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Embracing obscurity

I’m a nobody, which is a fortunate place to be.

In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon talks about how “In the beginning, obscurity is good”. The reason obscurity is so valuable is that nobody is paying attention to you whilst you fuck up and constantly reinvent yourself. You get to experiment with different ideas and drop things that aren’t working for you without consequences.

Once you lose your obscurity, that’s when the real pressure comes. Or as Kleon better puts it:

There’s no pressure when you’re unknown. You can do what you want. Experiment. Do things just for the fun of it. When you’re unknown, there’s nothing to distract you from getting better. No public image to manage. No huge paycheck on the line. No stockholders. No e-mails from your agent. No hangers-on.

You’ll never get that freedom back again once people start paying you attention, and especially not once they start paying you money.

So, I’m embracing my obscurity and throwing a lot of shit at the wall whilst I continue to discover more about myself as a writer.

To be clear, I’m aiming to make the shit as good as possible, even if none of it sticks. I’m aware that there are several of you are watching, but what I hope is that you’ll bear with me and enjoy the ride as much as I will.

I wrote earlier this week about testing different writing processes to see what breaks and what I can fix. Right now, I’m in a phase of trialling lots of things and seeing what works for me. Hopefully, what I’ll find is a way to get more stuff out there and we can all appreciate the mess together.

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Drawing badly and loving it

A page from Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor asking: “What is a bad drawing?”

I’ve never considered myself to have any talent when it comes to drawing. Copying an image in front of me has often been too challenging, let alone translating images from my head to the page.

So despite a consistent compulsion to draw, my misgivings over the pictures I failed to create prevented me from ever building any kind of drawing habit.

I was also hesitant to share what I drew. On the occasions I did share, I was rarely met with encouragement. So I told myself drawing wasn’t for me.

But more recently, I’ve tried to embrace the practice of making bad art. Not only do you need to suck at something to get good at it, but we should resist the idea that we must be competent at something to enjoy it.

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Sunday Sharing #10: Persepolis, Close to Me, blurring the lines between work and play and more

Christopher Eccleston and Connie Nielsen: the stars of Channel 4’s Close to Me

My last Sunday Sharing of the year (and potentially ever). I’ve got several other blog posts I’d really like to focus on this month, plus I’m considering a more flexible and interesting approach for next year.

As this is the last, I’ve packed this one full of content more in line with the fifth, sixth and eighth editions of this limited series. I hope you find it worth your while.

If all you’re interested in is the list of 10 things I wanted to share from the week, you can skip to the end.

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Sunday Sharing #6: Drawing fictional maps, surviving the world through fictional disasters, Violet Evergarden and more

This week, the end of my day job’s fixed-term contract was brought forward by two weeks, once again leaving me unemployed. I’m okay, though. My future job prospects are positive. However, it does mean that I’ve spent more time working on my CV and attempting to set up a portfolio site, which hasn’t left me much time or energy to be creative.

So here’s what I have to share from my week, including what I have managed to write, read and watch. And then finishing up with a list of 10 things with links to stuff I’ve read/listened to from around the web.

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Write lists

Austin Kleon’s “HOW TO BE HAPPY” list from his book Keep Going

Does anyone else love making lists? Quite often I love making a list more than anything I’ve listed.

Lists bring order to the chaotic universe. I love making lists. Whenever I need to figure out my life, I make a list. A list gets all your ideas out of your head and clears the mental space so you’re actually able to do something about them.

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

Austin Kleon, in his book Keep Going, notes the benefits of writing and keeping lists. He mentions numerous creatives who make lists, from artists like David Shrigley and John Porcellino to writers like Steven Johnson and Mary Roach. List-making is a way to curate a collection of all our messy thoughts and put them into order.

In my last post, I talked about writing through the noise in my head. Sometimes writing a list helps cut through that noise.

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Journal

Always writing, never written

For several years now, I’ve defined myself as a writer. It’s the only label I’ve ever felt comfortable with or enjoyed. And it’s never felt like a lie. I always feel like I’m writing. Right up until someone wants to read something I’ve written. That’s when the conversation gets a little… awkward.

“Have you written anything I can read?” When I get asked this question, my first thought is to wonder if I’ve written anything even I’d want to read.

“Well what do you write about?” Good question! Unfortunately, the answer is that I try to write a bit of everything, which is really no different from saying I write nothing. They’re both equally so non-specific as to be useless answers.

“Are you working on anything right now?” Yes: a blog, an article, a poem and a short story that isn’t very short at all. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Sometimes it’s even true.

I decided to total up my word counts from 2020. This includes the short fiction I drafted, blog posts I never published and the blog posts I did publish. Looking at the result, I might have felt better about myself if I had added all the words in my Notes app and all those job applications for companies that ghosted me.