All posts filed under: Writing

No Throwing Coals: Learning from the Past to Have a Present

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal meaning to throw it at someone else; you’re the one who gets burned. –Buddha I look at my daughter on the first anniversary of her birth and feel nothing but gratitude to the people – all of them – who were instrumental in my finding my way to her, my wife, and our present life. Without knowing these folks I’d never have gotten here at all, although it’s taken me ages to see this clearly. My life’s trajectory altered radically a few years ago when I finally realized that no matter what others did to or for me, I was the only person who actually chose my path; nobody else could have done it for me. I chose to act, to react, to judge or not; I chose it all, though in some cases I didn’t know any better. I am so deeply thankful I know a little better now. In the past, I blamed a few people for many things. I thought some particular woes were …

An open letter to my newborn daughter

Dear M, You will read this when you are much, much older and able to understand. I just thought it all needed to be said in the meantime. I am home alone, waiting until tomorrow morning when I can go see you and your other Mom, Jen, in the hospital. You are both to stay there until Sunday, when Jen’s incision has healed enough for her to come home. It’s been a rough couple of days for all three of us and I am so tired. At the same time, I have never been happier. You were born 24 hours ago after a hellacious induced labor and eventual c-section. Jen and I were holding hands in fearful anticipation; suddenly, you drew your first breath and let loose a gorgeous angry cry from behind a thicket of medical attendants. Although Jen was in a cloud of painkillers on the operating table, she immediately started crying tears of joy. I had been crying already, so I just sobbed harder. So happy. The fact that I’d ended up here was …

How to prime the idea pump with ease and aplomb

I am having fewer ideas, but they seem to be of better quality than the flood of ideas I used to get when I was younger. How can I take advantage of this?  I am 40 this year and I have to say, things look a lot different than when I was 25. I used to be a babbling brook of ideas for my art work: I filled sketchbooks and journals with odd thoughts over the years. A lot of them were crap, but still, it felt great. I do have to admit, life was a lot simpler then… I did not have nearly the amount of responsibilities or cares that I have now, but I think my brain has changed. In fact, I know it has: the Seattle Longitudinal Study showed that we get way more efficient at processing information as we get older. We can’t work as fast or as long as we could when we were young – but we shouldn’t need to, since we are working better. So I am better at thinking of …

Getting off my butt for other people is a good thing!

So after the drama of last week, my friend Nina mentioned that maybe, just maybe, I would feel better if I did something for someone else. What a concept! In my turmoil, I absolutely forgot that there are other people  out in the world, perhaps in need of some help.  Here are some resources to help find opportunities for service: New York Cares The 7 Best Places To Volunteer In NYC  There are measurable benefits for people who do service, actually. Or, at least, there seems to be: Is Altruism Good for the Altruistic Giver? For myself, I have to say that altruistic acts are the direct opposite of and cure for unmitigated self-absorption. It breaks the spell instantly, frees me from my fascination with myself, and humbles me back into sane behavior. So I am looking around my community and looking for opportunities to help my fellow man, no matter how menial the task at hand. I’ll let you know what I find.

The doldrums are ever ready to snatch our momentum away…

Uhg. I’ve been so down the last 2 days,and I am fighting like hell to get out of it. I figured one way to make this worth going through is by coming up with a list of anti-dejection methods you might find useful. I don’t know about you, but my doldrums come in distinct flavors. This time, it’s the my-work-is-meaningless one, all juicy and fetid and festering. It is a whopper for me, very seductive in lulling me to my inner rocky bottom. I am, for all my aw goshery, really rather ambitious. I’d like to matter to a few people, be a resource for others in my field. This is slowly, SLOWLY happening to be sure, but there are times when my demons decide that it’s never going to happen: I’m destined to reside in obscurity forever, all my work is for naught, the only way I can get people to look at my work is to give it to them for free… The inner chorus continues and I spiral down to my most …

I create because I believe people are essentially good.

Before you click away, just wait. I’m not saying every person in the world behaves in ways that are always good. That is not possible, and I know that. I am saying that each and every one of us has the potential to be and do good. That’s the whole reason I get out of bed in the morning, make stuff, and generally live. It’s important to check in with your core motivations once in a while–that way you can tell if you are still on course, as it were. My logic goes like this:  People have the potential to be and do good. In fact, unless we are stunted in some way, we just naturally tend to do and be good. Any person can do good by reaching out and helping others learn to tap that potential.  The entire world gets incrementally better the more #2 happens. There will come a day when everybody born will have a reasonable chance to be and do good. This is all fine and dandy, but what does the word …

Use the tools you were born with before the ones you buy.

I was born short, gay, near-sighted, chubby, and slightly odd all around. Oh, and female. What the hell was I going to do with that in a sexist, homophobic, pro-skinny world? As it turns out, just about anything I damn well please. The biggest hurdle I always have had to conquer is my underestimation of self. Society can be prickly at times, but in reality no one person usually gives enough of a damn to hurt someone else. We are all way too concerned about ourselves to mess up another person’s day–unless we are obsessed or imbalanced in some way. I have been the target of haters, so yes, it is possible to evoke active resistance from other people. It just isn’t all that likely. Society may like to whisper some poison nothings in our ears, but it’s up to each of us to give them life by believing them. I chose to believe the crappiest stuff for a long time and ended up feeling alientaed, frustrated and generally miserable. I’d like to share my …

Having children will make my career more meaningful.

My partner Jen is 5 and a half months into her pregnancy and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of our daughter. I have to admit when we learned she had gotten pregnant, I had this flash of terror that my career, for which I had worked so hard, was over. It was going to be subsumed by diapers and play dates and burping, I was going to lose all touch with who I was, the whole bit. I rode out a few little waves of aftershock for the next couple of hours as I got my head around the idea and became more and more overjoyed with the news. It all got me to thinking, and then I happened upon Tina Roth Eisenberg: The Power of Side Projects and Eccentric Aunts, a talk given by Swiss Miss earlier this year. In it, she speaks about using the births of her children as inspiration for her work. She said that when each of her children were born, she used it as an opportunity to reassess and …

Bread-and-butter work can make or break a designer.

Think of this as a primer for the novice designer and a call back to arms for the experienced art director.  For those of you unfamiliar with design work, there are different chunks to be done. There is the high-level thinking where you come up with ideas, there is sketching where you develop your ideas visually, and finally there is production, where most of the thinking has already been done and all you do is implement the design. In general, production is viewed as the least challenging from a design point of view, and it usually falls upon the lower-level employees to complete it. For the most part, I call the routine, lower-level stuff bread-and-butter work as it puts a lot of food on the table. I used to work in a small agency where I handled all of the interaction design. Occasionally, I had access to interns who could do the grunt work for me, and certainly, these were respites from the crush of jobs. I started to think that perhaps I needed to find …

Since becoming a designer, I have become a better person.

Since becoming a design instructor, I have become a better designer. And amidst all of this, I have become a much better artist. I am incredibly lucky to be caught in this particular upward spiral, and I hope to help others find their own cycle of growth through teaching and writing. I started out as a fine artist, specifically a printmaker. My work was diaristic in nature, a lot of pictorial navel-gazing. Nothing much remarkable happened until I got to grad school and switched unexpectedly (involuntarily, even) to graphic design. All of a sudden, I had to confront and examine all these presuppositions I held about the act of cultural production. Here are a few I have successfully unraveled: You have to be obscure to have street cred I had always seen myself operating on the fringes of society, speaking to a select few. In the graphic design department at school, the designers were all striving to reach entire strata of the general population. Speaking to the mainstream in any way seemed like an immediate …