Genius loci

Family, Fireworks, and the Future of Creativity

1 March 2024

Winnie Palmer Hospital Room Jeremy Bassetti
The Room on the 8th Floor

The room was small, but it was nicer than most of the hotel rooms I had stayed in over the last decade of my travels. It was on the 8th floor of a modern glass tower in downtown Orlando. The room had everything you’d expect to find in a top-end hotel: polished floors, a floor-to-ceiling window with views of the city, free room service, a 24/7 concierge, and a television with all the channels.

On clear nights, from the reclining armchair next to the window, you could see the nightly fireworks display at Disney. You couldn’t hear them. They were just silent explosions in the distance, lighting up the sky. Just below the window, a giant steel-and-glass sphere encloses the foyer and reminds you that even modern architecture can be interesting. Though, as beautiful as the fireworks and the architecture were, I rarely looked at them as there was something else more interesting in the room to look at.

The room had three beds. Tucked away in the corner of the room was a Murphy bed with a memory foam mattress, which is where I slept. My wife slept on the more comfortable bed, an adjustable bed with a remote that took up most of the space in the room. Between us stood the third bed, a smaller one, where our newborn son slept.

Our boy has been alive in this world for a few weeks now, having arrived a few weeks early. As I wrote elsewhere, being a father has awakened feelings I had not known existed. But I also sense new feelings bubbling up inside of me, new attitudes towards the external world; I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like a mix of impatience, directness, skepticism, and urgency.

What does this mean for my creative work? I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that it won’t go unaffected. Things will change, but it is unclear what will change and how. And yet, I’m excited for it. I expect a trimming back of my online work, or at least a more deliberate approach to it.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with Cal Newport about his new book Slow Productivity. As I understand it, Newport advocates for doing less in this age of hustle culture. “Slow productivity” might be the antidote to the pervasive hustle culture that has saturated our era, and its relentless push for more, faster, and constant engagement. It is the deliberate deceleration in our work habits, prioritizing quality over quantity. By slowing down, I wonder if we might be able to foster an environment where creativity and productivity can flourish without the burnout and aimless overwhelm that often go with the conventional take of modern, constant busyness.

Over the last couple of months, there’s been a noticeable increase in conversations around the concept of “slowing down.” This idea seems to be gaining traction particularly among those engaged in the creative fields, especially within online communities focused on producing “content.” It appears that the notion of taking a more measured, deliberate approach to work and creativity is becoming a popular subject of discussion. The argument goes, there’s a growing demand for “content” that adopts a slower pace. People seem to be increasingly seeking out material that allows for a more leisurely, thoughtful engagement, which exists in contrast to the quick consumption model that has dominated the digital landscape of late.

This sounds appealing to me.


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My work

I’m moving Artifact International back to Patreon. Members get a number of benefits, like digital copies of my book The Hill of the Skull and discounts on physical prints/book from my shop. If you are curious to know why I’m moving Artifact Int’l back to Patreon, read here.

I managed to post a YouTube video and an accompanying blog post about working on a 365-day photography project with a cheap, half-frame film camera.

I also wrote some notes about Joseph Brodsky’s Watermark and what it teaches us about creativity.

I riffed on idea bankruptcy vs idea glut and creative practice with children on my Creator’s Log.

A few new podcast episodes are forthcoming. They were recorded before the baby arrived. I was hoping to publish them by now, but haven’t had the time. I hope to release at least one of them in March, on a new podcast channel.

From around the web

If you’re interested in writing and self-publishing a travel memoir, listen to Joanna Penn speak about the process on her The Creative Penn podcast. Also on the podcasting front, Ryan Murdock chats with Eland’s Barnaby Rogerson about the history of Islam on the Personal Landscapes podcast. And, the Explorers podcast just finished up a series on Freya Stark, which is worth a listen. Finally, Stanfords has been publishing interviews held during their Travel Writers Festival at Destinations, which you can listen to here.

A few links for those interested in photography: I stumbled upon this older video about Bruce Davidson’s photography of Wales. Also, the Sony World Photography Awards released their shortlists and finalists for 2024. Take a look.

A few final links on the awards front: the 2024 Edward Stanford Travel Book of the Year should be announced in the coming weeks. And the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) has opened its awards competition for 2024 (submission deadline is the end of March).