Millenials

Why I don’t have a portfolio website

You’re skeptical because you’re visiting the website on my business card and you don’t see a portfolio. I’ll make it even worse: A few months ago, I made the decision to quit my stable full-time job. I didn’t have another job lined up, and I wasn’t even looking. And I didn’t care.

What a nutcase, you’re thinking.

Yeah, it was a crazy move–the best crazy move I ever made. Because I don’t have a job to go to–I make my job. Every day that I wake up, I have to create a reason why someone would want to give me a paycheck. And people do. This life has given my heart a new pitter patter, because it means I’m always creating. Creating keeps me alive.

I’m getting to the point, so stay with me.

The past 4 months have been some of the busiest and the most stressful that I’ve had. I started a business, quit my job, got married, moved, spent 3 weeks in India, and found myself without 2 strong (or at least I had thought strong) friendships that I had expected to last for a small lifetime. Along with a few other things too. I didn’t have time to create a website, and I was starting to kick myself. But when I finally got some time I realized that I don’t need a full-blown website, at least not yet. I’m busy enough.

How can I be so busy? I don’t have an online portfolio. There’s no way people are hiring me.

Way.

The thing is, a lot of the work I’ve done is confidential. Increasingly now, I work with clients who prefer to remain confidential, or who only have confidential projects for me. I can’t display any of that work, so a portfolio would look empty and odd. But I’m busy enough, with room for more.

There’s an upside to keeping a low profile, it seems. And because it’s fun, I’m continuing to “blog,” which seems to have become a verb from the last time I tweeted. When I have enough public work, I may start a website.

Till then, you can always email me and find out more about how my writing can help you, your company, or your amazing cause that I would totally fall in love with, and work for free on. (Yep, I said work for free. But you have to be really amazing.)

Hope to see you on the inside of creative.

In photographs: An eerie glimpse of urban life… right before mobile phones

I came across these photos today in PAPER magazine: images of New York City, taken by Gregoire Alessandrini in the 1990s. (Alessandrini was, according to his website, “a film student and a young writer/photographer in the 1990s.”)

Christopher Street. All photo credits: Gregoire Alessandrini.

I remember New York during these days. I grew up 3 hours from the city, and visited with my mother who lived there in the 80s with my dad, while she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and he the Culinary Institute of America. My mother knew the city well, and I’d tag along on trips while she picked up fabric or whatever (I was a pre-teen, so everything she did was boring).

I still visit New York sometimes when I’m on the East Coast, and I’ve noticed a big change during the time gap: Manhattan now feels like one single flashing television screen, blasting things into my face. The place offends me.

These images remind me of a quieter time in that city. But why do I feel like it was quieter?

Unknown location; some people might remember these gas prices.

Because while I loved looking through these photos, something struck me.

Lafayette Street.

Location unknown; New Yorkers stand on street corner.

Nobody is holding mobile phones. No faces are obscured by people holding up iPhones to take photos or videos.

In fact, people are actually reading papers. Real ones.

East Village.

Location unknown.

Not even just phones – our experiences of, and the ways that we encountered music, were so different. Because the iPod wasn’t invented until 2001. In the 90s, New Yorkers walked down the street to the sound of the city and their own thoughts in their heads. (Unless they had a Walkman.)

Location unknown.

As I scrolled through the images, I wondered about how the people passing through them entertained themselves without a squawking Bluetooth or streaming podcast to do it for them.

Location unknown. But does it matter where it was taken? How many of these same people would be holding phones if this photo were re-staged and re-taken now?

The world has changed a lot in just a few years, folks. It’s a little eerie to look back. And I’m turning off my computer now and opening a real book. I’ll probably have to dust off the cover.

Before you do the same, visit Alessandrini’s original archive. It’s a journey – make sure to get all six parts.

How to create meaningful art, or: Why I don’t want (too many) followers on my blog

If you are a creative type, you are probably disillusioned with the way the world works. Because the simple, accessible content that you create will become very popular, whereas the layered stuff will go almost unnoticed. We live in a world where Kim Kardashian’s butt has a Twitter feed and a video about cats jumping off tables get 25 million views and news articles written about it, and a tour de force novel is pressed out in the author’s blood-ink to an audience of crickets.

But as a creative, you will also find that the process of creating the most unpopular content is what will satisfy the deepest part of you. Because it’s the real stuff.

In my writing education, it’s been pounded into me that the most personal things are the most universal. To create things that are personal and universal, you must notice things that are real and have meaning. You must notice your surroundings, your own reactions to normal and unusual events, and what’s going on between the lines of everyday life. You must question why things happen.

Those observations and thoughts prep your brain for the creative process. And when you end up hitting that nerve of creativity and start speeding down tunnels, there is nothing like it – it’s the crack that will remind you why you were born. No cat video comes close to that, and I’d wager that Ms. Kardashian has never felt it. If you only focus on gaining an audience, you will never hit that nerve. Your audience will leave scrolling comments on your videos, exhibitions, blogs, and you will wonder why you do not feel fulfilled by your own creation.

It’s because real art is created without any audience in mind; it is created to satisfy the artist’s desire. This kind of art is rare and dangerous, because it has a high probability of containing original thought. And the entire world fights against that originality by pumping out more and more stupid, distracting content.

Like I’ve said before: Find artists who ignore their own fame. They are the ones who make art that you have to gaze into for a long time before figuring it out (if you ever do figure it out), and music with lyrics you can’t understand without listening three or four times. That is time spent, not wasted. You’re processing all of the layers, and it will teach you about the world or yourself. You are one step closer to creating things that are real.

And when you create things that are real, people will find you – whether you want them to or not. It will just take longer.

Beethoven said all of this even better. This is directly quoted from Project Gutenberg:

The world is a king, and, like a king, desires flattery in return for favor; but true art is selfish and perverse—it will not submit to the mould of flattery.

When Baron van Braun expressed the opinion that the opera “Fidelio” would eventually win the enthusiasm of the upper tiers, Beethoven said, “I do not write for the galleries!” He never permitted himself to be persuaded to make concessions to the taste of the masses.

And unless you post funny cat videos for a living, you shouldn’t either.

Why this is my first blog post.

I’m a writer in the Bay Area and I want to get more writing work. I’ve been recognized for my work. My employers like my work. It gets read and even better, it gets results. On top of all this, I have things to say and I’m good at finding ways to say them. For years, people have told me to write a blog, a column, a book.

Yet when you Google me, there’s almost nothing. No Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram. Up until today, there was no blog either. Why?

Because I value my attention span. I am not a Twitterphile, a constant Redditor, or a Facebook addict. This is a good thing – my attention span stays focused for long periods of time, so I create good work. I want to keep it that way.

Because I didn’t need a blog before. In previous years, I didn’t need a blog to get work. But in 2013, I do. Actually, a blog may not be nearly enough. According to some people, I should have a website, a huge portfolio, 2,000 followers on Twitter, and a public Instagram feed with 400 photos. But I don’t have those. I may never have them. I’m not passionate about those things. I’m passionate about the actual work I’m doing.

I’ve started this blog because some employers think that data-munching, fingers-flying key-logging person is what they want. And I’ve come here to tell them: I will give you better work than that person will.

My reason for this post is because of a semi-faith in the process; that frankly, being honest will not backfire. We’ll see if I’m right.