More on old books: Mortimer Adler on permanent literature

The faster things change, the more important our reference points if we want to avoid motion sickness. The great books are always contemporary. In contrast, the books we call “contemporary,” because they are currently popular, last only for a year or two, or ten at the most. They soon become antiquated. You probably cannot recall the names of the bestsellers…

Not long ago, or Little by little (3): scarcity and subsistence in rural Suffolk

[For those who came in late… Start with Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening… A village in Suffolk [in the east of England], circa 1900: There were seven children at home and father’s wages had been reduced to 10…

Not long ago, or Little by little (2): Indoor plumbing

[Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening, little by little: It’s the Chinese city of Kunming in 1980: Li Kunwa and Phillipe Ôtié’s A Chinese Life is an amazing memoir – a lens into sixty years of struggle and upheaval…

Making art, solving for finance

To be an artist has always required that you find a way to solve for the financial equation of the cost of producing your art. In the old days it was a sponsorship system. In medieval times, which was one of the greatest explosions of art culture on the planet, it was all about finding a rich patron to support…

The process

This is the process: Do some work. Just start. Work on it until the excitement of fresh ideas crumbles on contact with reality into the funk of “Why am I even bothering?” Recognise that this is part of the process – and that learning to get through it is quite possibly the key to success. Make something that’s so-so. Edit,…

The practice school

This is the PRACTICE school of writing. Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run.…

Joseph Conrad on art, writing and reaching your audience

All art, therefore, appeals primarily to the senses, and the artistic aim when expressing itself in written words must also make its appeal through the senses, if its highest desire is to reach the secret spring of responsive emotions. It must strenuously aspire to the plasticity of sculpture, to the colour of painting, and to the magic suggestiveness of music—which…

Seeds (3): becoming Beatrix Potter

1866 Helen Beatrix Potter born in London. 1876 Beatrix Potter has already been doing a lot of drawing and painting. This watercolour is from 1876, a couple of months before her tenth birthday: 1883 Aged 17, she writes “I can’t settle to anything but my painting. I lost my patience over everything else.” 1890 Beatrix Potter sells her first pieces…

Vision. Positioning. Execution. (2)

Four types of vision: Vision of what is: the good, the bad… and the missing. Vision of possibilities: seeing what could be, or what could stop being. Having a sense of contributing factors and probabilities. Moral or ethical vision: knowing which possibilities should be, and which you will take responsibility for changing. Judgement: choosing a good way forward in light…