This week I am struggling with what to write. The crisis of confidence that I had a feeling would come when I started thinking too hard about this Thoughts for the Weekend (TFTW) gig has hit. Since it started, I have had weekly emails from clients saying how much they enjoy reading this each week. How people look forward to it each week, and ‘I LOVE your weekly musings… keep ‘em coming!!’ Crikey, the pressure is on, and how did this happen? I have been terrible at language my entire life. I had to resit my GCSE at night school to get into polytechnic. I get confused with bought and brought (writing and talking), quiet and quite. I only nailed weight a few years back, when I worked out it was eight with a w!
But writing is a creative process, and I must remember I can do that. It is like sketching; I start with a line and see where it leads. Mostly I have started with an idea or a title and seen where it goes. Sometimes, in the case of the D-Day stones episode, it’s relatively easy as it’s just a recount of what happened. Others, like Leaf Blowers, require a bit more stitching together. But something always comes. If I start sketching, an idea begins to form and usually ends up in an unexpected place. Not knowing the outcome before I start is the thrill of designing.
If I just look at a blank page, the creative process doesn’t ever get going. I’ve learnt and pushed myself not to do that, sometimes, it is harder than others, but as a designer, I have a process that I follow, and there is no such thing as not having any or enough ideas. They just fall out of my pencil, well, mouse these days, if I sit down and do it.
Paul McCartney. I knew something would come. He’s my hero, well, one of a few. I’m not big on sitting still for too long. Watching a film is a struggle. But I could sit still when the Get Back six-hour documentary came out two years ago. Best thing I have ever seen. And the best bit was Paul sketching. The caption comes on the screen ‘Feeling the pressure of their approaching deadline, Paul searches for new song ideas.’ I know he’s a genius, and he dreamt the melody to ‘Yesterday,’ but what follows in the documentary is a tried and trusted process. It is totally incredible, the making of something out of nothing. The making of an iconic song from a bit of strumming (sketching). But it is clearly just day-to-day work. We know that because Lennon’s late, and George sits beside Paul, yawning. Bored to tears, apparently. (I also know that because I have read countless Beatles books).
What I found so fascinating about Get Back was the sheer repetitiveness of the creative process – the slog. The documentary is largely six hours of repeatedly playing the same dozen tracks while smoking. I am sure there is genius at work, but largely it’s professionals working hard. Fine-tuning the words, the pace, the composition. It’s amazing to see. The little section where he ‘sketches’ takes a few minutes. But getting that ‘sketch’ to a recorded song is a long and winding road (sorry). It’s a back-and-forth and a lot like designing a building. The initial idea comes quickly, but the time it takes to get a concept to a full design that is compliant with regulations and meets the budget and contractual obligations is ridiculous. And here I realise why I have been creating the wrong thing all these years. This ridiculously long process results in only one building.
Design a building, sell one. Then do it all over again. McCartney: design a song, sell a million (at least). That’s a thought for the weekend.
I am working on a weekly design-a-house plan video project that I hope to include in this weekly email soon. It’ll start a bit low-fi, but the idea is to pick a house off Rightmove, redesign it, record the process, and condense it into two or three minutes.
This week’s web links include Paul, how to make a Croissant (we might need to club together to buy the special butter), a mews house and staircase ideas. Thank you to those who have written to me with words of encouragement. You can always get me at email@example.com
All the best
I’ve not been, it’s hard to book a slot and miles away, but this garden is on my list.
The Sphinx is probably older than we think.
I love mews houses. Often only seven metres apart, on dead-end roads and clearly a great place to live in the city.
A nice staircase is a very time-consuming design problem. Some inspiration here.
Main image credit: Disney