Possibly a slightly shorter newsletter this week because I’m a bit too busy to write a full essay. The reason I’m suddenly a bit busy is because this week I’ve asked myself a question and acted on the answer, and I’d like to extend the same question to you guys too, to see if it unlocks some stuff for you in the same way it did for me. As I mentioned last week, I recently got the good news that I’m going to be making a sitcom for BBC Radio 4 (I promise not to mention it every week from now on, honest), and after the dust had settled from that I realised how much of this year so far I’ve spent waiting for permission to do creative stuff.
I’ve been holding back from making a new live show because of the uncertainty over Covid, and holding back from making much of my own online content because of uncertainties over whether it’s the right format for me, so have spent a lot of the year simply waiting for that decision about the radio show. If it came back a yes then I knew that was the sort of thing I ultimately wanted to end up making, so it made sense to just sit tight and wait and hope I would be given the green light I hoped for. At the same time, I was also working on other long-form scripts and projects that I was pitching around, but again, they were projects I needed permission in order to make – I needed an option or a commission from some channel or other to actually make the idea “real,” so I was investing time and energy into projects that I ultimately had no control over. To be clear – we all have to do this to a certain extent in our lives, usually because when we invest our energy into things that are controlled by external forces, that’s usually the stuff that ends up paying the bills. It’s only really the very fortunate or the very powerful who can live sustainably off investing their energy solely into things they can do entirely on their own terms. But I spent so much of this year making my own creativity beholden to answers I was waiting to get from elsewhere, that I think it hit my own confidence in my ability to just do stuff.
The question I asked myself after the radio decision came through, and these thoughts had all passed through me, was simply this:
What would you be doing if you didn’t need permission?
I wonder what that question means for you guys? To me, it meant something very simple and very specific and very clear, and I’m now in the early stages of putting a project together that responds to it and addresses it, and it’s eating up a lot of my time day-by-day now. I’ll hopefully be in a position to announce more about it in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on your inboxes! But what does it mean for you? Is there an idea, a project, a relationship, a change, that you’d be putting your energy into addressing if you felt like you could? What if you just allowed yourself to direct that energy in that direction regardless of what you feel is blocking it? What would happen? What would you be risking? What would you stand to gain? And one more question before I move on:
When you look around, can you see the thing that you want to exist? If not, why not build it?
The Future Of The Fruit Salad Therapy Tapes
Finally for this week, now we’re at the 25th issue of this newsletter project, I’m considering its purpose and its future and thought I’d get a bit of feedback from you guys about it. Another big part of why I started this project was to impose some creative/imaginative structure onto my time when I had very little going on. Inevitably, it ballooned into something quite long and sprawling every week as I rambled about whatever I was thinking about. I really enjoy it as a place to explore thoughts and then read through your own responses and ideas, and I’d like that free-form exchange of ideas to continue, but it’s now clear to me that, if I’m going to be busier going forwards now more work is coming in, then perhaps my ability to write a whole rambling essay every week might be affected.
I’m sure I’ll gradually find my way to shifting it towards something more sustainable just by following my nose, but I’d also be curious to hear from the people who most enjoy this newsletter and like engaging with it – what form would you like to see it take going forwards? I’m reluctant to pursue the super-stripped-back approach of, say, the James Clear newsletter (which is great, but a very different thing to what I enjoy about this one), but maybe I do need to be a bit more focused. I’ve also always been reluctant for it to just be a typical comedy newsletter full of my own news and gigs and content, so don’t want to go in that direction. Do you guys prefer it when it talks about big, abstract ideas like last week’s thoughts on dataism? Or do you prefer more focused, specific stuff on creativity and writing? Do you enjoy it more when it asks specific questions as imaginative prompts? I have the feeling that the regular “What I’ve been reading/watching/listening to” bits are a bit redundant, and make it a bit too much like a diary, so maybe those bits will go for a start. Anyway, any thoughts on what shape you’d like it to take in future that will help me to figure out a way to continue exploring thoughts every week without it eating up too much of my time would be much appreciated, as the best thing about this newsletter is the way it seems to create rewarding dialogues with people. Let me know your thoughts!
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – I saw some actual live comedy this! I saw a WIP of Cerys Bradley’s new show Sportsperson and thought it was great, keep an eye out for it next year.
Book Of The Week – Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez. This, I guess, is tied to the whole “Do you need permission to do the creative stuff you want to do?” question as it’s Rodriguez’s account of how he went out and made El Mariachi with no crew and no money in the early 90s, ignoring everything he’d been told by his mentors at film school and just doing everything himself.
Album Of The Week – Thickfreakness by the Black Keys. Always had a bit of a soft spot for the Black Keys, even if most of their albums are a bit too muddy and samey for me to really love them. Ultimately, if you’ve heard one crunchy garage-blues-rock song, you’ve heard about 90% of them. But this is one of their better albums, actually. It’s got some good riffs.
That’s all for this week! As ever, if anyone ever wants to forward this newsletter to a friend or encourage people to subscribe, it’s hugely appreciated! Take care of yourselves and have a great week,
PS Here’s some sunlight over Primrose Hill, if you like that kind of thing.