The Time Machine

Numbering notebooks started in 2006 when I started writing in Moleskine’s. Currently working through #71, a Leuchtturm 1917. That’s quite an investment.

Like so many right now, I have spent an unusual amount of time sitting in on webinars covering a broad range of topics. Throw in my steady diet of podcasts and not only do you start to become a fountain of knowledge, but you also begin to spot trends.

One trend I have picked up on lately is the idea of Morning Pages. This daily practice was introduced by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, which I read back in the mid-90s. Although many of the concepts she recommended did not stick, Morning Pages are an integral part to starting my day everyday.

For the uninitiated, in a nutshell, Morning Pages are sitting down with paper and pen at the beginning of every day and writing for 20 minutes straight. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling or grokking too hard on anything, you just empty your head of thoughts.

I find that some times I ramble on wondering why I am wasting precious amounts of paper and ink. Other times I merely report on the activities of the previous day, but sometimes I actually stumble into an exploration of a new idea or dig deep into something weighing on my mind.

Lately, the pop-psychologists are all highly recommending this practice. I most certainly agree with them, as I have been dutifully writing my Morning Pages almost every day for the past 25 years. I find the practice to be helpful, getting me ready for a productive day ahead as well as helping me see farther down the road.

I wanted to share one unexpected benefit of this practice. Towards the end of each year, I’ll go back and reread the Morning Pages for that year, starting at January 1 all the way to the current date. Usually takes a few days. Sometimes I just scan through the pages, but every once in a while I will uncover a treasure trove of what I was thinking about. Seeing how thoughts, events and actions played out over the course of a year can be enlightening.

But the real benefit is going further back, rereading the Pages from years ago. What was bothering me back in 1999? Who was pissing me off in March of 2016? What battle had I won in the summer of 2006? How did all this play out over the years?

That’s interesting, but what’s even more more interesting is how rereading the events of the day can instantly transport me back to that time. Thoughts and memories long forgotten come back to life, often vividly. I’ve found that not only writing, but also doodles and sketches in my notebooks, do the same thing. It’s amazing how thoughts come back to life.

These aren’t just notebooks – they’re time machines.

There’s the old adage that if you do not learn from history you are destined to repeat it. Some things in life are worth repeating – how did you manage an seemingly impossible challenge the first time around? Or, are you looking to make a change and you can now trace your life back to a particular moment when you found yourself at a fork in the road that led you to where you are today? There is tremendous value is learning from your own experiences and reflecting on them as continue to move forward with life.

Being able to travel back in time while flexing your creative muscles — needless to say I highly recommend you write your Morning Pages. You never know what you might find, that morning or years from now.


Pick Two

More than a few years back, Lowell Williams became a partner at Pentagram and came back to his old stomping grounds in Houston to give a presentation about his experiences to the local AIGA chapter.

He opened his presentation with an idea that has since stuck in my mind. How do you decide if you should take on a new project? He had a very simple method.

To take on a new project, it must meet at least two of the following criteria:

Outrageous fees.
Compelling work.
Fun people.

That simple. Now let’s look at the logic.

You cannot have just one. No one is going to give you a bucket full of money and not expect something in return, like maybe doing a little work for them. Nor are there projects lying around on the ground just waiting for someone to bring them to life. And “fun people” are, well, generally called “friends”. So, at a minimum you have to have two.

The fees are straight-forward. If you’re not going to get paid, why bother. Wait a second … if the work is really interesting, there’s a chance to learn or grow, or the finished piece will look great in your book, maybe you’ll want to take the project on. And it the client is a fun and lively group that you’ll want to hang out with after the project wraps … alright, let’s do this! See, his method works.

Another angle: The project is super interesting, a real challenge that will stretch you, but the client is going to be equally challenging. Charge them out the wah-zoo. It’s amazing how a hefty check in your bank account can ease the pain of the 75th round of revisions at 3 o’clock in the morning.

On the flip side, the work isn’t all that interesting but you really like the client, use this as an opportunity to make a little money. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Of course, the Holy Grail is a project meeting all three criteria. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have had a few such projects. They’re golden: the opportunity to do some amazing work that I am especially proud of, while making some new friends and money along the way.

Mr. Williams is right; a project must meet two points, but in my mind, strive for meeting all three.


Get the Idea

There’s the expression we “get” ideas. We don’t “get” ideas. We make ideas.

Mitch Resnick

Do yourself a favor and do not miss the excellent series about Creativity on Freakonomics Radio. The intro episode is okay, but the second installment is packed full of nothing but treasures and juicy nuggets, like the one above from Mr Resnick. Even if you do not like his music, be sure to not miss the extended interview with Elvis Costello. Lots of gems in there as well.


Pablo Ferro

It has been a rough couple of weeks. Over the weekend, news came out that Pablo Ferro passed away.

He spoke at the MFA Houston a few years ago and I had the good fortune to meet him. Kind, humble, generous and still passionate about his work after all these years.

I swear an ad he did for Burlington Mills back in the mid 60s, that was still airing a decade later, had a huge impact on me. It was so striking, so different from everything else on TV at the time – the actual programming or the adverts – that 40 years later it still resonates with me.

I was able to speak with Mr Ferro for a few minutes after his presentation and told him how his work had had such an lasting effect on me. Made him smile.

God rest your beautiful soul, Mr Ferro.


Worth Reading & Watching

 

HUGH MACLEOD CONNECTS THE DOTS
Typically artists and business people operate in different worlds, where never the twain shall meet. MacLeod however is an artist obsessed with the business environment.

THE ENEMIES OF INNOVATION by Marty Neumeier
HOW TO RECOGNIZE THE HIDDEN FORCES ARRAYED AGAINST CREATIVITY

A beginner’s guide to copywriting: 6 essential reads to get you started

Why Science Fiction Is the Most Important Genre
“Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre,” Harari says in Episode 325 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”

Scott Belsky: How to Navigate the Messy Middle of a Creative Venture
The starts and finishes of a project seem to get all the headlines and press, but they don’t adequately reflect the extreme swings that occur during the middle section of a journey. In his new book, The Messy Middle, 99U Founder Scott Belsky shares lessons in entrepreneurship around the crucial, but overlooked part of a creative endeavor.

Creativity’s bottom line: How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth
Most of us can remember a couple of favorite ads. They’re funny, clever, thoughtful. Creativity can delight, even inspire. But does it generate business value?

 

https://vimeo.com/286552868


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