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The Randomness of Existence by Simeon Smith

As more time passes, I’m less and less sure if effort, or hard work makes a difference at all to productivity. I mean we all know, deep down, that hard work doesn’t equate to higher earnings, otherwise nurses would be millionaires. But does greater effort lead to greater… anything really?

Here’s a track that came out a few days ago that I produced with Eleanor, in an afternoon. Sure, we could have done things a lot differently if we’d had longer, we could have spent longer on the mix and post production, but what this captures is something very special; raw creativity (mostly hers!), done and dusted.

We could have spent a month on this track, we could have used better gear, found a better space to record, but we didn’t. And not only did we express something in a creative and energised way, people seem to be enjoying it.

The same with my little side-project Carry The Martyr, which has been composed mainly on headphones on my laptop in lunch-breaks, on trains, and outside my kids evening swimming classes. Just add 10 parts inspiration to every 1 part effort. There’s now 5 tracks of the thing in just a few weeks, and sure I’m enjoying it so much that when I have a more significant body of work I’ll mix everything down paying a lot more attention to the process and master everything to make it flow a bit (a lot) better.

https://carrythemartyr.bandcamp.com

One of my favourite artists is Salventius, who creates amazing one line drawings in seconds. This kind of reminds me that he’s standing on a mountain of practice, experience and work to get to the place where he can create these beautiful images in a few seconds, but at the same time the product doesn’t match the speed or effort he puts in at all!

And, because I’m naturally pretty pessimist this eventually leads me to think of all the times I’ve sweat blood and tears over projects and they’ve turned out… okay. Today marks 5 years since Bex and my last single as Kinetic Monkey. The whole album took ages, took a lot of headwork, we promoted hard, and… yeah. it’s okay. It’s a decent job, but it’s not by a long stretch the kind of music I’d hope would come from 100% effort.

And I’m not knocking effort. If something’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. Passion and dedication are important to us as humans, but this myth of “hard work pays off” needs to die. Who is it that said “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good.”?

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The Great Tradition of being Easily Distracted by Simeon Smith

A while ago I played a festival, under my own name, playing the kind of down-tempo electronic music I usually make. 

The organiser billed me as a "polymath".  I think this is because some of the people attending the festival probably knew me better from my time in Kinetic Money, or from my anarchic chiptune sideproject

But I kind of think most people probably read "polymath" as "twat", or just don't know what it means. I read an artist biography recently, and the guy had described himself as a "true renaissance man".

I can't even type that with a straight face.

How can it be that in the 21st century where almost everyone under the age of 40 has multiple income streams, multiple interests and is part of the "gig economy", we STILL need to explain this fact to people?

I was reminded of this question recently when I saw prolific musician Andy Burrows on twitter. His profile reads: "Tom Odell, We Are Scientists, David Brent & Foregone Conclusion, I Am Arrows, Smith & Burrows, The Snowman & the Snowdog, onceuponaRazorlight"

People seem to need the mental hook to hang people on, but also seem only to be able to hang people on one hook at time.

Austin Kleon wrote an amazing thread of tweets about this same issue and included the following two quotes:

“You’re supposed to do one thing. If you do more than that, people get confused.” Margaret Atwood

"I made every mistake in the book. You should never do two things. You should hammer one nail all your life, and I didn't do that." - Brion Gysin

And too damn right he didn't! His Wikipedia entry reads: "Brion Gysin was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist". 

A lot of people know me for one thing and when they find out about other things I do they say unhelpful things like "Oh, are you not doing music anymore?", "Are you focusing on your photography now?", "Are you trying to make writing your full time job?", "Are you hoping to give up your work at the university soon?". 

No, no, no, and no. I'm having fun, I'm following my heart. I like what I do, and I do what I like. 

For some reason people look down on diversity of interests. The common phrase goes, "Jack of all trades, Master of none" but I just can't get on board with that. A lot of people spend their entire lives following one path, and I love their dedication. For some of us though, we're more easily distracted. And we follow in a great tradition of easily distracted people: Da Vinci - Artist, anatomist and war-machine designer. Jefferson - President, lawyer and inventor. Asimov - Biochemist, author, and ethicist. 

For a lot of people, personal satisfaction derives from diversity of output. Last night I wrote words, music and developed film, and went to bed satisfied with my work.

I'm convinced I'm on the right path for me for now. My problem is marketing myself. 

I met with someone for lunch today. They wanted some friendly advice on advancing their career, and had followed a couple of career paths in recent years. I told them, "For the job you're applying for, you're going to get asked if you really want the job, or if you're just waiting for your other work to pick up." And I hated myself for saying it. We all only have one life and should be encouraged to follow as many interests as like. But that is where society is at right now, asking us which one nail we'd like to hammer for the rest of our lives. 

I've been using the strap-line recently "Digital Creative / Analogue Heart". The aforementioned Austin Kleon describes himself as "A writer who draws". It's like we're trying to justify to the world that we do more than one thing. 

We're not special though. Everyone I know has side-hustles, hobbies and the 21st century economy is blurring the lines between who we are and what we do. 

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