the joy of stopping
you can check out any time you want
It’s been a while! No apologies, the world has gone to shit after all.
I’m still here, very little has changed in the past few months, and it’s looking like not much is going to change for a while. Perhaps that will be nice, a cosy winter indoors, no reason to venture out into the cold and the rain.
I’ve been intending to write more, but that has not extended to actually doing so. Maybe that’s changing now?
Anyway, I hope you’re all okay.
I’m not great at habits. My energy and enthusiasm come in bursts: I officially completed my PhD thesis in four years, but in truth I wrote most of it in one six-week stint towards the end. Every piece of advice told me to write little and often, but the reality of my creative process does not look like that, and never has.
Then, a few years ago, I started doing daily generative art sketches. At the time I started, I was “between jobs” and didn’t have much to do with my time, so I was starting a lot of projects. Somehow this one stuck, and I kept it up for three years. I decided to stop doing them a few weeks ago, and told myself I should write something about the process.
One reason I started was to try a more long-term, consistent approach. It goes against all my instincts, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? Maybe I’ll learn something from the process, maybe I’ll discover that all of those advice-purveyors were right. Maybe I’ll learn a new superpower of regular consistent creative output.
So were they right? Maybe. I produced a lot of work: over a thousand images. Were any of them any good? There’s a few that I like, and a few that other people seem to like (enough to buy prints of, at least). I can’t say there’s anything there that I love though, or anything that I feel deeply proud of.
There’s also nothing there that feels like a jumping-off point for other work. I had the idea when I started that this could be a fresh source of creative inspiration. Forcing myself to do something, anything, every day would lead to more ideas, which would flow into “real” projects. I don’t feel like that’s happened. I look at the images and they’re just nice images, nothing more.
I think part of the problem is that these sketches were never “for” anything. Usually when I make work, I have an audience in mind, or at least an itch of my own that I want to scratch, but here I deliberately avoided thinking about audience or purpose. When I do consulting work, my first question is always “what are you trying to achieve?” — it’s interesting to observe the result of not asking myself the same question.
This all sounds quite negative. I don’t really feel that way — I’m happy with the project as a whole, even if it didn’t live up to any dreams I might have had. Feedback from other people has been good, and a few people seem to have been inspired by it. Mostly though, I’m glad to have demonstrated to myself that I can keep up a habit like that. Now I just need to find something else to do.
Do you read Matt Webb’s blog? It’s great, like a hole in time back to the web of the early 00s, but engaged with the topics of today. He’s really kicked it up a notch over the last few months as well.
I’ve stopped “playing”, but I’m still thinking a lot about the cultural event of Blaseball. Its the latest incarnation of an idea that seems to click every so often: a minimal low-tech game with enough evocative lore to build a community (cf Cookie Clicker, maybe Kingdom of Loathing)
I bought an Oculus Quest to play with during lockdown. I can’t fully recommend it, there isn’t really that much software for it, but damn, isn’t Beat Saber the perfect game? Hit the blocks with sticks, why do we need anything more?
As a continuation of my “what if art, but not on a computer” kick, I’ve been dabbling in linocut printing. Anyway, it’s fun and not too hard to get the hang of and you can make lots of nice-looking copies of a thing pretty easily.
The festival I talked about before, Control Shift, is happening! There’s both an in-person and a pretty extensive online programme, it should be good. I’m not as involved as I had planned to be, but I’ll be running around behind the scenes on a few things.