I am a huge fan of good design, and also a great fan of pithy expression. So it probably makes sense that Stefan Sagmeister would be a hero of mine. He has a firm in New York that has designed packaging for many things you’ve likely seen but not known came from his team, and he is also a creator of winningly temporary public art installations. For a few years now, he’s been orchestrating a series of strange and stunning artworks that deliver aphoristic bits of wisdom (such as “Assuming is stifling,” or “Helping other people helps me,” or “Complaining is silly; either act or forget”), many of which have been collected in a truly gorgeous Abrams book entitled Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far. Want to give it a gander? Click on the video above. Abrams, who have never forgotten the impact of beautiful book production, show us just how beautiful a book can be—it’s a series of pamphlets in a die-cut cardboard sleeve.
But that’s not the reason for this post. No, I’m writing because of the video I’ve linked to below, which is a talk Sagmeister gave via the free-lectures-by-awesome-people website TED (which I believe Martha Brockenbrough pointed me to way back when). A deeply reflective man, Sagmeister often takes time out of the hustle of life to consider who he is and what he is doing, so as to be certain he is focusing on where the worth of his life may be. In his TED talk, he explains why he requires his team to take a year-long break every seven years. It’s not about vacation, it’s about rekindling one’s love of the work, and about seeing in a fresh way again.
And that explains, in part, why the four of us here at Upstart Crow will be taking a sabbatical of sorts beginning 12 December and extending through 15 January 2010. I will be pulling down our submissions pages and putting up “Not so fast!” notes all over the website. Anyone who sends us a note will get back a brusque but friendly note explaining that we’re closed for the duration. (We will likely continue posting to this blog, but much more infrequently. Just when we can’t stop ourselves.)
Partly, yes, we are taking time away because of the holidays. And partly, yes, we will be taking time to clear our desks and catch up on all the work that has not gotten done before now. (For me personally, that means editing three novels, finally clearing through all of my submissions, redesigning our rights guide and putting it up on our site, and drafting a novel of my own.) We will still be doing work for our clients, of course, but much of that work is finite.
The rest of the time, we’ll be reflecting on where we are and where we are going, looking at the industry and what’s happening, reading current books, thinking about where, exactly, we want to be in twelve months—both professionally and personally. It’s been a tremendous eighteen weeks since we launched, and we want to be certain we’re doing this right and not falling into habit and thoughtlessness. So we’re going to take some time to think about things, to gather kindling for the fires that will keep us warm in the coming year.
And then, once 15 January 2010 has rolled around on the calendar, we’ll raise the shades and open the gates and be at our desks, reinvigorated for the work to come.