Robin Sloan last month wrote about how newsletters should have seasons like tv shows. Peter Rukavina refers to that in the context of maybe closing up his online shop for letterpress artefacts for a while, something other than a newsletter entirely.

It made me muse about the general application of ‘seasons’ to any type of creative output. Newsletters, knowledge work in general, creation of artefacts, expression. It reminds me of the phases used to describe artist’s lives and work. “She was nearing the end of her blue phase when she met fellow painter X and started experimenting with a new work form.” Van Gogh’s work is described in the ‘Dutch phase’, ‘Impressionist phase’, ‘Arles phase’ and ‘Late phase’, spanning just a decade.

The word season has a rounded pleasant feel to it. Much better than the word phase, which in the context of projects evokes the notions of pre-planned milestones and stress before deadlines. Seasons has a much better fit with things like the natural flow of one’s interests, of (digital) gardening, where there’s a rhythmic change to your activities.

There are internal reasons and external reasons for thinking in terms of seasons for creative production.

Internal ones are about

  • building in rest, and treating rest as a fundamental part of your production process (which fits well with my notion of knowledge work as artisanal work).
  • an opportunity to reflect (mentioned by Sloan), to step back from the work in progress and take a look at the bigger whole in which it fits
  • avoiding the relentlessness that is buried within ‘weekly’, ‘daily’ and other preconceived rhythms, and which always after a while if conceived as ‘endless’ or having an end which is still far away becomes a burden. There is of course the juxtaposed notion of ‘not breaking the chain’. The latter is aimed more at getting the mental satisfaction of keeping up a streak, when the underlying tasks are more of a chore and not likely to provide that satisfaction. With creative production the satisfaction is likely more in the output itself, and then forcing the streak to continue may be counter productive, causing a rut that decreases the fun and satisfaction of production.

External ones

  • a sense of progress (mentioned by Sloan), of exploration. An exploration is always a temporary thing, before it morphs into something else again.
  • an opportunity to alter course (mentioned by Sloan), e.g. because your list of current interests, or current questions you hold has changed
  • a way to change the form of expression, which can bring new inspiration also if themes remain the same. Switching from writing haiku’s to photography, from consultancy to on-line training modules.
  • to embrace a natural end point or evolution, providing the ability to let go gracefully not as ‘I’ve quit doing/exploring that’, but ‘I moved to doing/exploring this’. ‘Seasons’ lend themselves well to weaving them into your or other’s narrative.

Those last three fit well with combinational creativity, in all its three varieties of problem driven, similarity driven and inspiration driven approaches.


Seasons by Alphonse Mucha, public domain image, shared by Robson Epsig as CC-BY

There are well known North-American photographers who through city scenes, road trips and street photography documented eras, whose images capture what we think of as iconic. Do you know European photographers who did the same across Europe, as opposed to just nationally? Is there a European collective like a ‘Magnum’ equivalent, for instance?
I’ve started exploring the federation of European photographers.

Replied to Adult Hobbies – Tracy Durnell (tracydurnell.com)
I have dabbled in hobbies over the years and have a hard time divorcing myself from a productivity mindset. Even if I enjoy an activity it’s hard to make myself do it.

As a kid I already hated the word ‘hobby’. Parents/adults always seemed to imply some put-down with that word. Also sentences like ‘why not pick a hobby’ seemed to me to flip means and goal, turning ‘having a hobby’ into a goal and having, finding, or worse coming up, with an interest into a means. I avoid the word hobby (like I avoid the notion of being ‘a fan’ of something for similar reasons). I have interests, some are more dormant currently, others lead to activity at the moment, and it shifts with time. I also found over the years that some of those interests will migrate from an activity in my own time towards paid work, and some to even being the center of work for an extended time. So I’ve come to see interests and activities as a pool from which future work may well spring. At the same time it does not need to be clear how that might happen, better not even, as having the interest is its own reward. Vice versa I am ok with treating any activity I care about as a professional activity (in terms of the tools and practices I bring to it), and that blurs the line between ‘private’ and ‘work’ even more than being self-employed already ensures. Basically it means that when I am not working it mostly looks the same as when I am working. There’s only no administrative follow-up like sending an invoice. It’s a bit like how Henriette and I worded it in a conversation a long time ago: I get up in the morning and go to sleep in the evening, and in between I do stuff.

Ik dacht dat ik iets in Rotterdam besteld had, maar het komt zoals ik om deze tijd van het jaar had kunnen verwachten als nazending uit Spanje. Paste niet op Pakjesboot 12 denk ik, en is bovendien niet bedoeld als Sinterklaascadeau.

Een verzendbevestiging uit Spanje

Bookmarked Corollaria Railing (Nervous System blog)
Corollaria Railling, 2020. at Nervous System in Palenville, NY When we moved to the Catskills and built our new studio, we splurged on one item in our construction: a railing that acts as a sculptural element winding through the space. This algorithmically-generated, lasercut steel railing is the largest piece of art we’ve ever made.

What an amazing piece of laser cutting. I’d wish we had space for such a beautiful bold statement somewhere.

I coined a new Dutch word I think. This early morning I was thinking and writing about the words dependency, independency, interdependency, and codependency, and did so in both English and Dutch in parallel. In Dutch I realised I didn’t like the usual translation of interdependency as ‘wederzijdse afhankelijkheid’ which literally translated back to English says mutual dependency. It seems to miss a key aspect. It emphasizes the mutuality of being dependent i.e. two separate dependencies in a vice versa fashion. To me the ‘inter’ in interdependent is not merely the two things that are connected through it, but a third place. A strenghtening of multiple independents by entering into a constellation, not a weakening through mutually assured dependence. A third place that is a synergetic togetherness, centered between the things connected through it, something that is more than the sum of its parts. In that richer connectedness lies the complexity of our lives. ‘Mutual dependent’ sounds like a so much poorer term than ‘interdependent’. It leans more towards codependency even. I of course have a strong interest in the meaning of the word interdependent, as it has been the most important word in the name of this weblog since 2002 (and hence became part of my personal company and holding company name too).

I tried to find a Dutch term for it, couldn’t find an existing one and then I came up with ‘samenhankelijk’, which is a concatenation of ‘together’ and ‘pendant’, into something akin to ‘tangled together’ (the Dutch word for entanglement, ‘verstrengeling’ lacks the mutuality and relational aspect, is more a physical description like of a Gordian knot).

I searched samenhankelijk. It turns out that it doesn’t exist. The word is not in the most authoritative Dutch dictionary, Startpage doesn’t have any results, and Google has 5 (but used, wrongly, as the word ‘samenhangend’ which means coherent).

Van Dale dictionary no results Startpage no search results
No results in the dictionary, no results in search.

Now I am blogging this to put the word samenhankelijk out there, and have it indexed by the search algorithms. I also registered the domain name samenhankelijk.nl, just because I can, and will put up a ‘dictionary’ page there, to claim the term’s definition. By default that domain has perfect SEO! Let’s see how soon this blogpost is the first for this Google search 😀