Week 22: The Shoreditch Redemption

Final Bullet poster

This week has felt incredibly long, but here are some good things.

  • Both my experts came back with useful answers to my difficult questions, which means by next week’s blog post, I should have filed/invoiced two more articles.
  • I have infiltrated the very interesting agency Dentsu with my newspaper. Now, I know nothing of advertising (“but I know what I like”) – and that’s what appealed to them about me. In turn, I think I respect them for their goal of reinventing the way the businessĀ has traditionally worked. They’ve done some brave and popular work with BERG, and I sense exciting collaborations on the horizon.
  • Inching closer to signing off on a month of work with another agency.
  • Invited to speak at something at the BBC in March, which will be good.
  • Trying to think about those slides for Ignite, which is approaching very quickly. I shall be reprising “Making Things Fast” – with a twist!
  • Very excited for Helen this week, who had her photo taken for the piece I wrote about her for WIRED UK, recently. Look out for it – they even found her a space suit…
  • This posh poster arrived from those guys at The Beautiful Meme, who are sponsoring the graphical side of my life at the moment.
  • Issue 2 of the newspaper is ongoing. More stuff keeps coming in. I’ve been reading a lot about hacking banks this week, while simultaneously getting cards and cheque books made for my work account. Hennimore!
  • In the process of selling some ads in for the paper, too.
  • Which reminds me, I should be at this games conference today. Hoping to catch some of it before it ends.

Some things I’ve noticed this week:

1. In many cases, pitching new projects is considerably more difficult than taking on existing work. And the best-case scenario is often the same – that you get to work for a big wealthy client who can’t give you much freedom and end up producing something you don’t necessarily believe in. Or you end up working with a group of people you hardly know on something you’ve all compromised out of existence. If you’re on your own, pitching (e.g. games, TV, radio, books) is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

2. And anyway, everyone’s writing a book. Luckily, unlike TV and radio shows, the book market is saturated and most of them are rubbish, so the competition isn’t quite what it seems. You don’t have to be amazing to get a book deal, you just need to know a publisher.

3. A word can kill you. This is ‘detach from the emotions’ again, but I’ll say it every week until everyone understands it. I nearly stopped trying to promote something when someone just millimetres from my social circle sent a staggeringly offensive email. Another time, a careless word from a friend almost made me quit a job on the spot. An author friend recently reported getting hate mail posted to her house! Beware of people. They seem nice, but they are so, so, competitive and my god, it simmers away under the surface. So, like, don’t be that guy, either.

4. You only have so much energy for unpaid promotion. This is a theory, anyway. You can promote your own ideas and work (as I’m trying to this year through presentations and projects) – or you can promote other people (as we did, significantly, on the podcast for over a year). But you can’t do both. And while you can be paid to promote people, it has to be a kind of synthetic energy. I really struggle to reconcile the idea of authentically believing in someone else’s belief. I’ve reached the top and I’ve had to stop, and that’s what’s bothering me.

5. Remember what you could make when nothing mattered. It doesn’t have to matter. I’m convinced the best things I’ve ever ‘worked’ on are the things I made for the hell of it, when there was nothing riding on it. Remember when I started doing worryfriends and all the other websites I made, just for fun, because they made me laugh, never expecting a book dealĀ or anything. I embraced the internet enthusiastically as an arena purely for being silly. Here was a place where nothing mattered and there was no sense of competition (I didn’t even look at other ‘humour sites’, I just collected what I thought was fun info or good ideas so I could show off a fun compilation. Nothing changes.)

Games people talk about being carefree and playful all the time but of course, for them, it really REALLY matters. It’s their bread and butter. Whether we’re making fun happen for a living or not, I suspect we need to completely take the pressure off. I want to recover that ability to make something without worrying about selling it. For me, the best work has always come out of a sense of no expectation at all, and it can’t just be me. So my final thought this week is:

5. How can we stop worrying and bring back that sense of total inconsequentiality?

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