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“In any creative form, when the externals become too important the form becomes degenerate.”

Walter O’Meara


I immediately hear: in making a thing, if you are too concerned with how it will perform, the made thing will degenerate.

De-generate.

Is Creative Fulfillment in a Career Possible

‘Advertising began as an art,’ (Rosser) Reeves noted, ‘and too many advertising men want it to remain that way — a never-never land where they can say: “this is right, because we feel it’s right.”’

Actually, said Reeves, advertising is a science like engineering, with some incidental esthetic potential but essentially a tool, an instrument of commerce firmly grounded in practical matters. []…] At all costs, admen should avoid ‘the most dangerous word of all in advertising — originality,’ an esthetic conceit deadly to maintaining a proper USP (unique selling proposition).

[…]

Like Rosser Reeves, he (Marion Harper) denied that advertising was an art not because he meant to denigrate advertising but because he had some sense of what real art amounted to. ‘What the audience receives from advertising is all-important,’ he explained. ‘This is not the character of the creative arts, in which the artist’s inspiration is paramount, and in which there can be indifference to the audience response.’

Stephen R. Fox


Still reading this great book on the history of advertising. Still finding so much of my current churnings in it.

Is it possible to be creatively fulfilled and support a family + live responsibly?

I struggle. I think I might, essentially, be a publisher. A publisher is concerned with numbers and eyeballs and moving product. A publisher is concerned with getting the damned thing out in time… whatever the damned thing my writers happen to be writing.

I used to fancy myself more of a creative. Almost an artist, but that’s, like, a heavy word, man. I used to dig and write or make videos like this one just for the hell of it. I used to create websites for fun.

That stuff was fun because it was new. Or because it was lewd and inappropriate. There’s always lewd and inappropriate in a pinch.

Now that stuff’s not new. I’m building a company and supporting partners and customers and there’s this big mess of people who could receive enormous value from the thing we’ve made and I should get this in front of them in a language they can easily receive and if they have different standards from me, different senses of humor and different experiences to draw from, well then I should meet them in those places rather than insist on them learning my own.

This is what it looks like to grow, to get big, to succeed.

Don’t wallow in your whiny artist-isms about “digging” and “the truth” and “what feels good right now” and all that immaturity… don’t be so conceited.

Do that on the side. In your spare time.

Rosser Reeves, quoted at the very top, the villain of 50s advertising (responsible for several of the largest successes) WROTE POETRY ON THE SIDE. Wrote a novel. Put together the first team of chess players from the US to tour Russia. He wrote a short story that was included in a book called The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (11th edition).

Is that what we have to do? Keep our art separate from our work/career?

Is there a sane and sustainable way to mix the two, or do they necessarily pollute one another?

The two quotes above, both from admen in the 50s, point in one direction. My own success points in another. (It was fucking about and exploring that brought me to any success I’ve found… not calculated strategy or an enterprising point of view.)

Here’s one image I find helpful.

I’m a big fan of Louis C.K. I love his comedy. I love his rambly path to success. And I think I’m learning to see the calculation in his (and other successful comedian’s) act. And the one image I have that helps me hold this question in balance is this:

I picture Louis C.K. as the head of a newspaper company. He’s every yelling, cigar-chomping guy in every superman comic or movie about a newspaper. He normally says things like, “This is shit!” and “I need that piece YESTERDAY, Scott!” He’s that guy, except he’s Louis C.K.

One day I break down in his office. “I got into this racket to tell the truth,” I scream. “But all the people seem to want is this bullshit we keep selling them!” The anger gives way to a kind of creative brokenheartedness. Louis recognizes it. He sits down behind his desk, opens the top drawer, hands me a cigar, lights it for me.

“You know how long I’ve been here, kid? 28 years next month. Here’s what I’ve learned: you’ve gotta give them what they want. Appeal to their shit nature, cuz it feels good to them, to push those bruises and pick those scabs. They love it. Get good at that shit, kid, cuz you gotta give them what they want… so they’ll read enough to find what they need. Surprise them with it, their gross reality, OUR depravity and selfishness, the ways we all fool ourselves, you gotta wrap it in shit so they’ll stick around long enough to maybe, just maybe get a nugget of truth in there… between the shovels of shit. I need your next piece on my desk by 3pm. Get out of here.” That last bit said with more than a little father-son fondness.

There’s a little glimpse into one of my sick fantasies… and one of my current struggles.

Good Work That Works Good

I’m working hard on Fizzle.co. Less people signed up over the summer, and now we need to get those numbers up. It’s a weird mode for your dad to be in… numbers and results are tough for me. I’d rather do what sounds fun and interesting and compelling. But I’ve learned enough about the importance of the balance: do good work that works good. Too much good work that doesn’t work good and I (you also probably) get moody, dumb, traction-less. But bad work that works good has the same effect. So balance it out if you can.


I created an Gmail address for my son (he’s 5 years old). Every month I send him a lil’ note. A picture, a story, an update on him and me, etc.

This morning the bit above popped out. “Good work that works good.” That balance sure is hard to find.

Joseph Campbell on the Not Striving Moment

“There’s a wonderful moment that comes when you realize, ‘I’m not striving for anything. What I’m doing now is not a means to achieving something later.’ Youth has always to think that way. Every decision a young person makes is a commitment to a life course, and if you make a bad decision, that angle, by the time you get [older] you’re far off course. But after a certain age there’s no future, and suddenly the present becomes rich, it becomes that thing in itself which you are now experiencing.”

Joseph Campbell

Bill Murray on Secrets About Living

“I think the only reason I’ve had the career life that I’ve had is that someone told me some secrets early on about living. You can do the very best you can when you’re very, very relaxed, no matter what it is or what your job is, the more relaxed you are the better you are. That’s sort of why I got into acting. I realized the more fun I had, the better I did it. And I thought, that’s a job I could be proud of. It’s changed my life learning that, and it’s made me better at what I do.”

Bill Murray

“Drums West” cut-paper animation from Jim Henson. This newly rediscovered short was created in Jim’s home studio in Bethesda, MD around 1961. It is one of several experimental shorts inspired by the music of jazz great Chico Hamilton. At the end, in footage probably shot by Jerry Juhl, Jim demonstrates his working method.


First:

The more I go back, back
See the first makers
When it was all new

Before rules
Before white men
Had their books

The more I go back, back
I see exploration
And boys and hearts

Before me
And now I
have their books


And now some still images from this paper animation:

(more…)

Billy Collins on Finding Your Voice

“You ‘find your voice’ when you are able to invent this one character who resembles you, obviously, and probably is more like you than anyone else on earth, but is not the equivalent to you.

It is like a fictional character in that it has a very distinctive voice, a voice that seems to be able to accommodate and express an attitude that you are comfortable staying with but an attitude that is flexible enough to cover a number of situations. The character I invented, if I had to describe him, is probably an updating of a character you find strolling through the pages of English Romantic poetry. He is a daydreamer, obviously unemployed, plenty of time on his hands, spends a lot of time by himself, and has an unhealthy fascination with his thinking process, his own speculations and fantasies. So he is not a really new character. He is kind of a remodeling of this earlier Romantic character, the poet who would find himself daydreaming on a wayside bench somewhere.”

Billy Collins


Great lil’ inner-view into someone responsible for several poems that make me laugh. Like this one.

Another quote I enjoyed:

“I thought I would be completely content if I was recognized at some later point in my life as a third-rate Wallace Stevens.”

If I called you a “third-rate so-and-so,” is there any so-and-so out there, any hero or iconoclast you admire, that you’d actually be proud grateful and proud of being compared to them in this way?

I see myself as a bit of a third-rate Merlin Man. Probably a fourth-rate Louis C.K. But i don’t think I’d be proud of being called those… they’re just true.

I think I’d be proud of being described as a third-rate Robin Williams or a third-rate Bob Goff (but that one needs some explaining… some day).

Depression’s Insights & Laughter’s Forgiveness

“I would call this condition clarity, not depression; humor and depression are two different, but not mutually exclusive, responses to it. I know we’re told to regard depression as a disease, its victims no different from people who succumb to cancer or diabetes. But because it’s a disease whose symptoms take the shape of ideas, it can get hard to parse out pathology from worldview. The Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert once told me that ‘there are people who have no delusions; they’re called clinically depressed.’ Depression’s insights aren’t necessarily invalid; they’re just not helpful. Depression uses clarity as an instrument of torture; humor uses it as a setup. Comedy tells us, ‘But wait – that’s not the good part.’ Depression condemns the world, and us, as hateful; laughter is a way of forgiving it, and ourselves, for being so.”

Tim Kreider via Kleon

Slomo on the Most Absurd, Stupid Way to go Through a Life

“I reckon what I’m talking about is my experience in the middle part of life. The large part is a grinding affair, working away, having a family, making the whole thing happen and, at the end of it, most people are pretty worn out. They don’t believe in God, they don’t believe in anything beyond this ephemeral existence that we’re in now, their attitudes are cynical. They’re what we call “assholes.” And I was one of them.

It occurred to me one time when I was driving to work — I had a lot of reports to dictate that day — that I was still shoveling shit. Which had been the way I started my life on the dairy farm. If I look back on it, I’m just thinking, “this is the most absurd, stupid way to go through a life that a person could ever dream up.” But we’re all being pushed on to do this. And then I had the opportunity to stop.”

Slomo


Sensational video. Don’t know how they make it hit so well, but it does. Go. Watch!

“Writer’s block is the equivalent of impotence. It’s the performance pressure you put on yourself that keeps you from doing something you naturally should be able to do.”

Neil Strauss

Some of the Better Things I’ve Written

A friend is interviewing me for his podcast. He wanted to immerse himself in things I’ve written to prep. I wondered what I’d tell him.

So I looked through the analytics, ran my favorite engagement report, and collected the most engaged with stuff. Here’s that list, with a few other bits and bobs.


Some of the most engaged with posts at IceToTheBrim.com:


My posts at The Sparkline & Fizzle:


The two biggies from Medium.com


Rowan stuff at the Tumblr:


However, my life’s work will probably be the marginalia found in the descriptions here:

You DID say “immerse.”

Maya Anglou on Legacy

Oprah: What will my legacy be?

Maya Angelou: You don’t get to decide what your legacy is. That’s not up to you. So do your work.

Recounted by Tom Shadyack