May 1st, 2007
why gardening is the same as a career in design

while digging in the library once again i found another book i’ve been searching for, “the one-straw revolution” by masanobu fukuoka. it is one of these gems that sadly is out of print (though i did manage to find a used copy for $30 on amazon), but his ideas seem to me crucial and relevant to the world we are living in now. Mr. Fukuoka developed a method (or should i say “non method”) of “natural” farming. As the book describes it “farming as simply as possible within and in cooperation with the natural environment, rather than the modern approach of applying increasingly complex techniques to remake nature entirely for the benefit of human beings.” At some point he began using the term “do nothing”.
“My way was opposite. I was aiming at a pleasant natural way of farming which results in making the work easier instead of harder. “how about not doing this? How about not doing that?” –that was my way of thinking.”.
His methods advocate no machines, no prepared fertilizer, no plowing, no chemicals, non of the standard techniques employed in today’s modern agricultural world. And his farm would yield as much food as a modern farm of the same size, (but with much less effort). Masanobu believed and demonstrated that the land would provide rather easily if you did not upset the natural balance of things, effectively working with nature instead of trying to tame it or control it. He asked, “what is the natural pattern?”
It is important to note here that the Japanese language is much subtler than english, and the term “do-nothing” has no english equivalent. when he uses the term “do-nothing” it is not meant to be taken literally, there is in fact a certain amount of work to do on his farm, but that is to say much less work than would be involved using modern techniques. In this context I interpret “do-nothing” as “do-less” or “not controlling”.
So as I’m reading this book I am realizing that for the last few years this is the exact method I have been advocating and using myself with my approach to work. Without knowing it, I have been giving lectures based on a “do-nothing” approach to illustration and design, employing terms like “don’t promote”, “ignore your audience”, “fuck the money”. A recent interview I did goes into this a little more, (it’s not out yet). This is not to say I “do nothing” to promote my work, you do have to put things out in the world so that others can see and respond to them. But I do feel strongly that all of the techiniques, calculating, obsessing, entering contests, trying to get awards (annuals), wanting to be a rockstar in your field, trying to land “the” great job, trying to be like someone else who is successful, trying to target your portfolio, trying to be cool, and schmoozing, don’t actually help to move your career forward. If i look back over the course of my career so far, it is only when I stopped trying to do all of those things and focused on the work that the good stuff started to happen. only when I relinquished control to some extent and focused on the things that moved me did I start to attract some kind of success. And this method of “doing the opposite” of what I was taught required much less effort in the long run. (i think i wrote in the how article that instead of sending out hundreds of mailers, as the tell you to do in art school, i sent out a few here and there to places I really responded to.)
so i guess the questions that i learned to ask myself where, “what the hell makes me want to stay up all night so I can work on it, forgetting entirely about the fact that sleep exists as a possiblity?” “what makes you get up in the middle of the night to scribble something down?” “what is in my nature?” (NOT “what should go in my portfolio?”, “how do I target an audience?”, “how do i get more work?”) none of the artist’s whose work i respond try to ‘target an audience’.
What if we were to contemplate the opposite? What if we let the seeds grow on their own? Water them a bit if needed. leave the pruning shears behind.
“To the extent that people separate themselves from nature, they spin further and further from the center.”

May 1 2007
10:28 am
Helgi writes:

If you haven’t already, check out Tom Hodgkinson’s books How to Be Idle and How to Be Free. He references The One-Straw Revolution in the second one, and I’m very sure you’ll like both of them

May 1 2007
11:32 am
Kira writes:

Wow. You know, I didn’t do anything to promote my art past putting it in groups on flickr. Didn’t go asking for readers to my blog, didn’t stress over views and comments. Just made my art and released it into the world. And you know what? I now have readers and new friends and little surprises in my mail box…all through being myself and letting my work enter the world and speak for itself. Much easier. ;)

May 1 2007
12:45 pm
Amy writes:

Are you familiar with the writing of Suzi Gablik? Her books “The Reenchantment of Art” and “Conversations Before the End of Time” both ask the questions you are currently exploring in your work. The “Conversations” book is a series of interviews with artists (so much like you) who took their work in totally new directions in response to the needs of the planet and of their souls. Keep digging!
Warmest regards,

May 1 2007
2:25 pm
Sarah writes:

Well here’s more reccomendations … I think you migh enjoy reading about permaculture techniques – lots on the www and if you can get hold of a copy of THe Permaculture Way by Graham Bell (Harper Collins) it expands the priciples of p/c to community. That’s if you haven’t already heard of it of course.

May 1 2007
3:57 pm
littlepurplecow writes:

This is a great concept, Keri. Because if I have less to do, I am less stressed. If I am less stressed, I have more time to think. If I have more time to think, I come up with more creative ideas. If I come up with more creative ideas, I get closer to doing what I love. If I am doing what I love… I am at peace.

May 1 2007
4:06 pm
Mae Jane writes:

this post was just what I needed to read, thanks for sharing! :)

May 1 2007
4:21 pm
Beth writes:

I really enjoyed this… I’ve been thinking about this all in terms of how I create, in relation to being a mother and also just related to life in general. I appreciate your words and I’m off to do more thinking. Thanks.

May 1 2007
4:35 pm
journal wrecker writes:

will the wreck this journal site ever be updated with more inspiration to wreck??? or is that it?

May 1 2007
4:42 pm
Anja writes:

Such an interesting post. Thanks for the tip – I ordered the book and another one through him at the library. Looking forward to reading and thinking. Thanks for being precise about the Japanese too, very good to know.

May 1 2007
4:42 pm
Anja writes:

Of course I meant “by him” and not “through him”.

May 1 2007
5:45 pm
Enthusia writes:

keri–i really needed this post. i love the connection you made–

May 1 2007
7:54 pm
Caroline writes:

Sometimes when I read your posts Keri, I get so excited/inspired that I can barely read them! Hmmm… gotta work through that one.
Most people, especially those focused on their careers, seem very manic and disconnected to me. I definitely resonate with “do nothing/less” but I think that it takes a great deal of trust — not very western; definitely not part of the Protestant work ethic.

May 1 2007
9:22 pm
pixie writes:

LOVE Fukuoka! He is referenced by all of the authors that I’ve been reading in the past 18 mos. Toby Hemenway (gaia’s garden) writes : “One day, Fukuoka was asked, ‘If we grow our fruit trees the way you recommend, without pruning, how do we harvest the apples and what do we do with them?’ Fukuoka’s answer was “You shake the apples out of the tree and make cider, or feed them to pigs.’ His point was, you go in a whole other direction”.
No one that I know goes in “a whole other direction” more than you, m’dear. I am inspired every time I come here. I know that the internet steals your (our) soul(s). But I must say that I am always glad for the little bit you sacrafice, because it just affects me and my world so immensely.
Thank you.
love, p

May 2 2007
10:14 am
Bohemian mom writes:

Popping in her to tell you I just FINALLY got “Living Out Loud”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s fabulous! More creative and inspiring than I could have ever imagined.
Thank you!
Thank you for creating magic in my life!

May 2 2007
12:29 pm
eb writes:

I love this post and it is exactly in line with how I am feeling today – sitting in the sun with the dog and the cat – my sweet, sweet buddies who know how to do this – nothing – which is REALLY something – and then the well gently and quietly fills with sweet fresh water and things flow and grow with exquisite ease and kindness – yes kindness
xox – eb.

May 2 2007
5:01 pm
wilbur writes:

This is very true. I think thats why I started drawing again so I would stop trying to be a cool designer but just start putting marks on paper. Just communicate visually simply. Also, its fun.
Thanks for posting such a great article!

May 2 2007
11:11 pm
dega writes:

I often think of the same about how I approach everything. I think it must be cultural as well. I never read any book about it, but I do it instinctively. I recently had a conversation about the book ” The Secret”. I don’t need to read a book to know the secret. I think it is this culture that teaches people to schmooze rather to know people genuinely and you will have friends. What the hell. If you meet people and think they are all potential business partners, there is something wrong with that picture.

May 3 2007
6:01 am
Elisa Lataster writes:

I really love your blog, it’s so uplifting. If I feel to much “I should’s” in my head, I do a grounding for me, imagine I’m a tree, roots down, branches up, and let go of all the leaves that say I should…

May 3 2007
10:43 am
caroline writes:

what a sigh of relief. i think there is something that is so rampant in this culture that i am trying very hard to resist in myself- the belief that nothing can possibly happen on its own, without us beating away at it. there is so much trust in what you say about our inherent ability to create if we simply get out of our own way. i have been beating myself up a bit to always do more lately. thank you for reminding me there is another way.

May 3 2007
9:29 pm
Stephanie writes:

you have NO idea how much I needed to hear that. Thank you. =) I have really been struggling with making money vs. making art. I need to go back to my mindframe BEFORE I started selling my work. Things were a little easier then.

May 4 2007
2:38 am
Menachem writes:

Wow, the more I read the more I know I have found kindred. In my rabbinical work I have never been concerned with getting the word out and growing our community. It’s all about community and spiritual growth of the community and individuals.
Thank you so much for all the work you do and for sharing it with us. Abundant blessings for you.
shalom v’ahava,

May 4 2007
8:12 am
Resistance Toys writes:

This post went straight to my heart and my gut. I’ve been getting ideas that would take me off in new directions away from “how things should be done,” and this was perfect synchronicity to decide, “Yes.” Thank you for that, Keri. Loving the energy behind the thoughts and how it will show up in your work.

May 4 2007
12:01 pm
Melanie writes:

Thanks for the interesting post. I just put in a request for the book from our local library!
Here is a great used book site I did a search for the book you mentioned, here are the results:
Enjoy the journey!!!

May 5 2007
10:17 am
cat writes:

Fascinating entry keri, thank you so much for posting it!

May 5 2007
1:56 pm
keri Smith writes:

comments closed due to an overwhelming amount of comment spam.
(an excellent example of how overuse advertising directly impacts our lives.)

May 5 2007
1:56 pm
keri Smith writes:

comments closed due to an overwhelming amount of comment spam.
(an excellent example of how overuse advertising directly impacts our lives.)

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