Tuesday, 20 January 2009

on good things (where good is both worth having, and worth doing.)

Vintage Polaroid film boxes
Originally uploaded by missha

(1.) work, and how it gets that way*
Each day, a new tiny tragedy occurs at work to remind us of the presence of the wolves at the door. When I returned to work from holidays, five desks were suddenly empty. This, of course, was not one of the smaller losses: all good, likeable people, working neither harder nor any less hard than any of the rest of us; people with new mortgages to pay or elderly parents or a broken shower or a dyslexic’s panic about having to rework a CV. This was their loss, and our loss, and each of us shed a skin of confidence. This is real. Oh.

The smaller disappointments creep in quietly, like a new season: a constant shortage of coffee, cheap biscuits, the omission of any talk of the new year bonuses it was posited we’d receive just a couple of months ago, a tension in peoples’ faces when you arrive late or leave on time.

I don’t know when the look began. The look on a project manager or account director’s face when you question the brief, ask a question that’s likely to make the client uncomfortable, wonder aloud whether that’s the best way to do something, or if it’s worth doing at all. It’s the look that says, ‘Please. Just do this. And then we can all get paid.’

But the client isn’t always right, and sometimes we do them a disservice by creating something useless or clunky or half-arsed or ill thought-out. Not asking questions or rocking the boat oftentimes means creating something that’s just not very good. Which means it won’t achieve its aims. Which means it’s a waste of money, a waste of time – and it lays waste to everyone’s enthusiasm for actually making something worth having. In short: wasteful.

People aren’t buying; maybe it makes sense to stop selling them things, for a bit, at least. Maybe this is evolution at work: a chance to strip out all the stuff that isn’t working and change tack – create things that have inherent value, actually add value to peoples’ lives. Things that are simply nice to have, to play with, to cherish.

Maybe that’s the worst of these mundane tragedies: watching that small death each morning as a person switches on their machine and that tiny light turns on, while their own tiny light flicks off.

(2.) computer love
Rach was happy this morning; chirruping about how she’d enjoyed a moment of perfect clarity where she realised that she loved her job. And then immediately began worrying whether that meant anything; whether it mattered when the beautiful things she makes online can’t be touched or held or hung on a wall or folded up and tucked into a wallet.

Which made me wonder: why is it hard to love anything made of pixels and blips with the same force of passion we save for lovely new books or a snuggly scarf or a piece of art? Is it because an essential part of loving something is the potential to own it or have it for ourselves, or the exquisite knowledge that someone could (even though it won't be you)?

(3.) an impossible rescue mission
One of the marvellous things about creating something people really love is that they will help it to survive without you, if need be. Kind of like godchildren – their built-in lovability gives them an insurance policy if some awful fate befalls their parents.

Which seems to be the case with Polaroid. It’s just so damn lovable and weird and idiosyncratic that people refuse to let it die what looked like an inevitable death. But in swoop IMPOSSIBLE, plucking it from the rusty jaws of obsolescence. (Fingers firmly crossed, yes indeed.)

(4.) *henry miller has the last word
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”

1 comment:

Gabriel Zheng said...

WOW!This essay is hard for me.
I'm sorry for my poor English...
I can't understand this essay very well...

I think your essay is amazing.

And I like this paragraph very much !

“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”

I'll write down it!