Moving The Chains
Earlier this week, I was looking through iTunes for new podcasts to listen to (because what I really need is another podcast to listen to) and I happened upon something that frankly made my day. There, in the New & Noteworthy section of Visual Arts, was the cover art for my new show, Process Driven. Now, while this may sound unremarkable, consider this: I’ve only done two episodes so far and the third episode got bumped due to scheduling and didn’t go up. But that’s not the best part. Looking below New & Noteworthy in the What’s Hot section, I noticed the cover art to my other podcast, On Taking Pictures. It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time, because I likely would have done a spit take all over my monitor. Oh, and earlier in the day, we found out out that Resource magazine named On Taking Pictures one of their 16 most interesting photography podcasts. Not a bad day, but it got me thinking about what all of this means, and by this I mean the intangible nature of creativity.
One of the hardest things about being Creative for a living (and regardless of how many conversations with David duChemin I have, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what that really means) is remaining objective about what you do. It’s easy to feel like you spend your days screaming into the abyss, wondering if the news of what you’re doing lands on the other side. I resigned myself a long time ago to the probability that a Pulitzer or a solo show at the Met are not likely career milestones and while I do what I do because I genuinely love doing it, I also want to feel like what I do matters – that it has value. My professional life – scratch that, my Life – has become one of Little Victories and as I enter the fifth year of building this thing called Faded + Blurred, I have taken time to reflect on some of the little victories of the past four years and some of the more recent events that – to borrow an out of character sports metaphor – are moving the chains down field.
When we first started Faded + Blurred, we had no idea that we would still be doing it four years in. In fact, we thought we would build and grow the site and sell it off in a year or so to become part of some Larger Thing. What we found was that the Larger Things weren’t as interested in the why as much as they were the how and the with what. Rather than opening up to include what many of the others were doing (and to be fair, doing it much better than we could), we went in another direction, further down the rabbit hole of why and focusing on the inspiration more than the tools. While I stand by the decision and would do it again, there are definitely trade offs in taking the road less traveled. It’s a long game, a slow climb and there are no maps showing where to go and how to get there.
They say the only constant is change and over the past four years, Faded + Blurred has gone through a number of changes large and small, both in scope and direction as well as look and feel. I’ve spent countless hours coding and recoding the site, modifying plugins and templates and troubleshooting things that I somehow managed to break – and that’s in addition to trying to become a better writer, a more compelling artist and a more engaged conversationalist. On the other side, in doing the research for content, I’ve learned more about artists, technicians and the process of creativity in than I did in college and along the way, I’ve crafted a career out of celebrating the work – and the people behind it – that inspires me. The near-constant stream of inspiration has us always looking for new ways to explore and express it, some of which can be seen in our recent (and more frequent) Q&As, book reviews and the first two episodes of my new podcast, Process Driven – which I think is a logical evolution to doing On Taking Pictures every week.
One of the other next steps includes coming up with ways for readers and listeners to help support Faded + Blurred either directly (by becoming a patron) or indirectly through affiliate links and merchandise. About a year into doing On Taking Pictures, we started getting requests for branded t-shirts. We didn’t think much of it at first, and in fact I was skeptical, to say the least. What I finally realized was that the t-shirts are totems of sorts to what Seth Godin calls a Tribe. Through them, listeners can show their support and participation for a community that they themselves have helped build. The response to the OTP shirts was terrific, so I decided to come up with additional designs – with more on the way – as a way for readers to help support Faded + Blurred.
This site, the podcasts, even my own artwork is ultimately all about community – about relationships. These things live, breathe and die on the strength of their connections to one another and to the members of the community who enjoy them. It’s a struggle, but many have said the struggle (or the journey, if you prefer) is what defines us. Seth Godin put it another way. “Here’s the truth you have to wrestle with,” he says. “The reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can’t tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there’d be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map.”