How ‘Moving On’ Worked Out
With 2015 coming to an end soon, I wanted to report back on the big plan I announced earlier this year, in a post entitled “How To Decisively Move On After A Big Project.” At the time, I was getting ready to launch No Missing Tools and I knew, from personal experience, how easy it can be to fall into a slump after a major project.
Setting Goals And Finding Direction
Since I’m not always great at setting goals, I decided to focus on five key areas where I would work with fresh creative talent, people I hadn’t worked with in the past, to try and shake things up. Sometimes the best we can do, is trust the process and do the work when the future seems unclear.
James Victore is an accalimed graphic designer whose work is in the MOMA collection. The biggest and best decsion of the year was asking James to be my mentor. We chatted on Skype, emailed and hung out at his studio in Brooklyn.
That makes it sound cosy, but working with James was hard work, I would’ve been disappointed with anything less. James did a masterful job of reminding me what had made my work unique and powerful in the past while systematically (and relentlessly) defusing all the excuses I had created for not being braver in recent years (I’ve written more about my interactions with James here and you should also check out James’ YouTube channel, Burning Questions, for more).
The Web Designer
Paul Maloney is a UK-based designer and WordPress developer who crafted the new look for this site. I love web design, having created sites since 1996 for paid and personal projects. But, it was a lot of fun this time round to roll with someone whose WordPress, CSS and responsive design chops are so good.
Working with Paul meant I had a far better site than I could ever have managed, and without all the stress and headaches. It also gave me the chance to learn a lot, not just about how WordPress has evolved in recent years, but also the new standards in web design and user experience.
The Photo Editor
Eyeist is an online portfolio review service recomended by Chase Jarvis. Suzee Barrabee, Director of Print Production and Art Buying with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, took the time to pick a few sets of my strongest images and her comments helped me look at my work in a fresh way.
Working with a photo editor is a very different experience to getting a photographer or photography educator to look at your images. In my experience reviews with photographers tend to focus on the process of making an image, the technical decisions involved in photography and the kinds of compositional ideas popular in the photography world. A review with a photo editor focuses more on the themes in your work and locates it against other kinds of art. This is what happened here, the review really got to the soul of my photography, uncovering strengths in areas like I hadn’t really focused on.
Lisa from PaintWithStars is consistently making great outdoor, natural light portraits that capture the contemporary vibe of Tokyo. Most of the profile images I’ve used in the past have been high-contrast, studio-lit, self portraits and it felt like a good time to break away from that.
It was a pleasure to work with Lisa, spending an afternoon in and around Hibiya Koen, creating images that I was then able to use here, on social media and in promotional materials for No Missing Tools.
The Copy Writer
Laura Belgray is a copy writer known these days for her work with Marie Forleo and whose previous clients include VH1, HBO, Bravo, NBC, and Nickelodeon. Laura helped me write the copy for this site’s home and about page, as well as helping me rethink the way I approach social media profiles.
many most creatives, I struggle with writing about myself. Working with Laura helped me realise it’s partly a question of the words we choose, but mostly an issue of the way we understand ourselves.
The Writing Coach
Yi Shun Lai is the nonfiction editor for the Tahoma Literary Review and author of the forthcoming book, Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures Of Marty Wu. Yi Shun also did a brilliant job of line editing No Missing Tools. In the process of working together on the book, I realised a lot of areas where I could grow as a writer.
Working with Yi Shun has helped me fall in love again with writing, not just the craft of choosing words and shaping sentences, but the process of observing the world around me and describing it for the pleasure others.
What Has Changed – What Has Been Learnt
Every one of these people taught me a lot of practical and technical things that I will take into my work in 2016 and beyond. But, the big lessons had little to do with skill or talent as we conventionally think about them.
From every one of these brilliant people I heard the same message again and again – share more. It’s a criticism of our social media age that we’ve all become over-sharers. But, so much of that sharing, is superficial, defensive, snarky or pretentious. What these folks pushed me to do was to share more of myself, being more open, more vulnerable, more honest.
The sharing that really matters involves letting the things that matter to us appear in our work, letting the little details, from the way we work to the place we live, find their place in what we say and do, in our communication, revealing what’s going on inside us.
The Plans That We Make
The funny thing is, for most of this year, I felt a bit rudderless, like I didn’t have a plan. August and September in particular were dark. A few times, I was in situations that required writing out my “goals” and I couldn’t do it, the idea just felt overwhelming. I had forgotten that I was working to plan all along.
Maybe that’s the real power of goals, plans and habits? We make these commitments to ourselves and to our work, then we forget them and just get on with the process of living and the system, the design, carries us along for a bit, as long as we don’t lose faith in it.
After the stress of writing and releasing a book, I could have easily wasted months and months on meaningless work and petty anxieties, goodness knows I’ve done it before. Instead 2015 is ending and I’m feeling refreshed, renewed and deeply connected with where I live, the people I love and the work I do. My goals for 2016 are few and I look forward to sharing them with you throughout the year.