“He understood for the first time that the world is not dumb at all, but merely waiting for someone to speak to it in a language it understands.”
— “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke
Warning: This is one of those blog entries that will make some of you wonder why you bother visiting here. You might just want to skip this entry and go play with your safety gear, micrometers and “Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition.”
As I’m waiting for the epoxy to harden on the half-scale model of a chair shown above, I’ve poured myself a stiff drink and am raising a toast to Jonathan Strange.
Strange is a magician in my favorite contemporary novel: “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke. I’ve been quite obsessed with this book since it came out in 2004. It is, and I do not say this lightly, the most finely crafted piece of fiction I’ve read as an adult. Every footnote is pure genius. And it reeks of a work that has been finely combed over like the garden at Versailles.
(Oh, and If I ever get a tattoo, it will be the silhouette of the raven in the book. Also: I am just as likely to get a tattoo as I am to start vaping my own ear wax.)
So Strange, the radical magician in the book, figures out that to do really interesting magic, one needs to be somewhat mad. The insane kind of mad; not the Lumberjocks sort of mad. As Strange is quite sane at first, he gins up all sorts of ways to induce madness. In the end, it involves cats (naturally) and drinking something awful.
And that describes my ideal writing and design process.
“I’m not going to a party; I’m a writer.” That’s what I tell the nice people at the liquor store when I arrive at the register with two boxes of wine and four six packs of potent beer. The wine is for my wife (also a writer); the beer is for me.
Lucy and I very rarely get drunk. The last time I got drunk was by accident (Note to self: Never drink casually with the Irish.) But Lucy and I do have a drink with dinner and then we have a drink after dinner. Then we write and talk and write.
I know that some odd souls are fantastic writers and designers when they are dead sober. I am not. I find that a drink helps. As does fatigue, stress, incredibly loud music and stupid external constraints.
Why? Who cares why. Feel free to make up a theory. I’d rather just use these tools that have worked (since 1986) to write and design stuff at 5 p.m. that seems out of my league at 11 a.m. And with these tools I don’t have to bifurcate my private parts (thank you, Mayan civilization) or vape my boogers.
So I say to the Stone Saison in my glass tonight: Bring on the madness.
Oh, and where are my needlenose pliers?
— Christopher Schwarz