Put a dent in heaven. You’ll be missed dearly here on earth.
I stumbled upon this letter a few moments ago. Pixar animator Austin Madison hand-wrote it for “aspiring artists” … I would say for aspiring creatives in any field.
(images courtesy of Willie Downs’ Animator Letters Project)
May 17, 2011
To Whom it May Inspire,
I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, “in the zone” seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.
The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.
In a word: PERSIST.
PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision. Remember what Peter Jackson said, “Pain is temporary. Film is forever.” And he of all people should know.
So next time you hit writer’s block, or your computer crashes and you lose an entire night’s work because you didn’t hit save (always hit save), just remember: you’re never far from that next burst of divine creativity. Work through that 97% of murky abyssmal mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!
I guarantee you, the art will be well worth the work!
Your friend and mine,
“ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE!”
There is so much talk these days about execution. But what exactly is execution? Another buzz word like innovation? It seems fashionable to claim execution is more important than ideas… (Can we really separate the two?). What is an idea without execution? And what does it mean to execute without an idea?
Here’s a Japanese man ironing a shirt:
To me this feels like execution. All movements are precise, purposeful, and lead towards one final result.
May you rest in peace, and catch all the birds in heaven – my furry little friend.
Ever since the first day the discrete alphabet transformed into a fluid language before my eyes, I have been obsessed with reading. Books shape my life.
Ayn Rand’s 1368 page magnum opus is my latest reading material. Something interesting has been happening that I feel compelled to share. Midway through online articles, I find myself stopping with a single thought – I would rather be reading about Francisco d’Anconia than this person’s fantastic speculation of my industry’s future plans.
At first, I laughed at this thought in my mind. But then I actually began to worry.
Not since University days, can I honestly remember the pull of a paperback overpowering what’s new on the Net. This was never something that bothered me before. It was easily shrugged off as a trivial consequence of our time. Digital citizens read digital words, I told myself. Kindle clobbers the hardcover, I wanted to believed.
But I can’t anymore.
Rand’s words came at me like a cold shower after a technological hangover. She forced me to reflect on my life. My values. What type of person I want to become. There is an old saying: “We are what we read.” I would take it a step further: “We are not only what we read – we are how we read.”
The time I spend reading on the web, negatively affects my ability to concentrate. Plain and simple. My mind is getting trained to take in information the way the web distributes it: as a swiftly moving stream of packets.
When I read online, I feel like my primary goal is to consume, “to catch”, as much information as possible. Real-time and efficiency is placed above quality. When I do find quality, after only a few minutes of sustained reading, I’ve lost focus. Even when I return to paper, too often, I find myself looking for Blackberry’s incoming message light.
Now that I’m conscious of this, I’m trying to combat the effects. Whenever possible, I’m reading thick classics (fiction) instead of the latest blogs. And when I do find something worth reading online, I use Instapaper to take it offline for monotasking. Ignoring my rational conclusion isn’t an option anymore: The depth of my thoughts are tied directly to the intensity of my attentiveness and my ability to focus.
I do believe that going offline matters.
After an incredibly rewarding weekend of breaking through old models and stubbornness, comes this picture from a friend:
Never forgot to check-in with something other than your mind for verification. Sometimes this is the only way we can see the forest from the trees.
For the Sleepwalkers
Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible
arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.
I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,
palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.
And always they wake up as themselves again.
That’s why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.
Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music
of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.
We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds
and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.
A violinist playing in the Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later
the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the till and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
A 3 year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly, as the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.
The musician played. Only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.
He collected $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ….
How many other things are we missing?
We took WikiReader to the MoMA. It was like discovering a fifth dimension.
This is a great picture I stumbled upon this afternoon taken by Twitter user eliskah:
She writes, “The most important moment of three-day #openmoko trip to Germany!”
Now, I have no idea what this trip was all about, but I feel like the man in the picture each morning I look into our new office’s windows: Something interesting is coming from behind those walls…