Block by Simeon Smith

Sometimes I take photos. 

And sometimes I do not. 

Last time I went to London I shot an entire roll of film in my walk from the underground to the conference I was attending and during my lunch break. 

Today I went to London and didn’t take a single photo. 

Maybe there weren’t great subjects. Maybe the rain put me off from taking the lens cap off my camera. Maybe I was focussed on the meeting I was there to attend, and in a different frame of mind. Maybe I took the wrong camera. 

Or maybe I just didn’t take any photos. 

I loathe the term “block”. Writer’s block. Artist’s block. Photographer’s block. As if we’re machines that have jammed. Printers churning out content until we overheat or run out of paper. 

I especially find it unhelpful, because then you focus on what might be causing you to not be inspired to write, create, make photographs. 

Instead I prefer to relax a little more in my skin. Enjoy being. Take the scenic route. And yes, enjoy not making art. 

I used to be more hungry, but then I realised that not all of the greats are crazy prolific. 

As a photographer people will only remember a few of my images. Maybe not even that. 

How many Picassos can you remember right now? Guernica, the blue guitarist dude, the squiggle of a dove, the lady with the big eye… And yet this is an artist that changed how we look at the world. 

So maybe it’s okay that sometime I take photos. 

And sometimes I do not. 

A beginner. Always. by Simeon Smith

Buddists know their shit when it comes to mindset.

One thing I’m learning from Zen Buddism is Shoshin, or beginner’s mind.

I want to be open to learn, to unlearn, to relearn.

I want to eagerly jump into projects I have no idea how to complete.

I want to throw out my preconceptions and marvel at this ugly, lovely world.

I want to sell my cleverness and buy bewilderment.

I want to grab creativity by the hand and run together without knowing where we’re going.

I want my eyes wide.

I want a purposeful naivety that knowingly ignores doubt.

I want to begin anew, again, every day.

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How to be Inspired. Always. by Simeon Smith

You don’t need fancy gear, a purpose built studio, the right weather and a full moon to be inspired.

You don’t need fresh ideas, positive vibes, and the praise of peers to be inspired.

You just need to go to work.

Picasso said: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

So get at it.

1.       Carry a creative tool with you everywhere. No, your phone or laptop does NOT count. I carry a film camera with me everywhere, or if I’m on a train, I take my tenori-on. Having something to hand always reminds me that I’m on this earth for more than survival.

2.       Switch off your phone, switch off your wifi. I am weak. Chances are, so are you. I can’t even read a book these days without being distracted by ooo… shiny! I wonder what’s on Instagram. My hands do it automatically. Even when I’ve left my phone on purpose, I still reach for it. I was with David last night, and he called his smart phone “crack cocaine”.  Yup. It’s that bad. Disconnect from the world, and reconnect with… oh that was about to be cheesy. Thanks for stopping me.

3.       Collaborate. However inspirational you find stuff, art, music, nature, it’ll be better if it’s shared. I’m lucky enough to live with my best friends. I work on art at least once a week with someone else, and I could see this as time that is taking away from me making my own art, but it inspires me so much. Also, without collaborators my palette would be seriously limited. They introduce me to new sounds, new ideas, new instruments.

4.       Be kind to yourself. Take a shower, go for a walk, grab a coffee, sit outside, eat healthy food, phone a friend, get comfy. You can be blindsided by inspiration anywhere, but sustainable inspiration comes from a place of wellbeing.

5.       Slow down. Count your victories, not your frustrations, maybe today you took just one photo, maybe you recorded just one harmony. Maybe that’s enough. Start looking at how much you’ve accomplished this week, this month, this year, not how much you’ve done in the last half hour.

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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