A sneak peek at my newest book. Buy a bunch for the people you love.
Last week we went to Florida and basically sat on our pasty butts by the pool, guzzled cheap beer, ate fish, read books, played cards, and napped.
I read:Continue reading “What I did on vacation.”
I was working at my desk when the news flashed on the screen. Notre Dame was burning. The videos and pictures were heart-stopping and across the world we were joined by a sense of helplessness as a thousand years of history and culture exploded in flames. I had visions of a charred wreck left to hulk on the Seine, a post-modern monument to human fragility surrounded by rioting yellow vests. The toppling spire sparked a deep sense of dread in me, that our civilization itself was toppling, that our history was being erased, that humanity was all too vulnerable, that I too would soon be forgotten dust.
Twenty-four hours later, the fire was out, the damage assessed. It was extensive but appears confined to the roof. I read with relief that the cathedral had been heavily damaged and rebuilt several other times in its long history, and by day’s end almost a billion dollars had been raised to start the restoration. Within a day, we had gone from annihilation to resiliency to the Mueller report. Next.Continue reading “How to handle perspective.”
I’ve had a bunch of ideas and projects simmering on the stovetop of my mind and, because most or all of them may never get out of the kitchen, I thought I’d serve them up here and see what you think.
Mike Lowery just sent me a little book he made and had printed (How to Keep a Travel Sketchbook ). I loved the book but was also curious about how he’d had it made which turned out to be a company called Scout https://scoutbooks.com/ that makes little books of a certain size and length, and the cuteness of these little books, essentially pocket-sized pamphlets with kraftboard covers, reminded me of the books I used to love to make as a kid and I badly wanted to make one again. A similar impulse happened when I came across the Newspaper Club, a company that prints small-run newspapers, and I was obsessed with the idea of making an issue or two, but which, like my fantasies of letterpressing and screenprinting, died under a bleak vision of exhausted cardboard boxfuls of unwanted printed matter stacked to the ceiling of Jack’s former bedroom, sort of like the warehouse scene at the end of Citizen Kane but more ramshackle and sad. Anyway, the idea of making my own little books has haunted me since I was six and the fact that you can make them more easily and more professionally than ever keeps that flame alive.Continue reading “How to dabble.”
I have spent the last two weeks doing everything but writing blog posts. Let me catch you up on what I’ve been up to, as I hope that you will be a beneficiary of my efforts.
Last fall, we presented SketchKon, the first Sketchbook Skool convention, and when it was over, we did a lot of stock taking. It had been a wonderful opportunity to meet many of the people who had taken kourses with us and who had formed our vibrant community. We learned so much in those few days and came away even more determined to give you exactly what you want and need to make art making a joyful part of your lives.Continue reading “Where have I been?”
Let me ask you a personal question: do you have a passion problem? I’m not asking about your hormonal levels but about your life’s passion. Money, responsibilities, others’ opinions aside, what do you really want to do with your remaining days?
This can be a really hard question for a lot of people to answer. It was for me too. There I was, for decades, working in a respectable career that I was pretty good at and which paid the bills — but I always a had a little itchy sense that I should be doing something else.
I just didn’t know what.Continue reading “How to find your passion.”
This is going to be mortifyingly embarrassing but I may as well tell you about it. When I was a teenager, I loved the Newhart show. Not The Bob Newhart Show where he was shrink in Chicago married to Suzanne Pleshette but the later one in which Bob had a different wife and lived in Vermont. You may remember that show, a not-terribly funny precursor to Fawlty Towers, in which Bob ran an inn and there were the three local brothers named Larry, Daryl and Daryl.
I loved this show because of Bob’s second career, his real career. He was a successful author of “how-to” books. This struck me as the perfect ambition. To sit in a cozy study and churn out books that were effortless to write. Not to strive for Pulitzers or National Book Awards but just to crank out shelves full of books on animal husbandry, basket weaving, and transmission repair. Real books nonetheless, arrayed on shelves filled with one’s name over and over on the spines.Continue reading “How to win by losing.”
When I was eight, the librarian pulled my mother aside and said she was worried because I had read every children’s book on their shelves. That seems like a hyperbolic and inaccurate memory but it nonetheless smacks of the truth.
I’ve been an unrepentant book fiend from an early age.
I’d opened my own library that year. I made a card for each book I owned and slipped it into an envelope I’d pasted on the inside cover. I taped handwritten tags onto each spine Identifying the book’s category and author. And I started to lend them to the other children in the neighborhood.Continue reading “Portrait of the artist as a young librarian.”
I like to make stuff. Probably too much. I can sit at my tiny desk in the corner of Jack’s old room, oblivious to the workmen ripping our kitchen apart, wiener dogs napping on my feet, frittering away hours on an edit or a paragraph until Jenny pounds on the door and tells me I absolutely have to take a break or I will be crippled by sciatica. Sitting, she yells through the door crack, is the new smoking.
I’m not always efficient. I can piss away time looking for a new plugin for an app or watching YouTube how-to videos or reading a whole book which I just wanted to consult for a quote. But I like to think that all this meandering is filling my well and making sure that the lion that brings me great ideas will eventually yawn, stretch, see me with my head down and drop some inspiration in my lap. Usually works.
Over the last month and a half though I have felt distracted. Still about 80% productive, but distracted. We got married and that took up some time. We are doing our kitchen which requite a ridiculous number of decisions and visits to Home Depot. We are just about to launch a new kourse at SBS which takes a lot more work than you probably think it does. Shut Your Monkey is out and about. And I just got the cover proof for my next book which will be coming out before you know it.
But this number of balls in the air is pretty normal for me. The only problem is that one of those balls is on fire (which sounds like an ad for Cruex).
It all began half way through my visit to Vietnam when I began to feel a tenderness in my ribs. I thought it came from leaning too hard against the edge of my desk but it persevered. Then, on one of the last days I was there, I woke up with a Braille-like rash splayed across my chest. We were having a sketchcrawl that morning and one of the sketchers was the school nurse. She looked at the rash and diagnosed it immediately: shingles. She got me some ointment at the pharmacy, and we went off to draw.
The next day the rash was worse and the ointment didn’t seem to being helping. To make things more interesting, I had to spend 24 hours at the back of a plane flying home to New York. I saw my NY doctor first thing the next day but he said it was too late to do much about it. The antiviral pill I should have taken when I got the first symptoms wouldn’t help at this point and I’d just have to ride it out.
It’s been a long ride. Tomorrow it’ll be five weeks since that day in Hanoi. I spent a few days in bed because if I am run down the symptoms are worse. My rash turned into blisters that eventually drained and left me without a few layers of skin and my nerves in a jangle. On my wedding day, my heart was full but my chest was sizzling. Each day it gets better but there have been a lot of days and there are probably a few score to go.
Shingles do lots of things. Sometimes they feel like someone has belted a bunch of Brillo pads to my chest. Other times they ache or tickle or go numb. I can have sensation in one place that moves to another. It’s totally unpredictable. Basically they get on my nerves which are like a bunch of rogue electrical cables flailing and sending sparks through my rib cage. Oddly, when I just lay my hand on my skin, it reorients them and they simmer down, at least for a while.
I’ve had acupuncture, taken Vitamin B complex, rubbed on tubs of cocoa butter — but it seems that time is the best medicine. And I have to use my time wisely, not overdoing things, and being patient. Of course, taking it easy isn’t me, but Jenny’s at the door. I gotta take a break.
I have refrained from sharing this with you for a while because I think there’s nothing more boring than talking about your health. But I did want you to know that I have lots of ideas for what I want to write about here, more than just ads for books and kourses — but for now, they’ll have to just keep simmering in the old brain pan.
P.S. Happy BD, PL!
I hear word today that the very first copies of my book, “Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done” are finally being delivered to readers by Amazon. If you’d like to get a copy, order one today…. if your monkey will let you!