New episode of SYM podcast

It’s been two years in the making — but here it finally is!  The Final Shutdown.

In it, I will tell you the one thing that is guaranteed to not only shut your monkey once and for all but also to transform your life and leave a lasting mark on the world. What is your mission? And how can you make it your destiny? Let’s discuss it.

Available on iTunes and on the

Brain — on.

My brain has been whirring this weekend. I now have loads of things I want to make — but only one life to make ’em in.

• I am thinking of new daily projects I want to pursue. My 30-dogs-in-30-days iPad drawing project eventually reached 110 dogs, which was great fun for a while, but it’s feeling forced now and for the first time have missed several days. I am thinking of doing a series of drawings and long-text Instagram posts about my family’s history and my childhood. I spent some time yesterday looking at old photos and had a bunch of ideas. I have thought about writing on this topic before but always flamed out under the weight of it all, worrying more about how to wrangle several generations of dysfunctional people into an ongoing narrative but the idea of doing something bite-sized and episodic seems more doable and fun.

• I want to start up a podcast again. It’s been over a year since I did an episode of Shut Your Monkey and the podbug is nibbling at me again. I am thinking I’d like to do a chatty podcast about art making, probably under the Sketchbook Skool umbrella, kinda of like an audio version of the Zine we’ve been doing. A great new issue of the Zine comes out next week, by the way. I wrote a lot of it. (If you haven’t subscribed yet, get on it.)

• I just signed up for a mysterious creative camp for this summer and I am excited and super curious about that.

• There are only a couple of weeks till Illustration Nation begins at SBS and I have been thinking alot about what project I want to spend a month on. I like the idea of making prints or a book or magazine but am not sure what to do with the things I make. Maybe I’ll give them to you.

• I am very excited about a conference we are planning and keep thinking of more and more ideas about what to do there. Ideas that will get people together, ideas about all the people I want to have speak, ideas about how to promote it, ideas about little videos to show and ideas about what I will wear.

• I have been working on a short-film series on and off for the past year and I think I am now ready to release it. I’ll do so episode by episode. They’re gonna be short and autobiographical. I’m not sure why it’s taking me so long to get them done.

• I would like to do some new episodes of Sketchbook Club and now have an entire shelf of books set aside. I’m thinking of finally tackling Maira Kalman, Lynda Barry, Lapin, Eric Sloane and a few others. I’ll try to get one done in the week to come.

• I have three new shoots with artists scheduled for the next month and I’ll be travelling to Atlanta, then Charlotte and finally Nashville starting in ten days. I have been preproducing these for the last couple of months and I can’t wait to get out there, work with some new artists and film crews, and make some cool stuff.

• Koosje and I have been working on a new kourse that we are calling “Zillion” for short. We have begun filming and it has been so fun to work on a new kourse and to collaborate creatively with my partner.

• I was invited to do two keynotes in Washington DC — and they are major. The audience is super-important and not the usual sort of folks I talk to so I am eager to do something interesting. I am contractually not allowed to say who it is, alas, but let’s just say they are in Washington and work in a large building with flags on it.

Weekends are meant for relaxation so I tried turning my brain off last night by watching a movie. But The Square was the most amazing, brilliant, hilarious, thought-provoking film I maybe have ever seen and so it filled my dreams with monkeys, piles of gravel, and angry children. What an incredible work of art!

Today, I will make some stew and probably not watch the Super Bowl. Maybe the Puppy Bowl instead.

The Color of Money

When you grow up in New York City, weeks can go by with your ever getting into an automobile. Generally, the only cars you travel in are subway cars. That’s how I managed to reach the ripe old age of twenty five without ever getting a driver’s license.

I’ve always loved cars though. I can identify most makes, models, and years from a distance. Particularly those made when cars were still cars and not just interchangeable silver blobs. I read somewhere that people love the cars most that were manufactured the year they first became aware of cars, usually around five or six.  That’s why my very first car was a 1965 Ford Fairlane. I bought it for $800 in a used car lot under Route 1 overpass in Jersey City, when I was 25 and still a month or two away from taking my driving test. I’d moved out of Manhattan to live in Jersey City with a friend and for the first time actually needed a car to go buy a carton of milk.

Despite its age, the Fairlane had about 40,000 miles and its original paint which was a buttery bronze color. Patti (who managed to go to her grave without ever getting a driver’s license) dubbed the Fairlane “The Color Of Money” after the Scorsese movie which also came out that year. It was big and boxy with a fat stripe down its side. It had a manual transmission, “three on the tree”, and suited my old-mannish driving style. The thing was perfection.

Patti and I would take it around town but were always a little nervous about taking it on a road trip. It ran fine and I was obsessed about looking after it. I bought maintenance manual and endless tools. I’d change the spark plugs and oil myself and way more than necessary. I would hand wash, then wax it, buffing the bronze till it glowed like a Marine’s buttons. Perfection.

I let my roommate Simon drive it occasionally. One bleak day he came back from running errands and casually mentioned that he’d accidentally dinged the driver-side door in the supermarket parking lot. I rushed down to survey the damage. The door looked like a moose had run into it. It was crumpled like one of Simon’s empty cigarette packs. As I pulled open the door, it emitted a pitiful screech and a groan.

I was bereft. Sure, we could probably have gone to a body shop and had the door undinged. But The Color of Money was now  imperfect, soiled, sullied. Instead of a classic, it was just an old beater. A few weeks later, I moved out of the Jersey City house  and into an apartment with Patti. I gave the car to Simon and never saw him or it again.

I thought about The Color of Money today because I was listening to Episode Six of The Unmade Podcast, one of my current favoritest indulgences.  This podcast is about podcasts which is rather meta but deeply entertaining. Actually it’s about podcasts that have never been made (hence the name) but could conceivably be one day if anyone could be bothered.

In each episode, two Australian chums swap ideas for potential podcasts, then delve into what they might be like, and whether they’d be any good. Then they move on to the next idea.  Some of the ideas are great and unspool into hilarious explorations, while other are dead ends which are equally amusing to demolish like the door of a 1965 Ford Fairlane.

I love this podcast because it is all about creativity. These two blokes come up with ideas on the fly, then bat them back and forth, twisting and shaping them then tossing them aside. There’s no obligation to prove the ideas, just the raw pleasure of invention and problem solving.

It really gets my wheels turning as it did this week when they discussed another unmade podcast idea called “My First Car.” In this nonexistent podcast, guests would come on to describe their first vehicle and tell stories about what it meant to them, what adventures they had,what memories it provoked — and that would be it. Simple, dumb, and wonderful.

I’ll never be a guest on My First Car — because it doesn’t exist. But I wanted to share my memory of the Fairlane somewhere.  What stories would you tell if you were a guest on the show?

New podcast: Ghosts.

After months of preparation, I gave my first post-publication presentation about Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done. I spoke to a packed hall in Atlanta, GA at the HOW Design Live conference.

I was joined on the podium by my old pal, the Monkey.

DOG-@-HOW-2016-3He told me that people were bored, that my fly was open, that they saw through my fake expert pose, that this was surely the end of the road for me. Despite all that, the talk went very well and afterwards, I received lots of positive response —of course, the monkey told me that the applause just came from toadies and second-raters with nothing better to do.


This week’s podcast is all about the tapes that play in our heads that were recorded in a by-gone era. 78s that became LPs that became cassettes, CDs, MP3s, and now stream live from Spotify, but always the same old song: “You suck, you are in danger, you better watch out lalala!”

Sometimes that song was recorded before we were born, the trauma that molded a great-grand parent or an even more distant ancestor. A war, an economic crisis, a death, can mold a world-view that gets passed on through a family. We end up hearing those distant echoes long past their sell-by date and are screwed up by their reverberations.

Joining me on this podcast is Patti Digh. She’s a wonderful and wise woman,  a best-selling author who has recently been studying post-traumatic stress. We talked all about our ghosts and how to exorcise them. It’s a really useful discussion.

Do you have a ghost story? Share it with me. I am collecting Monkey Tales, stories from all sorts of people about the challenges the monkey brought them and how they dealt with them. Real stories, real moving. If you have a monkey tale you’d like to share, just go here and click the red tab on the right to record it. That would be great.

All the episodes of the Shut Your Monkey Podcast are on iTunes and will soon be on all the other places you subscribe to podcasts (as I figure out what they all are).

To hear them, you can can either:

I hope you like this episode. I hope your monkey and his/her grandparents do not.

New podcast: why the monkey messes with creatives.

There’s a terrific new episode (#4) of the Shut Your Monkey podcast going up today and I hope you’ll give it a listen. First, I talk about creativity and how the monkey loves to hate it, meddling with your creative process and throwing up blocks. Then I am joined by this week’s guest, the rock-star of graphic design, Stefan Sagmeister.

I’ve known Stefan for about fifteen years and every time we chat, I come away excited, impressed, and inspired.  He first became famous for a poster for which he carved all the type into his chest with a razor blade. That shocking experiment was typical of an artist who breaks boundaries left and right. His work for clients like Levis, the Guggenheim, Red Bull, Jay Z, the Olympics, the Rolling Stones, have won every design award and  two Grammies. He has published several gorgeous and mind-bending books (and his sketchbooks are included in my book, An Illustrated Life), and he is a legend to designers everywhere.

Every seven years, Stefan closes his studio for a year to recharge his batteries. Most recently, he used his sabbatical to explore the science of happiness which led to the most visited design exhibit ever. He has also just finished directing his first motion picture, The Happy Film.

On the podcast, we talk about the process of making it, the obstacles inherent in trying something so brand new, the important of honesty and self-exploration in making good work, the power of communication to improve lives, and so many topics that matter to us both. The conversation was quite a long one but I have decided to share it all in one episode because I think Stefan is one of the most important creative minds of our time and every minute spent with him is never wasted.

You can listen to the whole episode right here.

Better yet, subscribe on iTunes so all the future monkey-shutting-goodness goes right to your device as soon as it’s outta the oven.

As always, I am interested to know what you think of the show. Please leave me a comment below if you are so inclined.

The monkey podcast is here!

Today I launched the first episodes of the Shut Your Monkey podcast. And with it, the Shut Your Monkey podcast newsletter. And with them, this Shut Your Monkey podcast newsletter blogpost.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, then skip all the rest of this for now and just go to iTunes and grab it.

If you forgot to subscribe to the newsletter or it ended up in your spambox, here’s what you missed (better sign up for future issues as they will be even more awesome).

First it was an irritating voice in my head. Then it was a blog post. Next it was a book. Now it’s a podcast. And a newsletter. What next?

It seemed like a simple idea, right? Pick a few pages from my book, Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done, read ’em into my computer each week, post it online, and call it a podcast.

But no.

Thanks to the monkey’s perfectionist meddling, I had to get fancy. I had to get all slick and get theme music and guest stars and turn a little side project into the StarWars/TonightShow/CollectedWorksOfFreud of podcasts. Then I had to rewrite it, remix it, design logos and endless fiddly bits that threatened to delay the release until well into the fourth term of the Trump presidency.

But finally I shut my monkey and got it done — and it’s gonna be awesome.

I have already lined up an amazing roster of guests to talk about the creative process and the inner critic. Designers (Stefan Sagmeister), novelists (Jonathan Carroll), poets (Todd Colby)  artists (Sabrina Ward HarrisonLisa Congdon,Michael Nobbs), self-help gurus (Karen SalmansohnJen LoudenPatti Digh),  not to mention all sorts of psychologists, creativity coaches, business coaches, and loads of other wise and insightful folks — you’ll hear them all in the weeks ahead

And I am also collecting Monkey Tales, stories from all sorts of people about about the challenges the monkey brought them and how they dealt with them. Real stories, real moving. If you have a monkey tale you’d like to share, just visit my website and click the red tab on the right to record it. That would be great.

There’s a bunch of other treats and stuff too, some of which is in the current episodes, some of which is coming up, and lots of other stuff I haven’t dreamed up yet but will if I ever stop fiddling with the layout of this newsletter.


I am kicking things off with a bit of a splash: the first three episodes are launching together and you can hear them right now. After this I’ll post one new episode every Friday, starting on May 20th. That should keep your monkey busy.

itunes_logo-1024x382The first three episodes of the Shut Your Monkey Podcast are on iTunes and will soon be on all the other places you subscribe to podcasts (as I figure out what they all are).

To hear them, you can can either:

  • Subscribe directly from your podcast app by searching for ‘Shut Your Monkey’.
  • Or you can visit (yes, I bought the URL before anyone else could snap it up) and you can listen to the episodes right in your browser.

In other SYM news:

— the first run of the print books sold out but my publisher tells me a warehousefull of new ones are just back from the printer.

— the ebook version is now available. It’s a handy thing to keep on your phone and flip to when bananas start to fly.

— I am giving my first big talk about the book at the HOW Design Live conference in Atlanta on May 22nd. It’s a little daunting figuring out how to present the monkey to thousands of designers but the presentation is coming along well and I feel prepared. My monkey is very not happy.

— Various foreign versions of the books are being made. For example, yesterday I learned there’s to be a Russian audio version. (обезьяна is ‘monkey’ in Russian, if you were wondering).

I hope you subscribe and enjoy the podcast. And that your monkey hates it.

If you have the time, drop me a line and tell me what both of you think so far.



I get busy on The Busy Creator.

I had a great time appearing on The Busy Creator. The host, Prescott Perez-Fox, is a designer and a creative coach with lots of experience and insights into the process.  The episode I was on just posted. The accompanying page has loads of interesting quotes and links too. Subscribe to his podcast. I do.