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Three Tomorrows & The Creative Journey
A review of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. Also: The New Local, The Changing Landscape of Reading, and some Art School Girlfriend
This week, I finished reading Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: a book about the journey of the creative process, the redemptive power of play, and the unique kind of relationships borne from it.
I thoroughly enjoyed it for many reasons. The style was interesting as it didn’t feel like it fit a traditional storytelling narrative: rather it was a look into the lives of a group of people making games together as young adults. The story would often feel like a game itself, meandering into story corners that served to enrich the lives of the characters and the world. I would often wonder as to why the story would swerve away from its core plot, only to eventually come to enjoy it like one would get lost in detours in a game.
Perhaps my favourite part of the book was resonating with the many different parts of the creative process: all the ups, downs, doubts, joys, confusion, uncertainty, credit, ego, etc.
I’ve found myself on all sides of the creative journey: from spending long nights to work on something, to achieving success, to winning awards, to releasing something and no-one caring about what you made, or receiving poor reviews of your work. I’ve become used to it now, having experienced this in games, tech apps, crypto, writing, art, and music. These days, I find myself in a bit of a trough as I moved into new domains of media, writing, and art. Once you’ve been through these cycles, it’s so much easier to know that after putting months of work into something and seeing it fall flat, you just get back up and keep going.
The important part, as the book emphasises, is that you still create for a reason, even if that reason is only for yourself. Our only hope is that we get to create without comprising who it is for. Some days that won’t align, and that’s also okay: another learning experience.
It’s reminiscent of Jonathan Mann’s ode to Martha Graham and the road of creative success:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” - Martha Graham
As someone who enjoys not only being creative, but documenting the creative process, this novel is for you. It's not always that a popular book comes along that looks as deeply as this into that process. It comes highly recommended.
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The New Local - Block Parties, Flip Phone Teens, & Crypto Fests in the Forest
Last weekend, getting a coffee with a friend in Williamsburg, New York, I noticed at least 5 groups of running clubs going past me. When I lived there in 2021, I used to get up early for a walk and don't recall it ever looking like this. Felt like another anecdotal point towards this era of the new social.
As we navigate the post-social of Twitter balkanization and the post-ultra-online pandemic era, it's not a surprise that people are advocating or yearning for a new kind of connection.says that the Internet is Wonky Again. I agree, and with it we're getting old, flooded islands of the web resurfacing.
Not only that, but I found this article documenting how to hold block parties again, like it's the 90s.
"There's been a phrase used by Internet anthropologists in the last couple of years, which is The Dark Forest, It refers to parts of the Internet where you can be ‘your true self,’ away from ad-monetisation and surveillance capitalism. FWBFest literally took place in a forest, where parasocial friendships forged over the past years via DMs were expanded into the Forest Dimension,” Shumon Basar, a Bangladeshi-British author, that took part as a speaker, told me about his experience of the festival. “After the pandemic's denuding of our senses into screen-everything, I feel like we appreciate even more these occasions where our avatar selves can meet-greet in all our fleshy, inimitable eccentricity. The future is already here; it's a forest."
You post something on social media, you don’t get enough likes, then you don’t feel good about yourself. That shouldn’t have to happen to anyone. Being in this club reminds me we’re all living on a floating rock and that it’s all going to be OK.”
It ultimately points to what I feel is an oscillation back to touch grass. In part I think it is also a result of people working remotely. There isn't a natural third place when you work from home. You have to seek it out again.
I'm not sure if any of this is an actual meaningful trend, but it's definitely the case among the very online (I count myself in this group). Have you changed your habits recently?
The Ever-Changing Landscape of Reading
Tangentially… Reading is as popular as it ever was. Goodreads is thriving (albeit a bit gamified).
Right now, book sales in the U.S. are the highest they’ve ever been. A prolonged period of forced isolation is one proposed cause; so is the rise in easy content creation (eg #BookTok). There’s a desire stirring in our culture, both in reaction to the digitization of life and in line with the trendy factor that digital platforms foster, to be seen as someone who reads overshadowing the reading itself.
It’s interesting to see the response from people surrounding this week’s proposed sale of Simon & Schuster to KKR.
I’m not optimistic as it tends to go when private equity like this buys out a business like this. Barnes & Noble turned around because they want the opposite way: taking cues from doing the hard things, and scaling bookstores like indie bookstores.
Will be interesting to see what happens. I think there is a general malaise towards Big Content Oligopolies atm. Even in the recording industry, people are trending towards more mid-level artists. There’s fewer new superstars.
Behind AI There is Still People
I’ve often talked on this newsletter about the fact that 1) distribution is already hard and there’s only so much space for a few great works to have mass attention, and 2) authentic works will receive more attention regardless of how it’s made.
A previous article:
AI is NOT going to suddenly turn into a mass content-mill. Glad to see this corroborated elsewhere.
These alarming predictions, however, aren't based on an undertanding of how culture actually works. As much as A.I. has gotten better at making human-like art, creation is arguably the easiest step in the process of cultural formation. Every day thousands if not millions of people propose new ideas and practices, but only a tiny sliver ever win attention, attract adherents, or take on collective meanings. Ironically, generative A.I. has emerged just as we're already emeshed in a human-created crisis of cultural overproduction. Most human-created art today fails to take on social value. Musicians and labels upload over 100,000 songs to Spotify each day, and yet this market chaos has only pushed consumers to concentrate on a small stable of veteran entertainers, such as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
Those panicked about A.I. culture offer little explanation for why computer-created pseudo-culture will instantly receive widespread interest and reverence when 99.99% of human symbolic output can’t. Harari and co. seem to believe that computers will achieve great creative prowess because they already mastered chess and go, but this equivalence is an overreach. At the moment, generative A.I. produces works by repurposing a large body of pre-existing material, which means it mostly recycles clichés and drips out stale kitsch.
Again, it’s not to say that AI created works won’t have audiences and won’t present something novel (they already do), but it will come from the fact that there are real people divining the experiences. There might be shortcuts in process, but no shortcuts in meaning.
(ht Shane for the link).
Art School Girlfriend - Out There
Rediscovered Art School Girlfriend again (thx Rian).
This is my favourite track from the album. Enjoy!
That’s all for this week. Enjoy a sunset!