122018: Think Lightly of Yourself, And Deeply of the World

Image of the night out of the train

Like every morning, my eyes open at 5:55am. Partly because of my inner clock, but also because my thoughts tumble around and wake me up. I start laying out tasks for the day, and conversations I need to conduct; I push words around like letters on a scrabble board, and while I end up with perfect formulations at 5:55, I usually miss out on using them during the day. I stay in bed until 7:30, sometimes 9:00am. Then I get up.

On the last day of this year (you are probably reading this in 2019 already, so take this as a greeting from the past and send it to the archives), I got up at 8:00am sharp. I went to a supermarket and bought three zucchinis. Then I re-read the newsletter I sent out one year ago. It was titled “You Think You Might Not Get Through It But You Do”. That’s probably what I learned throughout this year: You actually do. I finished a lot of things this year; I got a master’s degree, I worked with a lot of great people, and I worked on a lot of things including myself. I end this year being torn between totally agreeing to Jerry Salz’s statement “Work is the only thing that takes the curse of fear away” (I blogged about his great piece on being an artist), and accepting that not working might sometimes actually be the best cure for my nervous self. I might find out in 2019. Don’t cry—work. If you feel like it.

What follows are the occasional recommendations from around the web. E.g. Austin Kleon’s weblog, in particular this exploration of the metaphor “surfing the web“.

I enjoyed this piece by the California Sunday Magazine about Homes. They photographed and talked to a variety of people where and how they feel at home, and the audio layer of the piece makes it extra-intimate.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to move my blog’s home from Tumblr to a self-hosted system again. I made tons of posts (dating back to 2006!) private, and kept only the writing I still like public. When Tumblr decided to apply content filters as of Dec. 17, I already left the platform. Malte’s tweet summed up my feelings perfectly: “take this recent tumblr crackdown as a reminder that this is still the web. you can learn to build and own your own platforms.” (12/4/2018)

Drawing the 2018-Finishing-Line: Fear has been, yet again, way to dominant in my year, and I want to continue working on taming it. Besides that, I want to become better at using those formulations I make at 5:55am, I want to become better at taking up space, and more intent at making decisions. I hope you all had a great year and have some (not too many!) plans for 2019. Stay safe and sound, Yours truly—Christoph.

31. Dezember 2018

I Want You

Nach drei Wochen schreiben wir uns mal wieder, und verabreden uns spontan auf eine Limo im Park / Das Wetter ist schön und wir wandern den Berg hoch; zur Aussichtsplattform / In meiner Orangina haben sich zwei Wespen verfangen / Ich trage sie unbeholfen neben mir her, weil die Flasche noch halb voll ist und ich sie nicht wegkippen will / Wir unterhalten uns über unsere Studienabschlüsse und später, als wir auf dem Bett sitzen, tauschen wir Dating-Geschichten aus / Im Hintergrund beginnt eine Playlist zu spielen, und als der Bildschirm des Handys kurz aufblitzt sehe ich ihren Titel: I Want You / So ist es auch / I want you, alles an dir, jetzt, obwohl es mitten am Nachmittag ist / Sex am helllichten Tag ist komisch, es hat etwas von Arbeit und Pflicht; vermutlich, weil ich so lange im Leben nichts anderes als Arbeit im Kopf hatte / Arbeit, dafür waren die Tage da / Alles andere passierte abends, nachts, wenn es dunkel war, wenn man es nicht so gut sehen konnte und für eine etwaige Rekonstruktion die Teile nicht hell genug erleuchtet waren / Aber hier, jetzt gerade, während I Want You im Shuffle-Modus läuft, ist alles ziemlich gut erleuchtet, und ich habe überhaupt nichts gegen die Möglichkeit einer Rekonstruktion /

29. Dezember 2018

How to Deal With A Creative Meltdown

screenshot of the website

Every once in a while I feel insanely insecure about my creative work and my output. I start comparing myself to others, and eventually, I get totally numb and stop making things at all. Which is bad. That’s why a while ago, I jotted down an instagram post to remind myself of my worries, and how to handle them. Sometimes, you just need a little mantra, a spell, a little routine to get back on track.

To get this thing off instagram, I published it on a little website. Check it out and share it with your friends. ✨

22. Dezember 2018

“Forget Being a Genius and Develop Some Skills”

screenshot of Jerry Saltz’s article

One of the best things I’ve read this week was art critic Jerry Saltz’s “How to Be an Artist” (New York Magazine, Nov. 26, 2018). In 33 rules, he describes and explains how to deal with life as a creative person, and how to become a better, more confident artist. I nodded my head at almost every single point, but here are the quotes and ideas I actually enjoyed to most:

1: Don’t be Embarrassed. You often reveal things about yourself that others may find appalling, weird, boring, or stupid. People may think you’re abnormal or a hack. Fine. When I work, I feel sick to my stomach with thoughts like None of this is any good. It makes no sense. But art doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t even need to be good.

I’ve been studying and working in the creative field for about 10 years now and still feel it, and Jerry’s list doesn’t sound like this feeling of embarrassment and insecurity will go away. So I guess I better learn to deal with it.

Lesson 5: Work, Work, Work. (…) Every artist and writer I know claims to work in their sleep. I do all the time. (…) How many times have you been given a whole career in your dreams and not heeded it? It doesn’t matter how scared you are; everyone is scared. Work. Work is the only thing that takes the curse of fear away.

This last sentence stuck with me. I am going to paint it on the wall of my living room, maybe even on the insides of my eyelids. It’s not necessarily meant in a workaholic way, but in a way to remember myself that creative work can always a safe haven, too.

Lesson 6: Start With a Pencil. (…) Next, draw the square foot in front of you. This can be tight, loose, abstract, realistic. It’s a way to see how you see objects, textures, surfaces, shapes, light, dark, atmosphere, and patterns. It tells you what you missed seeing.

I just enjoyed this little exercise and can recommend it to everyone. Drawing helps you see things.

Forget Being a Genius and Develop Some Skills.


Lesson 9: “Embed thought in material.” — Roberta Smith. (…) An object should express ideas; art should contain emotions. And these ideas and feelings should be easy to understand — complex or not.

Exercise: An Archaeology. Make an index, family tree, chart, or diagram of your interests. All of them, everything: visual, physical, spiritual, sexual. Leisure time, hobbies, foods, buildings, airports, everything. Every book, movie, website, etc. The totality of this self-exposure may be daunting, scary. But your voice is here. This will become a resource and record to return to and add to for the rest of your life.

This reminded me a lot on the Starterpack meme I made a couple of months ago, which was so much fun and taught me a lot about myself. It also made me accept myself more.

Lesson 14: Compare Cats and Dogs. Okay, this sounds ridiculous, but call your dog and it comes right over to you, placing its head in your lap, slobbering, wagging its tail: a miraculous direct communication with another species. Now call your cat. It might look up, twitch a bit, perhaps go over to the couch, rub against it, circle once, and lie down again. What am I saying? In seeing how the cat reacted, you are seeing something very close to how artists communicate.

This quote is a much needed argument for cat people, like me.

The best definition of success is time — the time to do your work.

When I was working in an agency full-time, I enjoyed the work I did, but it often didn’t feel like creative work—as it was never work that included myself as an artist. It was client work. After I couple of years I noticed that this doesn’t make me happy. Today I still sometimes feel guilty about it; something in my head tells me that anything but a full-time job is just lazy. Turns out: Creativity is a full-time job by itself.

Envy looks at others but blinds you.

I guess the only way to prevent my eyes from getting worse is to change my view on fellow designers and artists. Not that I am full of envy, but I noticed looking at other people’s work too much prevents me from believing in my own stuff.

After beating yourself up for half an hour or so, stop and say out loud, “Yeah, but I’m a fucking genius.”

Because you are! Amen.

Read “How to Be an Artist” by Jerry Saltz on Vulture.

20. Dezember 2018

The Embassy – White Lake

Cover artwork for The Embassy’s album White Lake

Das schwedische Elektropop-Duo The Embassy hat, nach fünf Jahren, ein neues Album veröffentlicht. White Lake heißt es, und wie schon die Vorgänger-Alben und -Compilations bewiesen haben, sind Fredrik Lindson und Torbjörn Håkansson hinter das Geheimnis perfekter Popmusik gekommen: Nicht nervig, nicht langweilig, und zwischendurch mit sanften Seufzern versehen funktioniert auch White Lake erfreulich gut als Vorder- wie auch Hintergrundmusik. Nicht ganz so gut wie meine All-Time-Favourites Tacking (2005) und Life in the Trenches (2011), aber hörenswert.

White Lake auf Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music

15. Dezember 2018


Foto von Sonja Knecht auf der TYPO 2018

Sonja Knecht auf der TYPO 2018. Bild: © Norman Posselt / Monotype (flickr)

Die Tage werden so langsam ruhiger, und ich habe endlich Zeit, einige meiner Twitter-Lesezeichen und Pocket-Ablagen durchzugehen (ähnlich wie meine Fitnessstudio-Mitgliedschaft habe ich tausend Bookmarking-Tools, gucke aber nie rein). Nun aber doch, und ich möchte euch ein Schmankerl weiterempfehlen, das ich ganz besonders toll fand:

Meine ehemalige Kollegin und Freundin Sonja Knecht, mit der ich bei Edenspiekermann zusammengearbeitet habe, hat auf der diesjährigen (letzten) TYPO Konferenz einen hervorragenden Vortrag mit dem noch viel hervorragenderen Titel »Text–Sex–Scheiße« vorgetragen.

In knapp 45 Minuten exploriert sie unter anderem tausend weitere mögliche Titel-Ideen des Vortrags; sie rauscht über Kafka und seine Handschrift hin zu Sexismus im Stadtbild, Sexismus in der Sprache und daraus folgend auch sexistische Kackscheiße und merkt an, dass selbige erschreckender Weise noch nicht im Duden zu finden ist. Als Quintessenz bündelt sie, was wir, die gerne schreiben, schon lange ahnten: Text ist gestaltete Sprache, Wörter sind eine mächtige Waffe.

“Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s Unicorn Skill.”
John Maeda

Sonja ist, neben ihrer hervorragenden Qualitäten als Mensch und Texterin, auch eine geistreiche und unterhaltsame Sprecherin, und bevor ich hier aus dem Lobhudeln und den vielen Adjektiven gar nicht mehr herauskomme:

Schaut euch ihren Vortrag an. Es lohnt sich!

15. Dezember 2018