I’m Chase Reeves. I collect and develop thoughts on how to make and live matterfully. Mostly for men. Make sense? Hmmm... lots of ‘m’s.

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Ursula K Le Guin on Art vs Commodity

Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

[…] I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this — letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.

Ursula K Le Guin

BBDO’s Renown Brainstorming Sessions

… a brainstorming session at BBDO aimed to create an atmosphere of uncritical acceptance. A group of people, gathered from various departments and levels within the company, met in a room painted sunshine yellow ‘to aid inspiration.’ The room’s pine furniture, table settings, pads and pencils were all roughly the same inspirational hue. With a problem before them, all hands thought out loud, spewing forth ideas no matter how unlikely or unconsidered. The only judgments permitted were positive ones that might allow one participant to ‘hitchhike’ on another’s suggestion. For the time being, internal rank meant nothing: everyone was equal. Only afterward would someone of judicial mind sort through the stenographic record. In 1956, 401 brainstorming sessions at BBDO produced 34,000 tentative ideas, an average of 85 per meeting; of these, 2,000 were judged ‘worthy of development into usable ideas.

Stephen R. Fox

“In any creative form, when the externals become too important the form becomes degenerate.”

Walter O’Meara

I immediately hear: in making a thing, if you are too concerned with how it will perform, the made thing will degenerate.


Is Creative Fulfillment in a Career Possible

‘Advertising began as an art,’ (Rosser) Reeves noted, ‘and too many advertising men want it to remain that way — a never-never land where they can say: “this is right, because we feel it’s right.”’

Actually, said Reeves, advertising is a science like engineering, with some incidental esthetic potential but essentially a tool, an instrument of commerce firmly grounded in practical matters. []…] At all costs, admen should avoid ‘the most dangerous word of all in advertising — originality,’ an esthetic conceit deadly to maintaining a proper USP (unique selling proposition).


Like Rosser Reeves, he (Marion Harper) denied that advertising was an art not because he meant to denigrate advertising but because he had some sense of what real art amounted to. ‘What the audience receives from advertising is all-important,’ he explained. ‘This is not the character of the creative arts, in which the artist’s inspiration is paramount, and in which there can be indifference to the audience response.’

Stephen R. Fox

Still reading this great book on the history of advertising. Still finding so much of my current churnings in it.

Is it possible to be creatively fulfilled and support a family + live responsibly?

I struggle. I think I might, essentially, be a publisher. A publisher is concerned with numbers and eyeballs and moving product. A publisher is concerned with getting the damned thing out in time… whatever the damned thing my writers happen to be writing.

I used to fancy myself more of a creative. Almost an artist, but that’s, like, a heavy word, man. I used to dig and write or make videos like this one just for the hell of it. I used to create websites for fun.

That stuff was fun because it was new. Or because it was lewd and inappropriate. There’s always lewd and inappropriate in a pinch.

Now that stuff’s not new. I’m building a company and supporting partners and customers and there’s this big mess of people who could receive enormous value from the thing we’ve made and I should get this in front of them in a language they can easily receive and if they have different standards from me, different senses of humor and different experiences to draw from, well then I should meet them in those places rather than insist on them learning my own.

This is what it looks like to grow, to get big, to succeed.

Don’t wallow in your whiny artist-isms about “digging” and “the truth” and “what feels good right now” and all that immaturity… don’t be so conceited.

Do that on the side. In your spare time.

Rosser Reeves, quoted at the very top, the villain of 50s advertising (responsible for several of the largest successes) WROTE POETRY ON THE SIDE. Wrote a novel. Put together the first team of chess players from the US to tour Russia. He wrote a short story that was included in a book called The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (11th edition).

Is that what we have to do? Keep our art separate from our work/career?

Is there a sane and sustainable way to mix the two, or do they necessarily pollute one another?

The two quotes above, both from admen in the 50s, point in one direction. My own success points in another. (It was fucking about and exploring that brought me to any success I’ve found… not calculated strategy or an enterprising point of view.)

Here’s one image I find helpful.

I’m a big fan of Louis C.K. I love his comedy. I love his rambly path to success. And I think I’m learning to see the calculation in his (and other successful comedian’s) act. And the one image I have that helps me hold this question in balance is this:

I picture Louis C.K. as the head of a newspaper company. He’s every yelling, cigar-chomping guy in every superman comic or movie about a newspaper. He normally says things like, “This is shit!” and “I need that piece YESTERDAY, Scott!” He’s that guy, except he’s Louis C.K.

One day I break down in his office. “I got into this racket to tell the truth,” I scream. “But all the people seem to want is this bullshit we keep selling them!” The anger gives way to a kind of creative brokenheartedness. Louis recognizes it. He sits down behind his desk, opens the top drawer, hands me a cigar, lights it for me.

“You know how long I’ve been here, kid? 28 years next month. Here’s what I’ve learned: you’ve gotta give them what they want. Appeal to their shit nature, cuz it feels good to them, to push those bruises and pick those scabs. They love it. Get good at that shit, kid, cuz you gotta give them what they want… so they’ll read enough to find what they need. Surprise them with it, their gross reality, OUR depravity and selfishness, the ways we all fool ourselves, you gotta wrap it in shit so they’ll stick around long enough to maybe, just maybe get a nugget of truth in there… between the shovels of shit. I need your next piece on my desk by 3pm. Get out of here.” That last bit said with more than a little father-son fondness.

There’s a little glimpse into one of my sick fantasies… and one of my current struggles.

“Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. What you know doesn’t mean shit. It’s what you do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

This interview was so good it makes me question the beliefs I carry about these two guys (this quote from an interview Tony had with Tim Ferriss). A couple hucksters? A couple gurus? A couple douchebags dropping facts about investment, NLP and “neuro-hacking?”

I don’t know what I think anymore. Maybe the conversation was perfect promotion. Maybe it was genuine. A girl can hope, can’t she?

“This being so, so what? ”

Zen Something-r-other via Jerry Colonna

Dan Carlin on Podcasting

“If you talk about what you find interesting, eventually you will acquire a listenership that likes that too… and if you try to make a show based on what other people like, eventually you will have a show that YOU don’t like.”

Dan Carlin (of Hardcore History)

Really great interview here. Hardcore History is a killer podcast. I need to chew on this a bit for my own show.

‘Story’ Doesn’t Exist

“I think a lot of filmmakers think of story as the purpose of the film. And that the characters really have just got to service the story and take it to where it’s going. And that seems to me to be the complete opposite of what should be happening because there should be no story. I mean, we spend our lives inventing stories, but ‘story’ actually doesn’t exist. We exist and our apprehension of a story is how we explain the kind of meanderings that we take. So there’s no such thing as the empirical story. It’s just what happens to people.”

Bill Forsyth, Scottish Director

Wild. Been studying storytelling and screenwriting for so long and I’ve never heard someone say this.

But it’s true! There are only characters. Characters with wants and fears and desires making little and big decisions and bumping into each other.

Just like us.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jelaluddin Rumi

A Copywriting Legend on Real Thrills

“Always shoot for the moon—it’s one of the few real thrills left today!”

Eugene Schwartz

Not that great of a quote. Mostly just a celebration of finishing this book.

Read it as research for a course I’m writing in Fizzle. It’s this out of print classic in copywriting. Much of it old and outdated, but tons of great morsels.

The examples and the tactics feel hard-sell-ish today. But there’s a few bits in here (some passages on creativity, his reverence for VW ads and the quote above) that point to a richer creative life for good ol’ Eugene.

Read it if you’re a student of ads and copywriting. Else, just do what everyone else who’s smart does and just pay attention to how Basecamp does it.

Good Work That Works Good

I’m working hard on Fizzle.co. Less people signed up over the summer, and now we need to get those numbers up. It’s a weird mode for your dad to be in… numbers and results are tough for me. I’d rather do what sounds fun and interesting and compelling. But I’ve learned enough about the importance of the balance: do good work that works good. Too much good work that doesn’t work good and I (you also probably) get moody, dumb, traction-less. But bad work that works good has the same effect. So balance it out if you can.

I created an Gmail address for my son (he’s 5 years old). Every month I send him a lil’ note. A picture, a story, an update on him and me, etc.

This morning the bit above popped out. “Good work that works good.” That balance sure is hard to find.

Joseph Campbell on the Not Striving Moment

“There’s a wonderful moment that comes when you realize, ‘I’m not striving for anything. What I’m doing now is not a means to achieving something later.’ Youth has always to think that way. Every decision a young person makes is a commitment to a life course, and if you make a bad decision, that angle, by the time you get [older] you’re far off course. But after a certain age there’s no future, and suddenly the present becomes rich, it becomes that thing in itself which you are now experiencing.”

Joseph Campbell

Why to Give a Thing Away

“So here you have it: a book that in­vites you to pay. Not be­cause you have to. Not be­cause you want to. Not even be­cause you should. Rather, be­cause the al­ter­na­tive—starv­ing the con­tent you en­joy—is against your interests.”

Matthew Butterick

Bill Murray on Secrets About Living

“I think the only reason I’ve had the career life that I’ve had is that someone told me some secrets early on about living. You can do the very best you can when you’re very, very relaxed, no matter what it is or what your job is, the more relaxed you are the better you are. That’s sort of why I got into acting. I realized the more fun I had, the better I did it. And I thought, that’s a job I could be proud of. It’s changed my life learning that, and it’s made me better at what I do.”

Bill Murray