Check out this post I just found on café writing here. Nice to hear someone discussing the rituals and etiquette of writing in cafés, even if it has taken me over a year to find this particular blog entry! I also hadn't heard of David Mamet's book 'Writing in Restaurants'. Guess I am behind the times: it was first published in 1987. Oh well! Better late than never. Sounds like it doesn't have much to say about the act of writing in restaurants, at any rate: nevertheless, I will check it out.
I have just finished reading the short but punchy ‘Ignore Everybody’ by Hugh MacLeod, who is a cartoonist, creativity pundit and internet whisperer who first published the manuscript as a download on his blog. The book presents 40 ideas about creativity, or more accurately, 40 perspectives on the creative life. It is full of practical commentary about the pitfalls and opportunities that emerge at various points along the way to creative fulfillment. It also offers a lightning-bolt jolt of reality to the romantic notions of making it big and being ‘discovered’, and what that might mean.
I find myself agreeing with much of what he has to say, and I recognise the pattern he advocates emerging in my own creative practice. In particular I like his ‘Sex/Money’ theory. The sex/money theory states that the creative life is destined to be cleaved down the middle, with some activities engaged in to keep the bills paid (money) and some things done because they are awesome and tap into your passion (sex). MacLeod goes so far as to say that the ideal creative life should remain split in this way, and that if this is your current situation, then get used to it as it is probably not going to change any time soon. More than this, he alludes to the idea that the tension between the sex and money side of things is creatively stirring, and as such desirable.
Of course, by keeping the sex side of your creative life completely, well, sexy - unencumbered by the need for it to pay the bills, pay the piper or otherwise satisfy the demands of interested third parties such as publishers or agents - all manner of benefits can flow. A high degree of autonomy is the chief among them, something that MacLeod calls ‘personal sovereignty’. In fact, by my reading MacLeod rates sovereignty as the highest goal of the creative life, the crown jewels that must be protected at all costs.
The title insight - ignore everybody - speaks of this sovereignty. It is a clarion call to follow your own muse and do precisely what you want to do, no matter how ridiculous, pointless or obscure it might seem at first. ‘Ignore everybody’ is advice based on the assumption that other people won’t have any more sense of the value of your idea/s than you do, and usually less. In fact, the chances are that they will have incentive to dislike or ‘not get’ your idea, for a host of reasons.
This of course led me to speculate as to what my idea actually is. What’s my thing? For MacLeod, it was (and is) cartooning on the back of business cards, an obscure and seemingly uncommercializable (is that a word?) speciality he has turned into a lucrative vocational gig. So what is it that I seek to build a bastion of personal sovereignty around?
Right now the idea, if it is singular, is to write. However, that small phrase - to write - covers a multitude of possibilities, and it is necessary to be far more specific than that. After all, I am writing right now, but is this the point or merely a by-product of chasing the dragon? I am not sure, but this is an open question, for now. I have a strong sense that I have not found my genre or niche yet, but I am actively looking.
Another idea MacLeod puts forward is to blog, as a way of opening up possibilities around your ‘thing’ and building a community. Well, check - here we are. Although my community building efforts have been modest to date, as this blog comes more into focus this may improve.
While we are talking about the focus of this blog: it used to be about thinking, design and the city. This was fine, but very general. With a little objective distance, I can now analyse the component parts, and understand how the focus of the blog has been narrowing in a constructive way. First, I realised that when I said ‘thinking’, what I was thinking about was writing and creativity. So writing and creativity are the point, not the thinking that leads to them. Secondly, there is the word ‘design’. The word ‘design’ was in there because I am a designer in my day job, and in some ways design thinking is a big part of what I do. But again, this blog isn’t really about design, not in any traditional sense.
Finally, I used to say the blog was about ‘the city’, but what I really meant was ‘Melbourne city’, and specifically my perambulatory, café-hopping life therein. So I have been slowly narrowing the focus of the blog; now it is about ‘writing, creativity and life in Melbourne city.’ What I really mean to write about is my daily battle to lead a creatively fulfilling life as a writer while keeping the bills paid, here in downtown Melbourne. Can the focus tighten even more? Undoubtedly yes, but at some point it becomes reductive. This is where I will stop for now.
So welcome to The Flawed Mind: writing and creativity in a café-hopping life in Melbourne city. Now all I have to do is ignore everybody, and see where it takes me.