Election Day 2012 – Our Responsibility

There is a huge amount at stake this Election Day but, no matter what happens or who wins, we have to remember that the buck stops with us. We have the ultimate privilege and responsibility of deciding how we will live.

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

All Kindness is Productive

An excellent thought for a Friday.

All enmity, jealousy, opposition, and secrecy are wholly, and in all circumstances, destructive in their nature – not productive; and all kindness, fellowship, and communicativeness are invariably productive in their operation – not destructive.
John Ruskin

Be Yourself


A GENIUS IS THE ONE MOST LIKE HIMSELF.

-Thelonious Monk (via Lists of Note)


“The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tasks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Choose Your Success Carefully

If people are highly successful in the professions they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion – the relations between one thing and another. Humanity goes. Money making becomes so important that they must work by night as well as by day. Health goes.
— Virginia Woolf

Further reading

Secrets of Success
Life is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans

Creative Facebook – Who Will You Be?

Facebook is easy to hate. It swallows our lives then regurgitates them back to us in one-line status updates and shaky camera phone photos, right? Yet for all my bitching about wasted hours and insidious advertising I can’t tear myself away.

After hearing a presentation from Eric Edge, Facebook’s head of marketing communications, I have a new perspective on the situation. A garrulous, handsome kid in a crisp shirt, Edge was at an IPA creative conference to deliver the secrets of Facebook’s unseemly success. Which cook down to a set of aphorisms like “The journey is 1% finished” and “done is better than perfect”, all of which sound as if they should be emblazoned on those sickly ‘inspirational’ posters featuring pictures of snow-capped mountains or crouching tigers. Glib isn’t necessarily wrong, though, and advice like “be okay with giving up something good in the quest for something great” can apply to life as well as social networks.

Arguably Facebook’s real allure is creativity, rather than connectivity. It give users the chance to vicariously partake in a culture of freewheeling innovation and it lets create a facsimile of their perfect life. I am far more interested in posting my content, tagging my photos, and projecting my image than I am in reading about anyone else. My guess is that a lot of people feel the same way. I – we – stick with Facebook because it is desktop access to a parallel universe created in our image. People get into trouble on Facebook because they let loose and act as if their boss/teacher/parent/partner doesn’t exist. Instead of self-censorship, why not harness that energy?

According to Facebook’s ethos of creativity, courage and change, the solution to healing the rift between our real and digital lives is to learn from it. Why be content with being your ideal self in just two-dimensions? Take a good, long look at how you project yourself on Facebook then figure out how to become that in real life. Ultimately, Facebook is a tool. You can use it to build a persona, or use it to become more of a person.

Quote of the day: Dan Wieden

Just do the things you love. Do what turns you on, say what you wish somebody else would say, and show me something nobody else has, that’s of interest to you. I think sometimes part of the problem is this whole thing becomes so complex… it seems like a mountain range and it’s really just a bunch of idiots up there trying to figure out how to keep alive for the next day.
Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy on getting ahead in advertising, or life.

The Myth of the Writer’s Life

Keats House in Hampstead, North London, is a dangerous place for a writer. Walking through the spare, clean rooms; admiring the sketches of his boyish, elegantly wasted face it’s hard to feel anything but crushing inadequacy.

Keats was more than a Romantic poet. He was the apotheosis of popular notions of what constitutes the “writer’s life.” From the giving-up of a profitable career in order to write poetry, to the dying young, broken-hearted and far from home, Keats marked out territory generations of writers and wannabes have struggled to claim. In our minds, tragedy authenticates talent. We roll an envious eye at Hemingway’s suicide, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s tear-and-alcohol stained romance, and Flannery O’Connor’s terminal illness. Perhaps it is because we secretly long to be not only the tellers of stories, but also the heroes. Maybe the impulse to lionise flawed lives is a defence against overwhelming expectations (“I, too, would be a literary giant if I could escape the suburbs and spend my time drinking rum in Old Havana.”) Whatever the case, the unthinking acceptance of clichés about the “writer’s life” is absurd and dangerous.

Dangerous, because it creates and artificial distinction between writing and life, and diminishes the achievements of writers of every caste. Ian Sansom notes that his literary hero Flann O’Brien, “had a proper job and took his family responsibilities seriously” then adds lugubriously that, “in the end he was destroyed by them… [and] descended into journalism.” What arrogant nonsense. O’Brien wrote surreal, brilliant books that prompt other novelists to call him their literary hero. Why is it a cause for complaint that he also had a family and a profession?

Many great writers reconcile their art with other vocations. Edith Wharton was a designer before she was a novelist (her first book was about architecture) and she spent World War I in France doing relief work. George Orwell didn’t just write about the Spanish Civil War, he went to Catalonia and carried a gun. The truth is, few writers are exclusive. James Joyce and Virginia Woolf both wrote brilliant modernist literature. He did so by spending twelve hours a day at his desk; she also ran a printing press, gave lectures, and wrote spirited anti-war essays. That doesn’t make her less of a writer; it makes her more of a person.

Therein lies the nonsense of romanticising the short, solipsistic, stymied writer’s life. “Suffering doesn’t ennoble,” Martha Gellhorn wrote, “Why should it?” And if it doesn’t ennoble, why should it inspire? Conflating talent and tragedy asserts the unprovable theory that bad lives make good books. If Scott Fitzgerald were happy he wouldn’t have written Tender Is The Night but he might have written something better.

Mythologising the “writer’s life” is alluring because we can use it to justify recklessness, self-hatred, chemical excess, and emotional cruelty. All of which have a certain bent appeal. The problem with looking for artistic validation in unhappiness, though, is that only the unhappiness is guaranteed; the art is still up to us.