Thank You – A 2021 Roundup
I’ve made the judicious decision that this, Tape Number 40, will be the final Fruit Salad Therapy Tape of 2021, because from next week I’m going to be very consumed with house-move admin, and then it’s Christmas, so it makes sense to wrap this up now and then return to it in the New Year. So, rather than rambling about any specific subject or idea that’s got into my brain this week, I thought I’d just do a little retrospective of what this project has meant to me over the first year of its existence, and to thank you all for being a part of it.
First up, I know I bang on about a lot of long-winded stuff in these newsletters, but honestly my favourite thing about the Therapy Tapes project has been the sense of slowly building a community out of its readers and responders, so I do want to say a huge thank you to all of you reading this for being part of it. Over 40 issues it’s grown to have over 250 subscribers, over 100 of whom seem to read and engage and respond semi-regularly, while others seem to dip in and out. Especially big shout-outs to Emily, Richard, Gemma, Lucy, Aaron, Robert, Chrissy, Henry, Helen, Jennifer, Nebiu and Laura for really helping it to feel like a conversation and not too much like I was just shouting into the ether! It’s obviously a bit of an odd newsletter as it’s not very focused and tends to sprawl all over the place, so it’s not at any risk of toppling the more established newsletter communities out there in the world – 250 subscribers in one year isn’t exactly world-conquering – but it has made me feel like I’ve got to know a bunch of people and hopefully had the opportunity to explore some interesting ideas with them, and hear about ways those ideas have resonated with them, and those sorts of exchanges are among my favourites in the world, so I’m so happy to have created a little bit of that for a bunch of you. If you’ve enjoyed it too, and wanted to share the newsletter around or encourage people to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it! I’d like to keep doing it in 2022, and to gradually grow its audience, and any help in doing that would be really welcome. So thank you all for being part of it!
While the big thing I ended up getting out of this newsletter was that sense of slowly building a community of creatively-engaged people having fun thinking about various disparate ideas, two of the other big goals I had in mind when I set it up were:
1. Setting myself regular writing deadlines, and
2. Trying to work out how to use the internet to my advantage.
I’m fairly happy with how both of those have gone. When I started the newsletter, I tried to include a new short story every week, because at the time I was trying to do more prose writing to help me develop a potential idea for a book. That ended up going nowhere, and writing a full short story every week was a bit much, so I phased it out, but I’m still really glad I managed to get out 40 of these Tapes in the year, so only missed out 12 weeks when I had other things keeping me busy. Not every single one was a banger, and most of them were just extended essays of the “Been thinking about this stuff, what do you guys think?” variety, but it gave me a weekly reason to try and engage with a specific thought or idea and figure out how I felt about it, and I think that kept me engaging with the world and with my curiosity during a time when I didn’t have much work on and could easily have let myself slide into total inactivity.
As for the second goal, the responses I’ve had from people have really encouraged my sense that the internet is still a place where you can build the type of projects and communities that you want to, and slowly let them find their audience, rather than caving in too much to the pressure to imitate the type of thing you see working elsewhere. During the first year of the pandemic I felt so alienated by the majority of what people were doing creatively online, with regard to Zoom gigs and livestreams and short-form video content – I didn’t think any of it was bad, but I did feel like most of it took a form that didn’t do much for me, and that I didn’t feel like I enjoyed making myself, or was particularly good at. It was easy to get into a cynical headspace and think “There’s no place for me here, I think I’m a bit of a dinosaur,” but the idea of trying to create my own space where I could explore stuff that was more nebulous, or more half-formed, or just to sort of figure stuff out, really appealed to me, and it’s been really lovely to hear that this newsletter has ended up being a source of inspiration to others. I’ve gradually tried to build my own confidence at making more online stuff myself, because I know it’s a real hotbed of creativity at the moment, and an exciting space to play in even though I don’t think I’m very good at it, but I think a lot of that confidence has come from having a place I know I can fall back on, where I’m free to just explore ideas at my own pace.
Here’s another never-used promo shot by the amazing Ana Pio for the abandoned podcast idea that eventually gave its name to this newsletter. Thanks, old abandoned podcast idea, you ended up turning into a decent thing.
2021 In General
Creatively, I found 2021 a really weird year. As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, I made a conscious effort to try and make it the first year I didn’t measure by the amount of work I did or things I completed or units produced, where my sense of whether it had gone ok or not wasn’t entirely down to whether I got loads of projects out the door. I tried to train myself for long feedback loops instead of short ones, and to put more time and energy into projects that might pay off months or years down the line instead of feeling like I needed to churn stuff out in order to feed the reward centres of my brain with instantaneous feedback (though it’s still an impulse I gave into on occasion, and that I still struggle to completely quieten). As such, other than this newsletter, I don’t have a huge amount to look back on creatively this year. I made a couple of short films, one with Miranda Holms and Matt Highton; one with Stevie Martin and Stuart Laws, both of which will hopefully emerge in some form next year, and I started work on a bunch of big projects that will be completed in 2022 as well (a new live show, a radio show, a podcast), and I did some really fun collaborative live shows with Weirdos and ACMS, and that was about it. There’s not many concrete, completed, tangible things I’m able to point at and say “That, I did that,” but I’m trying to come to terms with that and realise that years are just arbitrary blocks of time, not self-contained to-do lists that we have to cram full of as much stuff as possible. As long as we spent that block of time investing in stuff that matters to us, that’s the main thing, I reckon. More importantly than all this, it was the first year I’ve ever lived with a partner, and that meant experiencing life with someone by my side for it, and sharing it together for the first time, and that made it a very special year indeed. So thanks and love to Miranda for being such a great companion for the year.
I’ll finish by passing on something that regular reader and friend Robert shared in response to an earlier newsletter on this subject, because I think it’s the perfect note to end the year on, and reinforces my point that the best thing about this newsletter has been hearing all your perspectives on all this stuff. So, over to Robert:
“A good year is one you get through. Bonus points for every loved one that gets through it too.”
So I hope 2021 has been a good year for all of you, and if this newsletter has played even the tiniest part in making it a little more interesting or enjoyable, then I’m delighted by that. Let me know how all your 2021s have been, I’d love to hear about the progress you’ve all made or the things you’ve all experienced!
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – No idea! Been kind of out of the loop this week. It’s quite nice being out of the loop, actually.
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – I recorded an episode of Harriet Kemsley and Sunil Patel’s podcast Why Is Harriet Crying? yesterday and laughed a lot. Can’t remember what we were laughing about, to be honest. Going for a run in a suit, or something? I dunno, guess it’ll be out in January and then I can find out.
Book Of The Week – I’m reading Liam Williams’ debut novel Homes & Experiences at the moment, which is a really funny account of backpacking around Europe while not really knowing what you’re supposed to make of the experience. It’s really good. There’s a particular stylistic device in it that initially made me think “Wait, this doesn’t make any sense,” but then more fool me, the book knows you’ll be thinking that and ends up surprising you. I’ll say no more or I’ll spoil it.
Album Of The Week – Trouble In Shangri-La by Stevie Nicks. Been listening to a lot of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ solo stuff this year, out of curiosity. Neither is anywhere near as good as the stuff they did with Fleetwood Mac, but every now and again one of them does something interesting and good (Nicks’ Bella Donna; Buckingham’s Out Of The Cradle). This isn’t a classic, but is better than a lot of the other stuff by the two of them I’ve given a go.
Film Of The Week – Not seen any this week! Been watching a lot of the excellent What We Do In The Shadows instead, which was based on a film, so I guess that counts.
That’s all for this week! Take care of yourselves, and see you all in 2022,
PS Here’s a picture of a cool installation by Heather Phillipson I saw at Tate Britain last week. It was creepy and silly at the same time.