it's always good to read a little, folks

i started sassafras because i was having trouble finding inspiration in my own life. for any sort of creative, it's highly frustrating to feel uninspired both by what you love, and by the world around you. sassafras has done wonders for me, but i'm constantly looking for more, and for new ways of gleaning as much as i can from my surroundings, both immediately and globally.

my roommate erin, who's also a writer, sent me this article last night, but there's a segment of it that i'd like to post (despite its length) as its incredibly pertinent to anyone who's seeking a relationship with the world, whether you're a writer or not. i hope you enjoy, and i hope it inspires you to do or experience something different and new.


You will become known for doing what you do. This may sound obvious, but it is a useful thing to realize. Many people seem to think they must endure a "rite of passage" which, once passed, will allow them to do the kind of work they want to do. Then they end up disappointed that this day never comes. Find a way to do the work you want to do, even if it means working nights and weekends. Once you've done a handful of excellent things in a given way, you will become known as the person who does excellent things in that given way. And that's the person you want to be, because then people will hire you to be that person.

The personal is powerful. Trust your own experience. It’s the only thing that’s really yours, and that’s really unique. Putting yourself in your work can be powerful.

Do your own thing. If you imitate, you’ll only ever be a bad example of the thing you’re trying to imitate. An artist I like very much, Donald Judd, said that what you have to do is to find the same level of inventiveness as the person you’re trying to imitate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t incorporate elements of other people’s work. As Picasso said: “Bad artists copy; great artists steal.” What he meant is that it can be OK to steal an idea from somewhere else, as long as you steal the idea and do something new with it, make it your own, and move on. If you copy it outright you’ll only get stuck in the past.

Ideas are the only things that survive. Execution is important too; a good idea poorly executed probably won’t go anywhere. But if something is going to last, it’s because there’s a good idea at its core. It’s got to start with the idea.

Experience is the only way to learn. Pain, joy, fear, risk, love, firsthand experience. You can learn so much from these things, and the experience will end up affecting your work in ways you don’t even realize. But it’ll be based on a real thing.

Only fools get trapped by tools. Tools exist to serve you. Not the other way around. There is a long-standing unspoken pact between tools and their owners, which says that tools should disappear the moment you stop needing them. This is the way that pencils, hammers, and leaf-blowers behave. But many of our technological devices – iPods, cellphones, laptops, Blackberries – have violated this pact and overstepped their boundary, asserting themselves onto the lives of their owners, becoming constant distractions. Don't let your tools trap you. Tools are not the idea. Tools are tools.

Go outside. It’s important to get away from technology and experience the world. You've got to see your world, see your community, see what's not being said what needs to be said. That’s probably the best way to figure out what you’re going to say. For me at least, it’s impossible to have any good ideas while sitting behind a computer. Ideas come from life. As Hemingway said, “I have to live to work.”

Once you have learned how to speak, what will you say? This is really the central question. If I can leave you with one idea from my talk, this would be it.

--jonathan harris, 2008


also: check out his project "we feel fine." a website which is constantly collecting sentences newly posted blogs containing the sentence "i feel," resulting in a database of human emotion. click on the colored dots, which are organized by size and color to indicate the emotion and its intensity, to read the sentences.

1 comment:

  1. This is an ispiring post. People often do rely a lot on their tools. I've been thinking a lot about the world around me lately, especially nature. In some places it's not as easy to experience nature as in other places. However, it's still very much all around us, and I'm hoping to have a better understanding of it. The part about "Go outside," reminded me a bit of that.

    I really hope that you find some inspiration. I think your blog is quite interesting and I read some posts where you were talking about costume design, which was insighful and creative. :)