I write an email recently, responding after trading links with a friend about brutalist websites.
A few years ago a friend asked me, “would you rather design for the mass or the 2% that understand you?” My answer was, the 2% no doubt.
Then a year passed and another friend said, “if I can save everyone 5 minutes from their daily life without their knowledge, I’ve contributed my part.” I thought, man, maybe I do want to get on the product train.
It’s a spectrum, I’d say, of wanting to be the original and making the world a better place. I don’t like artist statements that are self-centered (maybe the self isn’t even aware that it’s being selfish), but I also don’t like the politically correct sleekness that shape the public aesthetic into blandness.
Maybe that’s why I retreat back to words, performance of words, and such. more fundamental things. But seriously, I don’t fucking know.
It’s not a brand new narrative. To me, how to thrive conscientiously has been a question to live (live the questions now, as Rilke said) – from a belief in architecture, to an excitement/confusion about web design, to writing.
I learned about the web by joining a company where I was entrusted to make things for which I didn’t yet have the skills. Grind coffee five times a day and learn a new language. Eat a slice of birthday pizza, then go back to the screen. Package it well and deliver the product. Scope it better next time. Over-communicate. Educate your clients. Hold the fear of not getting it right. Be assertive but nice. Maybe not nice, but definitely assertive. Play soccer. Times fluctuated among turbulence, tedium, illumination, camaraderie. They alternated between the dark and the colorful, filled with barbeque smoke and fun like in a drunk way.
The invincible youth did not have many hangovers.
When I was at my lows for all-web-things-considered, I wrote to keep myself sane. If I don’t write I feel I am losing a piece of myself, I expressed this sentiment. Some people empathized; others wondered if I was barely going through a phase. The me that I was trying to protect wasn’t very determined, either: should I keep expanding my realms of knowledge, or should I re-examine what has been my most private yet most indispensable medium of expression?
Eventually the learning took on a pause and I found myself producing similar things over and over again, an inevitable tragedy of working on client projects. I changed to a new job where people later called me “coach”, a term I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. I help them think through their projects and products and teach them how to DIY prototypes.
I am often explaining the fundemental concepts rather than building with “the next new thing”. I can afford to be a little more philosophical and a lot more thorough. Of course, at times the repeated questions bore me so much that I just have to miss those furious days of staying late and cheering PBR’s after a project delivery… But this is exactly the kind of balance that allows me time and space to deepen the writing practice that I’d put aside.
I have chosen plays as my medium because it is the most resonating creative form I have experienced. To some degree, I am an author. Yet I could never fully imagine how the text would be interpreted through directions and actions; nor did I want to. The most exciting part of being a playwright is probably this: to plant the seed through language, and let it grow and blossom into surprises in the hands of others.
Through collaborations with directors, actors, and whatever else a “stage” or “production” involves, I have realized I don’t just want to write. The vast space of theater and performance, broadly and everchanging-ly defined, deserves a lot more innovation, particularly on staying sustainable as a practice. I stand by the stance uttered by an editor: I don’t recommend starvation. There should be more than one way to keep creativity sustainable – as businesses, institutions, relationships, cultural phenomena, a combinition of them all.
There’s a need for a more concrete proposal. I have a few ideas I’d like to flesh out in the next few years, even though right now my biggest concentration is the writing itself. So to clarify, what I don’t fucking know is where all this will land, if it does land at all, after soaring into the infinite space of possbilities.