Beginnings, or the quiet glory of merely making things
Whenever I don’t really know where I am or where to start, creatively, I take a look at Austin Kleon’s blog. A recent post from 12th October talks about Starting from Scraps, and begins with this quote by David Rakoff:
“Creativity demands an ability to be with oneself at one’s least attractive, that sometimes it’s just easier not to do anything. Writing — I can really only speak to writing here — always, always only starts out as shit: an infant on monstrous aspect; bawling, ugly, terrible, and it stays terrible for a long, long time (sometimes forever). Unlike cooking, for example, where largely edible, if raw, ingredients are assembled, cut, heated, and otherwise manipulated into something both digestible and palatable, writing is closer to having to reverse-engineer a meal out of rotten food.”
As someone who’s been trying to write for as long as they’ve been able to, this quote hits home. But it’s especially the first sentence: sometimes, it’s just easier not to do anything.
I’ve been going down that easier route for many years. I’m in my early thirties, an age I couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. A large part of my life so far has been about surviving rather than thriving, just making it through, day after day, in a world I didn’t feel equipped for.
As a child, I had this vast creative energy – I was a budding writer, and artist, a designer, an actor, a singer, a fledgling radio host (I made my own audio tapes, god knows what was on them), an avid reader. I lost all that somewhere along the way between inappropriate medication, depression, life-draining jobs and other things life throws at you sometimes.
Things are better now. I live in a city I like, surrounded by people I like, in a job that leaves me energy at the end of the day. My life is in relative balance.
And I find myself with some free headspace to want to make things.
One of my favourite lines I’ve ever read, one I still think about getting tattooed, is from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic:
“What does any of that [the pressure to be good] have to do with vocation? What does any of that have to do with the pursuit of love? […] What does any of that have to do with the quiet glory of merely making things, and then sharing those things with an open heart and no expectations?”
The quiet glory of merely making things. That sense of getting lost in the act of making, of creating for the sake of creating, because it’s the best way to spend the time we have. This quiet glory was with me for most of my childhood, and I’ve been missing that feeling for a long time.
There’s something I want to do, something I’ve never really told anybody: I want to design books.
I have no design background, just a love for books as objects and a reasonably discerning eye – I know what I like, and I know what looks good. And, as a book person, great book design gives me pleasure like nothing else.
All my life I’ve believed that most things weren’t for me. That includes those glorious titles of “author” and “designer”. What magical creatures they are, I thought, what lofty heights they move in. What privilege, what a calling! I could never. I’m just not born to do it.
I’ve worked directly with designers for years now, which has been enough time to get thoroughly disillusioned. Most of them have been wonderful, talented, competent people. Others, well … they’ve made me wonder, as I sat for hours fixing badly aligned InDesign catastrophes, why they are doing my dream job.
It can’t be that impossible, then.
Maybe it’s as easy as getting my behind in a chair and tackling the work. Fill the gaps and acquire the skills, check in with the contacts even I, a socially anxious mess, have been able to collect in 10 years of publishing. And if that doesn’t work, I just want to do it for fun.
So why a blog?
I like blogging. It fell out of fashion for a while and I didn’t quite know what to write or how to write it for many years, but long-form writing is coming back, and I’m here for it.
One thing I’ve been missing in blogs over the past years was a sense of discovery. Most content creators seem happy to hand out advice, but rarely do I see someone experiment and learn new things. I see a shift away from that in many newsletters and other platforms now, and I’d like to add to that shift. Insecurity is my thing, I have plenty to share for those who want to see some.
But mostly, I need accountability. And even an imagined reader should bring me back once a week to report on my progress.
See you, imagined reader, next week, when maybe, hopefully, I’ll have something to report.