Otherppl podcast

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

words i won't say

I recently talked to Brad Listi for over an hour about creativity, my books, and all sorts of stuff.

Office hours

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

sorry we're tired

My inbox is full of more questions than I could possibly answer and still get any work done, so once a month, I try to schedule a set period of time to hold “office hours” over on my tumblr, where people can ask me anything they can’t google.

Oftentimes, the answers are just remixed thoughts from my books (how much more is there to say?), but sometimes I hit on something interesting. Below are a few answers from yesterday’s hours minus the questions…

i feel like i have a book in me

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Some thoughts on Layer Tennis and having another body in the room

Monday, August 11th, 2014


Last Friday I played designer Kelli Anderson in a match of Layer Tennis, moderated by Jason Kottke. You can see the whole match unfold here.

It was definitely one of the most intense afternoons I’ve had in a while. I used to hate playing in competitive sports. The only sports I ever enjoyed taking part in were pretty solitary: golf and long distance running. Practicing both of those sports, mostly you’re just trying to beat your own score or time. (Honestly, I hated them, too. Just not a sports dude.)

I think one reason I’m drawn to writing and art is that I don’t have to be competitive — if I’m competing with anyone, it’s against myself, or a bunch of my favorite (most of them dead) artists, or it’s a kind of friendly competition spurred on by seeing other folks’ work in the world. And even then, I’m not competing to be the best at what I do, I’m trying to be the only one who does what I do.

But there was something about the combination of the pressure of the match and what Kelli threw at me that pushed me to come up with stuff I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise…


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Four epitaphs

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

four epitaphs

Don’t be deceived by life’s outcomes. Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them.
Michael Lewis

Making a mark

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Photo Jul 30, 11 11 11 AM (1)

Some mornings, after our walk, my 21-month-old son and I will sit on our front steps and draw on a little square of the sidewalk with chalk. Birds (“brrr!”), trucks (“chuck!”) and maybe the letter S (“esh!”) or B (“buh!”) It never gets old, but it gets hot, so when we’re sweaty enough, I stick the little box of sidewalk chalk behind a potted plant on our porch, and we go back inside the house.

* * *

This morning when we got back from our walk, I noticed someone had taken the red chalk from the box and written down the sidewalk:


At first I was puzzled by the graffiti, but then I looked across the street at the signs stuck in my neighbors’ tree lawns, advertising the URL of the local “bike-powered compost recycling” startup. And like Will Graham in an episode Hannibal, I blinked my eyes a couple times, and reconstructed the scene: The Composter, biking the big barrel around, collecting the green buckets from porches, comes across my porch, which is bucketless. The Composter takes in our drawings, notices the sidewalk chalk, and sees not a marketing opportunity, no, but a chance to spread the message.

* * *

I’ve been feeling cranky lately about the slogans I’ve seen coming from the “creative” slash “entrepreneural” slash “startup” worlds:



It strikes me that both of these metaphors involve vandalism.

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Read a book instead

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Read a book instead wallpaper

Reading books makes me happy. Being on my phone makes me miserable. So, I made a wallpaper for my iPhone’s lock screen to remind me that I have a choice. You can download a copy for yourself right here.


The shape of days

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

i had a rough day

Kurt Vonnegut thought every story has a shape that can be graphed —  each has a beginning and an end (plotted on the x-axis) and every character goes through “good fortune” and “ill fortune” (plotted on the y-axis). I put a bunch of them together for this chart in Show Your Work!:

kurt vonnegut's story graphs

I think our days have shapes, too — each has a beginning and an end, and we go through good and ill fortune as it progresses. Read the rest of this entry »

Low overhead, revisited

Friday, July 4th, 2014


In today’s New York Times, a man said this about living in a 112-square-foot house: “It has maximized what I’m able to do with the young years of my life.” 

This is the big point I try to make when I speak to young people: “Keep your overhead low.”

The less you have to maintain, the more time you have to do what you want to do.

GRAMMY Interview

Friday, July 4th, 2014


As an amateur songwriter and musician, one of my favorite interviews during SXSW this year was with Chris Sampson, a songwriting professor and Vice Dean for Contemporary Music at USC, who uses my books in his classroom. The whole interview is only available to Grammy Pro members, but there are some clips below.

Is the year half empty or half full?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

is the year half empty or half full

July 2nd is the middle of the year. Half of the year is gone, half of the year is still to be.

One of the reasons I like keeping a logbook is that it makes time tangible. Turn the pages, and you can feel the days pass.

Sometimes you flip back through the pages and they feel wasted. But flip forward, and you still have plenty of blank pages to fill.


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