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Write like a motherfucker would have to be my first bit of advice. What that means to me is that—as I say in the column—you really, really have to be a warrior and a motherfucker. And you have to be resilient and faithful. You can’t be a wimp. You can’t stand around bitching about how hard it is and how indignant you are that no one appreciates your work, about how no one will publish you, or how people at parties make you feel stupid, about how you’re really not only a waitress or whatever job you’ve taken, about how your parents don’t understand you, or any of the stuff I bitched about plenty myself. I don’t say this from a place of condemnation, but rather allegiance. You really have to buck the fuck up, do the work, and know that you’re probably going to have to do more work than you imagined you’d have to do to get to the place that you imagined as successful. And when you get there, you’ll see that “successful” feels less successful than you thought it would. Success in writing is about keeping the faith over a long, long stretch of time. This isn’t something you just do a little bit and then get a reward at the end of—it’s a life’s work.

I believe in that voice I trusted all along the way. I believe in writing as a calling. If you truly feel that calling in you, then listen to it and respect it, but don’t expect that anything is going to be given to you—you have to get it. That’s true of any art form; any artist will tell you that.

–Cheryl Strayed, on her advice for young writers (bolding mine)

This is just brilliant life advice, even if you don’t care about writing. I’m a big fan of ‘writing like a motherfucker’ (and totally own this mug) but I love her further explanation of what this means. 

And in case you don’t know who Cheryl Strayed is, she is the writer of the most amazing advice column, Dear Sugar. Dear Sugar is basically a combination of that warm mug of hot chocolate and freezing cold shower sometimes I find I need when I’m wrestling with life. Whether answering questions about fetishes or infidelity or student debt, Strayed consistently reminds me how the small questions that plague us are often the big ones in disguise–which is exactly what a good advice columnist does.

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Today I discovered Hugh MacLeod, a brand consultant and cartoonist who draws on the back of business cards. I can’t get enough of his work.

His style is bold: minimalistic sketches paired with playful and pithy reflections on business, innovation and, well, life.

He’s also penned a manifesto called “How to Be Creative” with 26 tips on creativity. My favourite snippets (bolding mine) are below. Enjoy.

On importance of having sovereignty over your work (p. 5):

“The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will. How your own sovereignty inspires other people to find their own sovereignty, their own sense of freedom and possibility, will change the world far more than the the workʼs objective merits ever will.

On originality and tapeworms (p. 16):

“Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And thatʼs exactly whatʼs been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.

What happens to an ecology, when the parasite level reaches critical mass?

The ecology dies.

If youʼre creative, if you can think independently, if you can articulate passion, if you can override the fear of being wrong, then your company needs you now more than it ever did. And now your company can no longer afford to pretend that isnʼt the case.”

And on how to love a crowd (p. 46):

You canʼt love a crowd the same way you can love a person.

And a crowd canʼt love you the way a single person can love you.

Intimacy doesnʼt scale. Not really. Intimacy is a one-on-one phenomenon.

Itʼs not a big deal. Whether youʼre writing to an audience of one, five, a thousand, a million, ten million, thereʼs really only one way to really connect.

One way that actually works:

Write from the heart.

My recent ‘discovery’ of Twitter (what do you mean it’s been around since 2006?) has definitely upped my ability to find more internet awesome.

Latest find? John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (@ObscureSorrows).

With the mission “to harpoon, bag and tag wild sorrows, then release them back into the subconscious,” the Dictionary is a compilation of made-up words and definitions. Koenig surveys the modern day emotional landscape, draws out new and potentially universalising experiences, and labels them. Kind of like Adam naming animals. Except with silver-tongued snark. And no animals.

The simplicity of the project is what makes it so bold. Because seriously, who has the gall to write a dictionary of words no one knows for feelings no one has ever said?

Turns out some guy in Minnesota.

Some of my faves:

heartworm n. a relationship or friendship that you can’t get out of your head, which you thought had faded long ago but is still somehow alive and unfinished, like an abandoned campsite whose smoldering embers still have the power to start a forest fire.

kairosclerosis n. the moment you realize that you’re currently happy—consciously trying to savor the feeling—which prompts your intellect to identify it, pick it apart and put it in context, where it will slowly dissolve until it’s little more than an aftertaste.

trumspringa n. the temptation to step off your career track and become a shepherd in the mountains, following your flock between pastures with a sheepdog and a rifle, watching storms at dusk from the doorway of a small cabin, just the kind of hypnotic diversion that allows your thoughts to make a break for it and wander back to their cubicles in the city.

apomakrysmenophobia n. fear that your connections with people are ultimately shallow, that although your relationships feel congenial at the time, an audit of your life would produce an emotional safety deposit box of low-interest holdings and uninvested windfall profits, which will indicate you were never really at risk of joy, sacrifice or loss.

the kinda blues n. the sad awareness that the unfolding plot of your life feels new and profound but is not unique, just one of a few dozen possible riffs on the same chord progression, while the tunes reverberating from the jukebox in your chest are all covers of old standards from the Great Emotional Songbook, which is 98% identical to that of the chimpanzee.

 

Consistently brilliant, the Dictionary binds labels to the small moments of connection, frustration, nostalgia, fear and meta-ness that accompany contemporary existence. Koenig is especially fantastic at dissecting and commenting on the intricate dynamics within the interpersonal.

Currently at 49 words. Carry on, brother.