Blog Future Work Report

A Manifesto — we can’t go on like this

It took me about a week at my first job to make me conclude that there was something wrong with the way people worked. It was 1992 and I’d just graduated from college, where I’d had freedom and flexibility — in retrospect, an arts degree at Cambridge University is a great example of a progressive and nurturing working environment (without the pay).

You have deliverables — an essay a week — but nobody cares how, where or when you did the work, so long as you handed in your essay the night before the supervision with your teacher. We were trusted to work, and encouraged do other things we’d enjoy — play a sport, act in a play, write for the university newspaper. That was part of being well-rounded — making us happy and better able to do the work. There was also a pastoral care component, where regular meeting to check in with us and see how things were going in a holistic way (not just talking about grades).

So I’d worked hard and got a good degree, but now I was out in the real world. I got a job at a communications company producing newspapers and publications for government departments and large organizations — this was in the days before the internet, so we wrote and printed a tabloid-sized monthly newspaper for London’s water company (now it would be content marketing and social media).

It was a good job for a fledgling writer, but it was 9–5, Monday to Friday, with a 30–40 minute commute at either end of the day. From the beginning, there were problems. I couldn’t be productive for that many hours straight (who can?), and I couldn’t understand why the shops were even open, since everyone with any money was stuck in their jobs the whole time. I also hated the structure, the crushing sense of inevitability that I knew where I’d be every day for the foreseeable future.

It was a huge step back from the freedom and flexibility of Cambridge — it felt like being back at a really bad high school. I got my head down and did the work, but all the time I was thinking, ‘this is what grown-ups are supposed to do for 40 years?

I lasted around a year before running off to Dublin to do a Masters degree.

There has to be a better way

Fast forward to the present day. I’m 43, living in the Southwest of the U.S. with my wife and daughter. Over the years, I’ve worked in a range of jobs, from fast-paced Silicon Valley tech companies, to researching and writing my own book; from working on communications for non-profits to running my own web design and content firm.

Through it all, that sense continued that there had to be a better way to work than the industrial-era model of clocking in and out, showing up to an office and playing the role of the obedient employee. And I’m not alone: for a lot of people, it’s not the work itself, but the daily grind of meetings, presenteeism, minimal vacation time (I’m looking at you, America), commutes, and inflexible arrangements that grinds us down. The average worker puts in too many hours, is disengaged and unhealthy.

But the good news is that an increasing amount of research and the examples of progressive organizations are showing that there is a better way — approaches that are more productive, make employees healthier and happier, and are more environmentally sound. As William Gibson says, the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed — there’s a huge gap between what we know works and what most organizations are still doing. And in this gap millions of people are toiling away unnecessarily when they could be following a much richer path.

I call this better way Future Work, and this blog is the Future Work Report. I gather research, interviews, news and thoughts from progressive people all over the world, combined with my own insights and experiences, to help us all move towards future work.

Blog Future Work Report

The benefit of small benefits, or why Evernote employees get their houses cleaned

When I was working in the Silicon Valley in 1999, amidst all the stress and long hours of my job, I vividly remember the anticipation of walking into the break room on Fridays, excited at the thought of the bagels and pastries they provided for us.

We lingered a little in getting our coffee, and it seemed like a kind gesture and a way of marking the start of the weekend.

My then employers are far from alone in this — Evernote employees get their house cleaned, Google’s offerings are famous, including on-site massage, haircuts, and concierge service, while other offerings include fresh fruit and veg deliveries, unlimited Kindle downloads or Starbucks cards. But why are small tokens of appreciation so popular among more progressive organizations, and why do they work?

Such benefits perform several functions: from a purely practical results-based perspective there are some obvious pluses:

  • they can make a company stand out to potential employees
  • they can lead to greater productivity, fewer sick days and improved retention
  • they help keep people working longer (you don’t have to nip out for a haircut at lunchtime if you can use the Google salon),

That might be enough for some organizations, but in the right hands, they also sends a much more profound message that the staff are cared for — they’re not just thought of as producers of whatever widget the company trades in.

Some of the benefits look at health issues, and we know the toll work can take on our bodies. Others, like the house cleaning and concierge services, overcome one of the major issues that face employees — the challenge of balancing the everyday chores and errands with work commitments. Old-school employers might let you have time off for a doctor’s appointment, but expect you to do all the other stuff (house cleaning, shopping . . . ) at the weekends.

Callum Negus Fancey from Let’s Go Crazy Holdings (owners of several growing companies) has a good interview here discussing the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) he employs with his firms. In it he discusses how he’s trying to reduce the ‘friction’ his employees experience as a result of their work — it might be that they don’t go to the gym as much as they want to, or that they would like to spend more time with their family. To attract and keep the best people, and keep them motivated and creative, he sees it as the company’s role to help minimise that friction.

To me, that’s a great way of looking at it, and it acknowledges that people have a life outside of the office and tries to help smooth annoyances out before they become reasons for resentment.

Candy for Doctors

Employers could simply add a little more to the wages of its staff to cover many of these benefits, which would allow people to choose exactly what to spend it on (new bike instead of running shoes, espresso machine instead of Starbucks card). I could definitely afford to stop and pick up a bagel on my way to work on those Fridays in Redwood City, and as a proportion of my entire benefits package, one bagel a week was almost not worth counting. So why break out all the perks individually?

Happiness research has the answer. Harvard researcher Sean Achor points to experiments where patients gave doctors some candy at the beginning of their consultation. The happiness boost from getting a small free gift improved the doctors’ diagnostic ability markedly.

This from a one-off gift of something that cost pennies. Imagine the ongoing attitude benefits of these regular kindnesses. As Achor says, “Data abounds showing that happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They also enjoy more job security and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to become burned out.”

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, (talking to Business Insider) agrees: “Happy workers make better products . . . The output we care about has everything to do with your state of mind.”

Not Just for Tech firms

Many of these examples are from tech firms or agencies who clearly have the money to spend on perks like this. But it can be even more important to make this kind of effort when you’re a smaller organisation.

I did contract web content work for a small non-profit for many years. The staff were overworked and underpaid, but every time I’d go up for a meeting, the conference room table was groaning with pastries and nice treats. If baked goods could talk, they’d say, “I know we can’t pay you lovely people what you’re worth, but we do appreciate your efforts.”

The other thing the non-profit did was give five weeks’ paid holiday — again, something that was easier to offer than more expensive benefits, but definitely an important sign of appreciation.

Small inexpensive benefits, like letting people work from home some of the time, bring their dogs to the office, or closing at lunchtime the Friday before a public holiday are good options when you don’t have a lot of money.

So whatever your situation, look for small ways you can ease some of your employees’ friction to make them happier and improve their performance.

Blog Sport USA

I Believe

How the US Soccer team made me love my adopted country

To get to the fields where I coach my daughter’s soccer team you drive to the edge of town and pull into a disused horse-racing track. Go past the collapsing ticket booth and park in the dirt lot, before walking through a tunnel that goes under the track and emerge on the infield, in the shadow of an abandoned grandstand.

Because this is New Mexico, the little grass we do have is in poor shape — some of the time it looks like so much dry breakfast cereal — but they do the best they can, and they’re among the best fields in town. And on Saturday mornings the infield is full of kids from the ages of four to twelve, all playing soccer while the wind whips across the high desert.

I grew up in England and as my daughter has become a football fan and player, I’ve taught her the lore and practices of football where I’m from (you’ll forgive me for calling it football from here on out, although I’ll confess that I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with ’soccer’).

She and I watch my London club Arsenal on TV on Saturday mornings before we head out to her games, and she know much more about the European leagues than she does about Major League soccer here.

Many of coaches in the league she plays in are ex-pats — there’s a Frenchman, a Romanian, another couple of English guys and some Mexicans, the full-time coaches for the club are from Spain and Russia. There’s a clear division between the Euro parents on the touchline who know what they’re looking at, and the majority of the US-born parents who encouragingly shout terrible advice: ‘Shoot it in, Sarah!’ as Sarah crosses the half-way line.

Some of the players have overseas connections, but most don’t and at times it feels like we’re coaching these kids in a foreign game — that the best athletes, at least among the boys, will age out of football and into one of the more mainstream US sports.

But my feeling that the US isn’t a football country has been changed by this World Cup, and with it, my feelings about American itself.

Like most Europeans and Latin Americans, I’ve historically taken a dim view of the quality of the football on display in Major League Soccer, and the quality of the support, seeing it as a sign that the country didn’t really get football.

We went to an LA Galaxy match last year, and it was all a bit too clean and stage-managed with designated singing zones, and pre-determined things to shout at particular times in the game. It felt forced, a clumsy combination of bits from other countries’ football cultures, with customs from other US sports thrown in for good measure.

There was no clear sense of what US soccer should be like — either in the stands, or on the pitch, where highly-paid ageing Europeans mixed with Mexican immigrants’ kids and Midwestern farm boys in a game that never really got going.

Like the Galaxy (and the girls under-12 team I coach), the US national team is also a mixture of backgrounds and cultures: combination of US-born players, German-born guys with US fathers, and a couple with Scandinavian connections. Many of the US-born players have at least one parent from somewhere else, and while star Clint Dempsey was raised in Texas with American parents, he learned to play with the local Mexican kids.

Crucially, the coach Jurgen Klinsmann, while being a German World Cup hero as a player and coach is also immigrant himself, with an American wife and US-raised son.

When done wrong, like the managed clash of supporting styles at the LA Galaxy, this global mixture can just be a mess that’s all too easy to ridicule. But I’m coming to realize, when done right, as Klinsmann has managed, this vibrant multiculturalism is what the US — a nation of immigrants — is all about.

Take a bunch of elements, combine them together with uniquely American commitment and enthusiasm. and you haven’t just got a mixture, you’ve got a compound — something more than the sum of its parts.

Anne Coulter might not like it, but could there be a more American team than one with half its players (or their parents) born somewhere else? This is what America looks like, and it’s what it looks like out on the fields when my daughter plays — it’s somehow right that it’s what America looks like at the World Cup.

But other countries have an easier time with their national identity, and their footballing identity. Brazilians know what Brazilian football looks like — skillful, flamboyant and imaginative; German football is athletic, well-organized and disciplined; Spanish, technically brilliant, collaborative and creative.

Players coming up through the ranks in these countries know what they’re aiming for. But the challenge and achievement for Klinsmann has been to create from a range of disparate parts something that is both uniquely American and successful.

This US team has the heart and self-belief and selflessness of the best of American competition — the Friday Night Lights ‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose’ attitude — combined with a style of play that is well-organized (if a bit individually erratic) at the back, hard-charging in defensive midfield and fast and skillful in attack. If this is what US football looks like, then I love it.

And I’m not the only one — the US team has had success in World Cups before, but almost no-one in America noticed. This is the fourth World Cup I’ve spent here and the first I haven’t felt alone in my passion. As the country embraces a genuinely global game, there are two huge benefits.

One is a realization that there’s whole world out there of talented sportspeople playing a game that is more nuanced and beautiful than most American sports. The other is that when it comes to football, the US is an underdog — well-resourced and with great facilities, no doubt — but still an underdog. And it’s a lot easier to support a humble underdog that gives everything it’s got and wins against the bigger teams. Even the English pundits I’ve been following have got behind the US, reflecting wistfully that Klinsmann’s team is showing more heart and ability than Roy Hodgson’s subdued lot.

Something is definitely changing here. I can see a line from the field my daughter plays on, through the semi-pro teams that are forming, through the colleges and the MLS to the heaving World Cup stadia. And I see the thousands of US fans who travelled to Brazil, and the thousands more gathering in parks and at other screenings all over the country. And they’re like me and my family and the teams I coach — some solidly all-American, some with family ties elsewhere, but now all united in support of this great team and their achievements.

This is what American can be — positive, welcoming, flexible, hard-working and generous of spirit. And that’s why for the first time in watching the US compete at anything, I’ve been saying ‘we’ and ‘us’ to describe the team, and for the first time I’m come to the shocking conclusion that when it comes to soccer, I’m proud to be an American.

Blog Moore Consulting

Closed for Business

Big news — I’m closing Moore Story, and its sister company Moore Consulting to take up a new role handling communications for non-profit research organization Architecture 2030, which works to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions for which the building sector is responsible.

I’ve enjoyed helping all my clients over the years, but it’s time to move on and try something different.

(If you’re an existing client in need of some help with your site, I’ll still be available for emergencies and advice — the email address still works).

Blog Moore Consulting

Today I got punched in the face by a mad man

And I feel great. A crazy man crashed his truck outside our office and then came at me and my wife when we innocently headed out to the street when we heard the crash.

He was shouting that we was going to kill us while we were backing up along the breezeway past our office, my wife and I with our palms raised in that classic ‘calm down, everything’s OK’ gesture. Our dog — locked inside — was barking in a way she never had before. The man kept coming as I tried to keep in front of my wife, and then he took a swing at me.

He glancingly connected with the left side of my face, leaving a shallow cut on my chin but no other damage to speak of. Behind me, my wife ducked into one of the other offices and they quick-wittedly locked the door behind her before calling the cops. While the crazy man was bellowing at the door, I found myself running out into the parking lot and safety.

The man went back to his truck and got into it with other passers-by who put him to the ground until the police arrived. I gave a statement, still shaken but basically OK.

As the day went on and the adrenaline faded I felt both very tired and strangely happy.

It could have been a lot worse — he could have had a gun, or a wrench, or been a better aim or a bigger guy — but today, for me, nothing worse happened.

I had a brush with the random dangerous side of life that’s always there, but that most of us aren’t exposed to every day because of the things we build and do to shield us from it. And I’m all for that — on another occasion, I might not have been so lucky, and I’m not about to start pursuing extreme sports to repeat the risk.

Instead I came home to the same peaceful house I left this morning, and loved it and the people and pets in it so much more. My life feels suddenly incredibly privileged and full of potential. The ‘scary’ pitching I’m planning to do this week to local non-profits and foundations doesn’t seem so terrifying when I’ve just had an angry unstable man come after me and hit me, and I’ve lived to tell the tale.

So hold your loved ones close, and don’t worry about all the stuff that normally preoccupies you, because for almost all of you reading this, right now, things are fine.

Blog Moore Consulting Photography

January update — published, published and published

Time for a quick update on what’s been happening at Moore Consulting Towers recently.

It’s partly been the usual unusual mixture of writing, web work and photography — new sites are underway for a graphic design firm I’ve done a lot of work with, and a homeowners’ association where I’m doing some photography as well as the web development.

But I’ve also been lucky enough to have a couple of photographs published recently, one of which shows how good photography can get you better press coverage.

Front Page for the Folk Art Market

The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market (for whom I do lots of work) were holding a fund-raising event to announce the public element of their campaign to raise $6 million, and they asked me to photograph the event. Specifically, Clare Hertel from Clare Hertel Communications — the PR firm that also works with the Market — was keen to have a photograph of co-chair of the campaign Leigh Ann Brown addressing the audience.

I got that shot and a range of others that were used in the Market’s own social media coverage of the event — and Clare did her great work in securing coverage of the event and campaign in the local press.

A couple of days after the event, Journal Santa Fe ran the story (and my photograph of Leigh Ann) on the front page. When you’re approaching the press with a story, being able to offer quality photographs to them really improves your chances of making it into the paper — especially in a prominent position.

Cross-Country Skiing in New Mexico Magazine

Another of my images was published in the December issue of New Mexico Magazine.

A couple of years ago, I’d been asked to shoot and write a story for the magazine on what to do in ski town if you don’t downhill ski — a very nice commission.

But between the story being filed in March and the winter season rolling around later that year, the editor at the magazine had changed, and they didn’t end up using the full article.

The images were kept on file, though, and one appeared as an accompaniment to a new Red River article last month.

It’s nice to see the photography work being thought of as good enough to stand on its own — and be used large on the page — even when it was originally commissioned together with some writing.

Annual New Mexico Vacation Guide

One of my images also made its way into the 2013 New Mexico Vacation Guide, published by the New Mexico state Department of Tourism and New Mexico Magazine. The magazine had put out a call to regular contributors (including me) for photographs that covered the full range of activities and regions across the state. While not primarily a landscape photographer, I reviewed my archives and identified some that matched their requirements.

So page 93 includes a 2-column shot from an autumnal day on the Rio Grande at Embudo.

That’s it for now — back to work for me. Hope you’re doing well.

Blog Moore Consulting Photography

Two and Two: Interview with Environmental Photographer Dave Walsh

Two and Two: Interview with Environmental Photographer Dave Walsh

Two and Two: Interview with Environmental Photographer Dave Walsh

Time for something a little bit different. I’ve been wanting to interview photographers for the site for a while now, and eventually this desire concentrated around getting them to talk about photographs. Not gear, or techniques, but the finished work — both theirs and the work of other photographers that they liked. And we do it on video so you can see the photographer and the images we’re talking about.

The idea is simple: each photographer suggests two of their own images and two by other photographers, and then we have a chat about them.

So recently, I sat down (virtually) with Irish documentary and environmental photographer Dave Walsh — an old friend — to launch this endeavour.

His recent show at the Copper House Gallery in Dublin — The Cold Edge — showcased his polar photography, but his work more broadly looks at humanity’s relationship with wilderness and wildlife, and our use of energy and resources.

In addition to two of his own photos, he chose one by Belgian photographer Stephan Vanfleteren, and US photographer Joel Sternfeld.

As I’m just starting out with this format, I’d love to hear your comments about it, or any suggestions for improvement.

Iceberg from Humboldt Glacier, Kane Basin, Nares Straight, Greenland.

By David Moore on January 7, 2013.

Canonical link

Exported from Medium on October 17, 2020.

Blog Moore Consulting Photography Santa Fe and New Mexico

Dogs in the office — living history dogs (lots of them)

“When I die, I want to come back as a dog and get to stay here,” Leroy from El Rancho de Las Golondrinas is clear that the dogs in this ‘office’ have a great life.

And so they should, with tons of room to run around in at the living history museum just south of Santa Fe, and a dog-friendly working environment that sees up to nine employees’ dogs on the property some days.

And what a range of dogs they are. There’s Sarge, the sweet lolloping doberman that sometimes gets out and is found heading down the road outside.

And Jax, who was in costume the day I visited because it was Halloween.

They share the main office building with The Mayor (who’s also known as Big Dog, Big Red or just Sir). He was found on the property one day, adopted by one of the employees, and years later, he’s still in charge. He follows school parties around, just to make sure it’s all going well, and while he’s slowed down a bit now, he’s clearly the boss of the place.

Patch is Leroy’s dog, and since Leroy looks after the water resources on the 200-acre site, Patch spends most of the day on Leroy’s four-wheeler, coming into the office for breaks and meetings.

In the historic Pino House next door, Henry and Hannah hang out with their owner, although Hannah can be a little shy, and preferred to keep an eye on me from the security of her person’s desk.

Another couple of four-legged staff weren’t around during my visit, but I met enough happy dogs and their happy owners to confirm Leroy’s assessment — Las Golondrinas is a perfect spot to bring your dog to work.

Thanks to John Berkenfield, Madeline Mrozek and everyone at El Rancho de Las Golondrinas for letting me come and chase after their dogs.

Jax isn’t sure about this one.

Patch rides the four wheeler.

Patch waits for Leroy.

Henry relaxes in the corner

Hannah’s not sure about the photographer

The Mayor installed outside

Blog Moore Consulting Photography Santa Fe and New Mexico

Audio Slideshow: Curbside Cuisine from Le Pod

Audio Slideshow: Curbside Cuisine from Le Pod

Audio Slideshow: Curbside Cuisine from Le Pod

You might recall the photo project I did earlier in the year about Jean-Luc Salles, the French chef who runs Le Pod — a restored 1960s Airstream trailer that serves French street food to go.

I interviewed him recently, and put together this audio slideshow about him and his work.

I think it communicates the unique appeal of Le Pod well (and it makes me hungry). I’d love to talk to you if you think a similar approach would work well for your organization.

Bon Appetit!

By David Moore on November 13, 2012.

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Exported from Medium on October 17, 2020.

Blog Moore Consulting

Finding your core as a creative professional — where subject, tone and medium meet

Tony Bourdain can teach us a lot about finding your core. And making the perfect beurre blanc. Photo: Sifu Renka

I once saw an interview with polymath academic George Steiner. He’s written on a range of topics and he was asked what field he thought he really belonged in. ‘Fields are for cows,’ he replied.

I too am suspicious of the idea that you have to specialise so thoroughly that you only do one thing. But how do we balance doing interesting work in a number of areas, without spreading ourselves too thin or presenting a confusing message to potential clients? Nobody wants to be seen as a jack of all trades, master of none.

The key is to find that core of your personality that remains consistent, however differently it gets expressed. Especially if we work in creative endeavours, this seems to me to be the real goal of our working life.

Exhibit A — Anthony Bourdain

Let’s start with an example of how this can be done well. Anthony Bourdain is a chef, writer (Kitchen Confidential is so good), TV presenter, publisher, and (it turns out) comic-book creator. Across a wide range of activities and a number of years, he ties it all together by offering a consistent unapologetic version of himself.

“I write, I travel, I eat and I’m hungry for more,’ says the introduction to his No Reservations TV show, and his outspoken, energized, cynical and committed tone in the show is recognizable instantly in his writing.

And when you hear he’s going into comic books, you know what to expect, even if you’re surprised that he’s doing graphic novel work.

Bourdain’s attitude is backed up by his ability, of course. He’s knowledgeable and skilled across the areas he works in, but it all chimes with his personality.

On a corporate scale, moving into new areas is known as brand extension — Calvin Klein make clothes, but also perfumes, home interiors products, sunglasses . . . they’ll tell you they’ve distilled the essence of the brand, and then carried that into whatever new endeavours they’re embarking on.

So how do we do that ourselves?

Where Subject, Tone and Medium meet

And on a personal level, you similarly need to establish what the essence of your personality and offering is — your brand. I used to think this was a process of decision-making — you could sit down with a pen and paper and choose some plausible version of yourself to present to the world.

Now I see it’s less about decision and more about discovery — whatever you decide won’t work unless your heart’s in it — your created version might contain elements of yourself in it, but unless it’s authentically you, it won’t guide you in your work. Even if it fits a gap in the market and calls for you to use your skills, if it doesn’t really chime with you, it will be a thin jacket that won’t keep you warm over time.

The other risk is that you’ll morph yourself to be whatever you think people want you to be. Photographers often fall into this trap — one day they’ll decide that boudoir shoots and one group of pre-sets is for them, the next it’ll be family photography with a different pile of Photoshop actions. It’s clear the photographer doesn’t know themselves well enough to work what they really want to shoot — no wonder potential clients are confused.

One useful way to think about this is this diagram.

Right there — where Tone, Subject and Medium meet — that’s your core. There are lots of things you could cover as your subject area — for Bourdain it’s rooted in food. And there are lots of media you could use to explore this — music, street art, photography, blogging, PhD theses. And there are lots of tones you could employ as you’re producing the work. Bourdain’s is outspoken and darkly funny, Clavin Klein’s upscale, preppy but approachable.

Once you know where you’re rooted, you can move around a bit. Some moves would take you out of the intersection of these circles — for Bourdain, a comic book still works, but a ballet might stretch the tone (and subject matter too far). Or if he kept the tone and media the same, but was suddenly doing a show on quilting, then the subject matter’s gone too far.

Storytelling as my MO

So how does this consistency work for me? I help organizations with their internet presences, do commercial and family photography and write stuff for magazines, blogs and newspapers. I used to keep these elements separate — not telling the web clients I could write, for example, or not telling either I photographed things.

But I realised that what all these elements shared a commitment to storytelling — communicating sometimes complex things in a way that is both entertaining and informative. Documenting reality with attention and skill — across different media, but with subject matter and tone that tie it together.

So with the family photography work, I don’t pose the kids or seek to prettify things. I chase them around (ideally in their own environment) while they do the stuff they’d normally do. How else should I tell their stories accurately?

And the same is true with the website strategy work for organizations. I don’t do cheesy slogans or vapid marketing sites — I help organizations tell authentic stories about what they do and how they do it. In all the work I do, I try to be wry, smart, thoughtful, enthusiastic and warm. Not because I think that’s what sells, but because that’s who I am.

And the subject matter has something in common, too — working for non-profits, creative professionals and families there’s a basis in creativity, children and compassion. Creating written content for the Folk Art Market that helps artisans improve the lives of their families through their art, a commission to photograph a pair of brothers, or a website for an architect might not seem to have much in common, but for me they make sense.

I’m deeply impressed by photographers who seek out difficult subjects and shoot them bravely — like Joe Arnon’s moving series on a drug addiction in Denver, but that’s not me.

Having a sense of what fits you in tone and subject matter makes it a lot easier to know what work you should say yes to, and what you shouldn’t.

If you want to keep paying the rent, you might have to take some jobs that are outside your core subject matter, tone or medium areas, but your best work will be done at their intersection. So go look for your centre.