My grandfather was a tinkerer. He was incredibly good with his hands. When he passed away, it took a small army to clean out his sheds of a mostly completed speedboat he was building, a half built 1/6 scale model Tiger Moth plane (built from the actual plans of real one) he was building for a 6 year old grandson, countless contraptions and as many perfectly crafted but partially completed popular mechanics projects as he’d had weekends to start them. My grandfather was awfully good at starting projects but he wasn’t particularly good at finishing them.
Apart from the good with my hands bit, i think i get a lot of from grandfather. I’m incredibly good at starting things but often lousy at finishing them. I’ve started at least a few festivals, i’ve initiated the Renew stuff and made a habit and a career — to the extent that bailing on things just as they become financially viable is a career move — of being a serial starter of stuff. Over many years i’ve been involved in starting a lot of things and then gently sneaking away from it as it gets up the legs to stand on its own or i start distracting myself with some other thought bubble that attracts my attention. I’m impatient and always in a hurry. I can be incredibly motivated in the moment and but don’t care enough to hang around long enough for the big pay off.
I’ve also realised over the years is that my strengths in collaborative mediums. Events that involve bringing people together so that the team endures beyond my involvement in it. Making TV or even radio where my own inadequacies are well compensated for by the strengths of others. Projects where starting and finishing are two very different skill sets. I’ve realised I need other people to depend on me before i can push myself and nothing i ever do is on my own.
All of which is a round about way of bringing me back to this book thing…
For nearly as long as i can remember i’ve been threatening to write a book. Indeed, i have actually been writing a book for about as long as i can remember. Several of them. Over the last 15 or 20 years I’ve written two or three hundred thousand words of not-quite-a-book. It’s my default project — the thing i return to whenever the rest of the show stops for long enough to allow my brain to go up or down a gear. Weirdly it’s also one of the few things i do — and like to do — completely alone.
Professionally, I’m not really a writer but i write. It’s an occupational hazard that sits between ideas and execution, inspiration and collaboration but not really an end itself or something i want to be. I have something to say I think — as evidenced by the occasional useful post here — but the idea of the book as the project i never really have to finish or share is one of the reasons why i return to it.
I’ve had lots of reasons to start a book. Lots of ideas. But i’ve never had a reason to finish one. “The book” is my shed. It’s the place i go and start something on a lazy weekend or start putting together pieces that don’t quite fit together to see what shape they make. With tinkering there’s never any reason to finish. I want a project not a profession. Although i’ve had plenty of actual offers from real publishers that’s never really been the point — I want, as i do with most things, to play with the form not produce to the formula.
Now i have crowd funded a book… Crowd funding the book has been one of the best moves i’ve made in a long time. It’s not a coincidence that several of the most enthusiastic supporters who know me best of the Creating Cities Pozible campaign did so with a comment along the lines of “i’m supporting this book to make Marcus write it”. It’s given me a deadline — an insanely soon one that suits my impatience, More importantly it’s given me a sense of obligation and expectation beyond an abstract or artificial deadline. It’s given me an obligation not to a corporate entity but to people who care for what I do and people I care about. It’s given me a reason to finish something and, importantly, it’s given me the resources to bring together the collaborators i’ll need to be strong where i’m not and finish this thing.
So, at the end of next week i’m heading off for 8 days in an undisclosed location (The Grampians) to sift through the thousands of fragments of not-book and start finding and polishing the book bit. I’m going to go and start finishing something and, just to keep me on my toes, i’m bringing 921 collaborators with me. I hope they fit in the shed or at the very least help me clear this mess out.
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