Friday, September 19th, 2014

my office

I posted this picture of my studio on Instagram the other day, and people immediately began asking me about my “clipboard system,” assuming that I actually have a clipboard system. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes to self

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

notes to self

notes to self

Came home from a walk with my wife and wrote down this list. It’s going on the wall in my studio.

What your days look like

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

in any day there is some poetry

When my dad brought home girlfriends, my grandpa, rather obnoxiously, would quiz them from his arm chair. I’m told the first question was usually, “So, what’s your philosophy of life?” (I’m not sure what my mother answered.)

I was thinking of my grandpa last week when I was asked a similarly baffling and broad question during an interview: “What is your definition of success?”

I hemmed and hawed a bit, until I finally said, “I suppose success is your days looking the way you want them to look.”

Sounded okay, but after I said it, I wondered what the hell it meant.

“What do you want your days to look like?” is a question I ask myself whenever I’m trying to make a decision about what to do next. In fact, I believe that most questions about what to do with one’s life can be replaced by this question.

What career should I choose? Should I go back to school? Where should I live? Should I get married? Should I have kids? Should I get a dog? Should I take up the piano? 

“What do you want your days to look like?” forces you to imagine the day in, day out realities that making such choices will present you with.

Albert Camus once told a reporter, “One has to pass the time somehow.”  And how you pass the time, what your days look like, well, as Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Maybe success is just a matter of how the reality of the days match up to the ones in your imagination.

That’s not to say my ambitions these days are all that lofty. In 1851, Nathaniel Hawthorne, after spending the day with his five-year-old son, wrote in his journal, “We got rid of the day as well as we could.”

Whether that’s aiming too low or not, it sounds like success to me.

No Angel

Friday, August 29th, 2014

they said he was no angel / who is

Here you can see this poem being made:

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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…


Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.


Update: multiple people have complained that they can’t read the time when using this wallpaper, so here’s a modified version for all of you who watch the clock. (Me, I like not knowing what time it is — helps me get lost in my reading!) Download it here.


read a book instead wallpaper

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