Common Discourse is a project designed to help others (and ourselves) think through creativity, focus, and intentional work—from Alex Tan & Alice Otieno.
Every Tuesday we share words from a journal, a few ideas, a quote from somebody else, and links worth sharing. On Fridays we invite a guest to share images from their camera roll and a sound that resonates with them. Words from the Journal come once a month.
Saving my breath for a journal we’re publishing this week. Here’s the first one we wrote earlier this year in case you missed it.
A few ideas
Some of our greatest moments in life are not pleasant, successful, or positive in the moment, but feel the most rewarding in hindsight.
Trying to make ends meet financially. The first run of marathon training. The early days of starting a new business.
When it feels pointless to keep going, just remember that there’s a lot of good waiting for you on the other side.
In retrospect, the moments of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.
II. BEATING CREATIVE BLOCKS
A photographer doesn't photograph because they forgot how to operate the camera and a writer doesn't stop writing because they are struggling to type.
Makers don't have a problem with doing. We have issues living with bad or imperfect work.
The best way to address this isn’t to wait to be perfect. Because if you wait, you’ll never get there.
The best way to deal with it is to do more, and to realize that your bad work isn’t fatal.
Like with everything else, we only get better with time.
III. BEGIN AGAIN
One way to beat perfectionism out of you is to begin again.
Start something new. Find something, anything, that you completely suck at.
Learn to leave with the results. Learn to show up again. Learn what it means to talk yourself through it.
Learn, learn, learn…
A quote from somebody else
“What I’m saying is this: You are born with this weird interiority that no one else can see. You can’t see it either at first. But if you run enough experiments you get a sense of how that inner space behaves. In particular, you can figure out which types of people can fuse with your interiority and expand it. You will not be able to explain how this fusion works. So don’t do it. But when the interiorities do fuse: notice how things are set in motion.”
Links worth sharing
🌊 Shaped by Water, a Google Design Studio installation in collaboration with artist Lachlan Turczan that explores the role water plays on our planet.
👁 What I See When My Eyes Are Closed, is an online data visualization project that documents the approximate colors seen by users when their eyes are closed. What colours do you see, when your eyes are closed?
🍎 Steve Jobs, Make Something Wonderful Archive documents the life, work, and many inspirational words Steve Jobs shared, that have gone on to shape some of the greatest products we see today.
🔬Last week we introduced the Research & Development vertical of the studio, a space we have been steadily building for the last 2 years. MWRC is a place for exploration, in search of something that doesn’t quite exist yet.
🫖 Collector Systems is a collaborative archive of objects by Heath Ceramics and Edith Heath Foundation.
🗳 Our digital work with Air Company was nominated for this year’s 27th Annual Webby’s awards. Cast a vote if you can, voting closes this Thursday!
Thanks for consuming!
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🐤 We have a Twitter feed where we populate things that resonate.
⭐ We use Are.na as a tool to archive specific aspects of this project.
🗣️ Use the comment feature at the bottom of this article or reply via email to start a conversation.
💬 Download the Substack App and use Chat to interact with us and other subscribers to Common Discourse on a more frequent and casual basis
thank you for your Words on struggling with the 'block'. there is a time for casting out your roots and absorbing quietly. and there is a time for the decisive moment of sprouting, sheath-wet, and bending toward the light. as writers, we are constantly photosynthesising ourselves. we would never doubt the oak or the birch’s strength in a dry season, but why our own? we would simply say that they are conserving, they are taking time: that they are very clever for it. we know they will bloom the next Spring. the only difference between us and the trees is that we are the roots, the sun, the soil, and the rain. follow and trust your cycle. you are drawing from ancient places. the heart knows.
i do love Toni Morrison’s timeless advice on writer’s block.
“When I sit down in order to write, sometimes it’s there; sometimes it’s not. But that doesn’t bother me anymore. I tell my students there is such a thing as “writer’s block,” and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now. All the frustration and nuttiness that comes from “Oh, my God, I cannot write now” should be displaced. It’s just a message to you saying, “That’s right, you can’t write now, so don’t.” We operate with deadlines, so facing the anxiety about the block has become a way of life. We get frightened about the fear. I can’t write like that. If I don’t have anything to say for three or four months, I just don’t write.
When I read a book, I can always tell if the writer has written through a block. If he or she had just waited, it would have been better or different, or a little more natural. You can see the seams. I always know the story when I’m working on a book. That’s not difficult. Anybody can think up a story. But trying to breathe life into characters, allow them space, make them people whom I care about is hard. I only have 26 letters of the alphabet; I don’t have color or music. I must use my craft to make the reader see the colors and hear the sounds.”