When was the last time that you watched a film without looking at your phone? Or a football game? Or had dinner with your family? How many people have you seen driving while looking at their phone? How many people have looked at their phone while on the toilet? Be honest now.
And when we’re not busy, we are finding lots of ways to help us forget how busy we are. Yoga is mainstream. Meditation, commonplace. Adult colouring books sell in the millions. We draw to forget. We look at a screen before we look at the sky.
Everything, everyone, wants our attention. And the one constraint is that we have the same amount of time we’ve always had before all these distractions came along. So understand this: Your newsletter has to stand out in a busy world when it drops into my inbox. Because I am busy.
In the picture above, I’m reading a magazine. I probably picked up my phone a dozen times before managing to get through a few pages.
Take a picture of the coffee shop, coffee and food then post it to social media. Read a few lines of the magazine. Pick up the phone to see if anyone liked the picture. Read a few lines. Pick up the phone. Rinse. Repeat. Over and over. Distracted. My attention pulled from one place to another.
When I decided to exit Twitter I immediately had a Supersimbo newsletter in mind. I knew it would be a challenge. I’d considered it before but had never acted. Social media experts might say I should have worked on the idea and the audience for a newsletter before dumping Facebook & Twitter. Maybe that’s a good point.
Truth be told, I want the challenge of finding real readers again. Readers who are genuinely interested. Genuinely interested in what we say. We might say it with words, video, images, links. That’s not as important as what we say though.
A newsletter requires the attention of the recipient. You have to want to open it and read it.
If that audience is a tiny handful of loyal interested people then so be it. That’s ok. That’s something to build on.
I want eye contact, not sideways glances. I’m fed up with the sideways glances of social media.
But for the kind of engagement a great newsletter commands, I know you have to stand out.
It won’t be easy.
If you have subscribed, thank you. If you have not, I’d love you to do so. For now you will receive a weekly email newsletter with a link to our latest blog post[s] and some other content. I have distilled this right down to be a few items that I think are valuable and interesting. You won’t get a deluge of links in your inbox and we may change the format and frequency of the newsletter in the future. Let’s wait and see.
The way we recycle plastic and dispose of food waste locally has changed a bit in recent weeks.
I am guilty of being cynical. Maybe my cynicism is more about our local authorities than it is about my responsibility to recycle and dispose of food waste responsibly.
My wife teaches environmental technology. I’m no expert but I get to hear about this stuff a fair bit these days. Being more aware of something doesn’t always guarantee positive action. Adidas are doing something that appears really innovative though.
Maybe that’s why it’s more appealing.
I’d definitely like to see a pair of theses shoes in the flesh.
The first few pages of A Million Little Pieces reeled me into a chaotic, troubled and graphic series of events. Relentless descriptions of destructive behaviour. Confusion. Pain. Addiction. In no time at all I was questioning whether something uplifting would ever happen in these pages.
I kept reading.
I couldn’t stop.
Just before we went on holiday I had asked Cherith for a book recommendation. I was fresh from listening to the S-Town Podcast. I’d been moved like millions of others by the troubled world of John B. McLemore. I wanted to read something from a similar dark world. A world that shocks. A place that wasn’t my own experience. I think that’s how I described what kind of book I wanted to read. Fiction or non-fiction. Didn’t matter. As long as the book was gritty. As long as the subject was unsettling.
And now, here I was. On holiday. Relaxing in a hotel room in Edinburgh.
Unsettled by what I was reading.
Unsettled but compelled to keep reading.
James Frey writes brilliantly. Honestly. Brutally. I knew almost instantly. I can’t think of a writer who has ever grabbed my attention so abruptly. He delves deep into his pain, his thoughts and beliefs and churns up wave after wave of poetic troubling memoir. There are no chapters. Just occasional scribbles between pages which serve as a kind of pit-stop. A pause. A moment to reflect before the next remarkable flurry of dark experiences. Wave after wave.
Alcohol. Drugs. More destruction than you can imagine.
Two hundred and fifty pages in I was still wondering if something uplifting would ever happen.
The twenty three year old Frey is self-centred, angry, tragic, violent, broken, hopeless.
And then when I really wasn’t expecting it.
There is hope.
A tiny glimmer of hope.
A glimmer which gets brighter.
Frey has controversial opinions about recovery. His ego seems to overpower his rationale at times. But his world is not my world. I don’t understand his pit of addiction and pain. Not even close.
I wondered how tough, resilient, stubborn you need to be to take on ‘the fury’ in the way he eventually does.
To tackle those demons head on.
To endure the pain.
To live to tell this story.
And make no mistake, A Million Little Pieces is a great story of healing and hope which initially seems impossible.
But then there’s the controversy surrounding how much of this book is true and how much is fiction.
I knew about the controversy before I started to read the book.
I didn’t care beforehand.
I didn’t really care afterwards either.
Here’s what James Frey has to say on that;
It’s just a book. It’s just a story. It’s just a book that was written with the intention to break a lot of rules in writing. I’ve broken a lot of rules in a lot of ways. So be it.
A Million Little Pieces is supercharged. Emotional. Hopeless. Hopeful. Full of darkness. Full of light. There are many contradictions within. There should be no surprise at the contradictions in it’s aftermath.
Whether a memoir, semi-fictional, true or exaggerated James Frey has written a brilliant monster. I devoured page after page in a few days while on holiday.
Prior to going on holiday I had told myself that I wouldn’t be distracted by social media. I wasn’t. Not much.
The day before we came home I finished reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I found myself staring at Twitter. Staring at the book. Staring at Twitter. Holding the book. Holding my phone.
Out of the blue I asked myself how much value Twitter has. For me. Now. After all this time. After all those tweets. All those opinions. All those words. Replies. Mutes. Blocks.
I looked at the book. Compared the noise of twitter to the book. Compared it to the Graham MacIndoe exhibition we had visited in the portrait gallery the day before. Compared it to real people and real relationships. I thought about the value in those things.
I looked at the book again. Then looked at Twitter.
I weighed all of this up and was certain that I needed to leave.
We had two brief conversations about it.
This isn’t as reactionary as it may seem. If I’m honest, it’s been coming for some time. It isn’t a big decision. It isn’t brave. It’s not that big of a deal. I don’t need it. It doesn’t need me.
I have followed and have been followed by some brilliant and inspirational people. I have been trolled by idiots. Idiots that I know and some that I don’t. Many people have got to know me. Some only think they know me. I have shared useless information. I have shared things that I believed were useful. I’ve been embraced by people on the other side of the world. I’ve been mocked by people in my hometown. I [think] I’ve encouraged some people. I know I’ve pissed people off.
These experiences are not exclusive to me though. I’m not special. If you’ve built a following on Twitter these are probably your experiences as well.
Related to our temptation to reinvent the wheel is the temptation to complicate Christianity and church life. We see this in the 345 definitive “definitions” of the gospel that various authors and theologians set forth every year. We see it in the enormous staffs and array of programs that turn churches into bureaucratically complex corporations. Complexity is cumbersome. It impairs mission. Especially at a time when faithful churches will be increasingly exiled from mainstream culture, we need to become leaner and more nimble. We need to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, focusing on the core practices and historic sacraments of the church. The more complicated we make the church, the less countercultural she is.
There is an antidote for digital narcissism and this misplaced allegiance to ego and money. There is a better way to share your passion with the world. Instead of shamelessly asking people to like you on Facebook or luring lemmings with pop-ups, there is a way forward. The antidote for digital narcissism is this: Authenticity.
Authenticity works because people are drawn to it. There’s no pretension. No desperate bells and whistles to get people’s attention. Just a quiet, honest presentation of who you really are.
– This Is The Antidote For Digital Narcissism – quote source.
I’m really proud of these sketches and the subsequent labels and had a blast creating a new bright brand. The Horny Bull Stout [above] was the first sketch/idea we attempted, it dictated the direction of all the labels.
I’ve posted a few examples of the bottles on our work page.