and apple soup (from the Moosewood restaurant cookbook)
…new books, 52 Projects by Jeffrey Yamaguchi, Cook Until Desired Tenderness by Cleo Papanikolas, “The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram
…purple potatoes and small pink turnips, which I had never eaten before, from the farmer’s market. (i roasted them with thyme)
…the local satsumas are very good right now.
…decaf cappucino’s from Pete’s
…gleaning blue things found on the street.
…looking up words in the dictionary.
Use only if it speaks to you…
viva la revolution!
(the server was down temporarily, but it is back now. hopefully.)
(p.s. For those of you who are “disappointed”, I see this as no different than what magazines like the Sun, Adbusters, and Ms. have done. Many people wrote me about using the icon, and so I have provided it for them to use.)
I received an email that really helped me to formulate my thinking on the subject of blog advertising, here is an excerpt,
“Believing that corporations need to have their presence in public life limited is perfectly compatible with working for those corporations.
You are drawing a line around a space you deemed inappropriate for corporations to inhabit. And you are not willing to move your line for money. You are also happy to work for them within what you consider appropriate boundaries. I don’t see a contradiction here. I see an issue of appropriateness and restraint, two concepts that are glaringly absent from American public discourse–or should I say from the discourse of capitalism? What is the proper role for commercialism in a culture? What are the restraints on the powerful necessary for a just society to function? I see your questioning of blog ads within this frame of thought.”
It is very important for me right now to know that I can draw a line regarding corporate advertising on blogs and still be immersed in the culture at large. Yesterday, when I was feeling discouraged a part of me thought, “if I am to take this argument to the full limit and stick to my guns, then I will not be able to make a living as an illustrator, and may have to retreat from the world completely.” Which is ridiculous, if you follow to it’s extreme you will not be able to walk down the sidewalk (given that the company who makes the sidewalk might be unethical).
What I found most important were the words “appropriateness and restraint”. I think that has been the missing thread for me in this argument (what I’ve had difficulty articulating) and is at the heart of my *grey area*. I am not about to single handedly wage a war against the world of advertising and corporate culture. As mentioned some of my favourite designers did huge advertising campaigns, (which I thought were brilliant), and I make my living working for many corporations. And in fact I actually really enjoy several tv shows (if I visit you and you have a t.v. I would enjoy watching it), and am not wholly opposed to it as a concept.
Simply put, what is really at the heart of the matter here is I am opposed to advertising imposing itself into every aspect of our lives (not advertising itself), and a society who puts the dollar ahead of human needs, and I don’t wish to sit quitely by the sidelines while a medium that I value becomes affected. (there is a famous quote somewhere about the opposite of life not being death, but indifference.)
I am going to put this down today for a few hours and go out insearch of some new samples to add to my growing seed pod collection. There is no shortage of strange seed pods in this part of the world.
Risk everything, but don’t forget to take time to stop and notice the ground beneath your feet.