Discover more from The Remarkable Fools Letter
the magic is in the mess
embracing the raw, real side of the creative process
Selling things on FB Marketplace is always an adventure. You never know who you’ll meet. Most exchanges are brief and all business. Occasionally they lead to deeper connections. This just happened to me.
I was first contacted by Williams son. William has neither social media nor email. He likes youtube. He likes to text. William also loves to type. Back in fifty seven William could type two hundred words a minute. These days, he types a bit more slowly.
And on the machine I sold him - an old Olivetti 22, manual typewriter - I can’t imagine anyone having a word count like that these days. I’m glad William has the typewriter now. It’s elegant. It’s old. It’s a magical throw back to a time when things had more direct consequences - press a button the right way and it makes a mark on a piece of paper. It’s simple. It’s a lot like William.
I met William in a parking lot a half an hour away from here. I showed him the typewriter. It worked. He paid me. Then? Then we started chin waggin’. Before we got too far into an assumed interest in each other, something happened. William took charge. He asked me: Jim, do you mind listening to an old man tell a story?
William was a carpenter. He build things that I’ve only dreamed of. There are few things I love more than listening to old guys tell me about the stuff they built back in the old days and how the figured out how to make it happen.
Sure William, I replied, please, tell me more.
Ahhhh, thank you Jim, it’s not often that someone wants to listen to the stories of an old fool like me. I’ve learned to ask permission before I go spouting off. I do this on account of the fact that sometimes folks aren’t as keen to listen as I am to speak.
I laughed and said: You don’t have that problem here. Tell me more.
William obliged. He told me about losing his wife six years ago. He spoke about his truck. He spoke about love. He told me that everyone in all the churches is getting it wrong about everything: God is love Jimmy. God is in Jesus but Jesus isn’t in God. God’s in all of those stories of all of those other people. It’s not just Jesus you know.
He spoke to me like he was speaking something dangerous, powerful and grave. It was almost as though he had a small part of him half afraid that he was getting things wrong. I instantly loved this little bald octogenarian with his big truck and even bigger heart.
That’s the thing Jimmy, it’s in all of us - love. That’s how we listen. It’s also how we ask permission. Love Jimmy. Love.
Two things struck me from this:
First, he asked my permission to tell a story. I’m a storyteller. I regularly ask permission to take people’s time and attention. Checking in to find out if people want to know or care to know what you have to say is a great way to operate.
In writing to you every day, I assume that I have permission. Well. You’ve given it to me.
This is post number 935.
I’m doing this daily.
This process of unfolding has been one of discovering my voice while connecting with you.
Occasionally I’ve written things that haven’t gone as well as I’d want. I’m trying stuff here. Writing to you is like performing as a stand up with a very quiet audience. I’m never certain what’s working - especially when I’m attempting humour.
I do know that this post on ‘Cavemen to clickbait’ did not work well with people. I was playing with a harsh and snarky tone. I was playing with an idea. The idea? I found it funny that someone would think that another person needs something more to worry about. “You might want to read this worrying article” prompted the post. My reaction? No. I don’t want anything else to worry about. All full up. Please don’t share that stuff. I want to worry about as much as I want to poop my pants.
I’m going to take another stab at that because there’s something funny about thinking that someone else might want to worry. I want to do lots of things. Worry is near the bottom of the list - somewhere around where I’d place my desire to cover myself in paper cuts and swim in lemon juice.
And yet, how foolish - the anti worry jokes did not work, yet still I try.
I never know if people leave because they’re offended or merely tired of my shit. Either way, that post caused a bit of an exodus. Some folks unsubscribed.
I agonize over unsubscriptions. It’s not fretting. It’s not worrying. It feels more like I’ve been kicked in the nuts. I’ve done something wrong and people now hate me. My inner critic is a dick.
It used to be worse. I’d agonize over every post. I’d worry, fret and stew that I’d get something wrong, not be funny, be boring, or offensive. I’d worry that I wouldn’t be offensive enough for people to care.
I write things where I take real people then exaggerate and fill in blanks to come up with the characters here. I used to worry about offending them, or that they’d think I’m creepy or rude or just didn’t ‘get’ them.
I used to worry about all of this stuff a whole lot.
I feel sad when I write something that offends someone who I know and love and they unsubscribe.
I’m getting used to it meow. As I approach a thousand posts, I’m becoming more comfortable with this big, messy creative process that doesn’t always work.
That post, that offensive post was also confusing.
It attracted new subscribers as well.
So what’s the point of this post?
Well. William said it best when we spoke about building things: People don’t always want to see how things come together. They don’t want to see the mess. I worked on a number of fancy places where they’d go away for the summer and only want to return when everything was finished and tidy. Those are good jobs. But I really loved showing people how I did it.
Here, at the foolsletter, I’m showing you all how I do things. This is how I’m writing books. This is how I find, grow, process and develop ideas. This is an ongoing work in progress, a live experiment where I’m bound to both offend, delight and bore people from day to day. You all get a front row seat in how thoughts, ideas and hell knows what else are coming together.
Conventional wisdom that I keep reading seems to indicate that I should do something less frequent and more polished.
That would defeat the purpose of ‘showing my work’ and showing the mess of the creative process.
If you want to show up and create something new, if you want to lead, you must be willing to look stupid, offend others, get things wrong and to fail. It doesn’t matter if you’re being a parent, starting a company or writing stand up. It’s a place of both vulnerability and power.
Both at the same time.
Thank you for joining me on this trip.
I appreciate having your permission to tempt your time and attention with this messy creative process. By working transparently like this, I hope I can inspire you to embrace your messy side and leap into your creativity.
And if I don’t?
You can always unsubscribe.
You’re always welcome to come back.