There is a space for rent on Front Street. A Space for Rent! You can walk right in and pace out dimensions, have 2-cent visions of desks and receptions and kitchens and buzz. You can walk right in with hope and future licking your waxy face and have your ego touched and stroked intimately by a guy in a suit. A guy in a suit with lunch on his mind and commission in his heart. There is a Space for Rent on Front Street and for the first six months you will catch the whiff of fresh paint and wood chips every time you walk in the door. And the bored and vacant receptionist will look at you with a face so open and clear it will shrivel your guilt and shame into the toe of your shoe and the smallness of your life will cripple you.
And the phones won’t ring.
And your box of business cards will remain full.
And the coffee will go from gourmet to bulk, the toilet paper from soft to scratchy.
There is a Space for Rent on Front Street. Walk on.
- From discovered Notebook, 2006
I find the notebook in a pile at the back of my cupboard. It is a Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover, Large, 5" x 8.25", Squared, 120 Sheets in black—my old go-to for brain unpacking. There are no markings on the cover to indicate the year1 or focus of this book. No totem or idea guardian sellotaped on the first page to protect the thoughts, a practice I’ve only adopted in more recent years.
Nope, it’s just black and non-descript in a pile with other non-descript and abandoned notebooks.
I crack it open at a random page and the inky scrawl of a younger me makes me smile. As the brain architect, I recognize the general shape of this room, but the interior decorator is someone I hardly remember. It’s like I’ve walked into the House of Me and someone has changed all the furniture.
Another page and more sentence snippets, a few complete drabbles like the one above. These are paragraphs with no purpose and nowhere to go. They are born, they live a brief life, and they die. “This is a stretch notebook,” I think, casually flipping through more pages. Just a stream of consciousness collection where I’m working on the muscle memory. Doing reps. Getting it swol. Practicing the practice.
I pause at a densely filled page and skim read. No snippets here. No drabble. Just page [flip] after page of intense scrawl in distinctive Pilot G-2 ink. A complete flowing piece of writing. A narrative.
“What is this?” I think. “What on earth…? This is…”
It all comes flooding back. This story. I remember this story. I remember the person who was writing it and how excited she was. There are pages of research and character notes, too. A protagonist looks back at me. Two other characters stand idly by. Holy shit. This is a novel. This is the novel I started to write in this notebook in 2006.
This is, metaphorically, my Space for Rent on Front Street2.
Why is it that so many creative projects begin as empty and optimistic spaces for rent in our brains (or in notebooks in this case), and go out of business before they even get off the ground? Where do all the potential idea employees go, resumes in hand and salary negotiations at the ready? Are they on LinkedIn now? Did someone else employ them? And you—are you vacant again? Serieously, who cut off the electricity to the buzz and hum of possibility in your brain?
This is the Space for Rent Creative Conundrum: How do you make a business thrive when you don’t know what the product is (yet)?
All ideas for creative projects are start-ups looking for confidence funding. This seed money comes in the form of Confidence Dollars or CoBucks™ for short. Kaching! Yes, this will work. Kaching! Yes, this will get off the ground. Kaching! Yes, it will go public. Kaching! Yes, you’re so talented! You can do this, superstar! (To continue this hype call, please insert more CoBucks™ into the slot.)
Creative capital in hand, you sign the lease and move in. Time for something great. You look around at the empty, inviting space and tingle with anticipation. It’s all yours and you get to fill it with whatever you want. You’re the boss. Those first hours and days—sometimes weeks—are filled with excitement and wonder as you make your thing. “I get to work here, with all these thoughts at my disposal, all pulling the plow for lil’ ol’ me? This is the best job ever!”
But then reality sets in. The work is hard. No one is there to help wrangle these belligerent idea employees and getting them all together in the same room is a nightmare. They all look to you for guidance and you can’t even program the coffee maker. It’s frightening and the benefits suck and you know what? This idea sucks anyway let’s just ditch it. Cut your losses and scram. The water cooler gurgles its goodbye as you vacate the premises. The “Going out of Business—out of CoBucks™” sign swings sadly on the door as it shuts behind you.
Another day, another failed attempt to build something great from the bricks of your brain.
Renting that Space on Front Street—that’s the great, grand leap of faith. Punching the creative clock ain’t for everyone, and while optimism will always be the first employee the Negativity Safety Officer is always close by to shut your creative storefront down at the first sign of danger.
“Walk on,” they’ll say. “It’s not safe for delicate beings, and you are definitely not licensed to operate that forklift.”
Negative Safety Officers operate in the currency of negative CoBucks™. Pay them no mind. But if you must declare creative bankruptcy on a project and retrench all those word or art or musical note employees, there really is only one thing you can do—you must do—in this situation.
Take out a metaphorical small business loan in your brain and start again.
Borrow from your time bank, increase your brain space allocation, dip into your CoBucks™ account, and take that giant leap into the square footage of possibility. Get that forklift license and start moving ideas around in the warehouse. Small business, big business, it doesn’t matter. You are in the business of creative production, so produce.
Idea entrepreneurs cannot sit on their hands. They can scribble the blueprints of a dream in their brains and actively seek a new Space for Rent on any street to begin again. Idea entrepreneurs cannot blame the failure of the project on bad Feng Shui, lack of Casual Fridays, or the office temperature always being exactly wrong. Idea entrepreneurs can take a course of getting back out there and redesigning a more habitable space. Idea entrepreneurs cannot wallow in what could have been. They can find an abandoned idea business and restructure, rebuild, and reimagine it from the ground up.
That is the power of the CoBucks™ economy.
All my old notebooks are Chambers of Idea Commerce. It’s all business up in here. The floor is open. All the Space for Rent pages are filled with word tenants who don’t pay rent but still go about their business in a professional and optimistic manner. They wait patiently for me to walk back in their door and offer them the keys to a bigger place with more square footage and killer benefits. They are open to negotiation and ready to accept my offer.
Today, I signed a new lease. I’m CoBucks™ rich, bitch!
Yours in tiny thought,
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This week’s amends…
#10. Relevant to my interests.
On Rotation: “The Ghost of Tom Joad”
I love a good cover. It occurs to me that RATM’s cover of The Ghost of Tom Joad is right up there as one of my favorites. It’s just so radically different from Bruce’s original (which I also love.) They feel so different but are also the same. The energy is different, but truth keeps the time.
No home, no job, no peace, no rest.
As an aside, this is Springsteen the storyteller on absolute fire.
Both Springsteen’s original and RATM’s cover are now added to the ever-growing Stream on Rotation Spotify playlist.
The Unbelievable Practice of Paper Art is part of the Vice Series The Mind’s Eye which aims to “chronicle the creative process of a unique creator, artist, or craftsperson as they produce an original work. This episode features Polly Verity, a “paper sculptor” from Wales.
Via Boing Boing
Via Boing Boing
Did any of this spark a tiny thought of your own?
While the notebook has nothing on the cover, it does have a—let’s call it a directive—written on the first page that sets the year as 2006. 8 lines that set the intent for this book. These are the first two lines:
At 34 years old I could feel my life ticking and I had a plan. The first 8 lines set it up. And then, a month later, I added a 9th line (I know it was a month because I’ve made a note that says it’s a month later). It says, rather dramatically: YOU HAVE ALREADY FAILED.
CoBucks™ depleted! Restock CoBucks™ immediately! *sigh* Is there such a thing as a CoBucks™ GoFund Me?
If you’re curious, the Space for Rent sign on Front Street would’ve been in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I used to walk from my apartment nearby to a cafe down there to scribble in notebooks and people watch. Must’ve seen it on the way there that day.
I scrolled quickly past the link that read: “What do Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine, and Nickleback have in common?” I think I can guess, but not sure I want to hear. NB is just not for me.