I Don't Want to Be Safe Anymore
I had a great talk with a photographer this week that helped fan the embers of the kind of art that I want to create. This is the kind of work that doesn’t have revenue or a strategy behind it. And work that I know isn’t easy, but that keeps’s tugging at me to start.
The most revealing feedback he gave me about my own work the past few years was that it was safe. Safe to me is the opposite of what I’ve been talking about as art these last few weeks. Being generous, taking a risk, making a connection, all these things cannot be done if I’m concerned about my safety. Safe is the consequence of not making my personal work a priority and just going from one project to the next. I don’t want to be safe anymore.
The hard part of my personal work is that it isn’t just limited to photography. I want to use photography along with a podcast to share an idea or people’s stories. When the idea first came to me, I of course thought it was ridiculous. Just stay in your lane Minnow Park! But I love a good conversation, and the most moving art for me has been those that have a biographical layer beneath the artistic expression they make. That’s what I want to attempt.
This newsletter is a part of all of that. Writing these letters to you have been so fulfilling. I knew I’d have fun doing them, but I didn’t expect it to be this fun. It’s helped me hone these ideas and start sharing them so that I can be kept accountable. Now that I’ve said it to you, I’m on the hook to keep going.
And I hope that as you see me fumble through the messiness of doing something meaningful, that it encourages you to start something too. Because it’s not about having everything together and neatly putting it together, but it’s about starting and showing up everyday that actually matters.
I wanted to start a section of what I’m reading, watching, and listening to so you can see the raw information that’s jangling around in my head.
What I'm Reading
I recently realized that I don’t read enough fiction. I mostly read non-fiction books related to business or creativity, memoirs/biographies, long form journalism like The New Yorker, or political and tech news. The first Murakami book I read was his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, one of is only non fiction books. So I picked up this one and I finished it in a few days. It’s about a guy that’s around my age and how he deals with his own self image and the relationships around him. We meet him at this point in his life where he could either continue down this path of anonymity or regain a sense of who he is and connect with people again. Murakami’s writing is so fluid and the way he tells Tsukuru’s story is so nuanced and engaging. I really need to read more fiction.
I started this one after Murakami’s book, and it’s equally as good. It’s set during the Korean War, and books like this hit all the emotional cues for me because I can understand it on a visceral level. I remember reading Pachinko and feeling the same way. I feel as if I learn about my heritage and understand the context to which my parents have grown up. Then I get to see how all of that affects me now. These books do all that detective work for me, and present it in the way I love: the biographical layer beneath the artistic expression.
I’ll slowly seed all the non fiction books that I’ve been reading/read because there’s a lot. But this was the book that helped kick me into action. Pressfield is a writer, and this book is written for writers but it applies to anyone doing anything creative. He’s the one that coined the term “the Resistance” with a capital R. He’s the one that’s taught me that making art is war, and I have to steel myself up for the fight.
What I'm Watching
What. A. Show. I loved Brian Koppelman, the co-creator, writer, and showrunner for Billions ever since he wrote Rounders and from his podcast (more on that below). It’s set in NYC about a corrupt hedge fund manager (Damian Lewis) and equally dubious Attorney General (Paul Giamatti) that’s trying to catch him. But it’s also so much more than that. Here’s one of my favorite scenes. Good story and writing, that’s all that matters.
What I'm Listening To
The same creator of Billions has a great podcast where he interviews people who have done remarkable things, and tries to dissect those moments in their lives where there was failure or success and how they dealt with it. Talk about personal projects. I linked to his interview with Steven Pressfield above. I don’t know where he finds the time to this podcast and write 13 episodes but he does. The show and his work ethic is so inspiring. If you want to hear a great episode of Brian being interviewed, Rich Roll did a great interview with him recently here.