a cabinet of curiosities

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon recommends collecting the things that inspire you in a place called a Swipe File.

In an attempt to refill my creative well, I’ve start using my Tumblr page again, this time as a swipe file–a place to assemble quotes, pictures, gif sets, music, and videos I found inspiring and illuminating.

Come see what I’m looking at, what I’m reading, what I’m thinking about…

zines, zines, zines

Lately, I’ve been taking a page from Austin Kleon’s book recently and spending my free time making zines.

It’s been a magnificent way to pass time, channel my anxiety during this time, and jolt my creativity into action.

I recently listened to an episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman that featured Seth Godin. “The best way to complain is to make something,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

the post-its on my desk

a collection of small proverbs I’ve collected over the years, about writing, making art, and living well…

  1. “so what?”
  2. make big plays TODAY!
  3. “I’m doing this thing because I believe in it.”
  4. every scene is a chase scene
  5. Unity, Coherence, Development
  6. suffer the consequences
  7. Each paragraph is a single shot. Paragraph breaks are cuts.
  8. Your best work is the stuff you’re embarrassed to share.
  9. go to a different discipline
  10. other people’s expectations are not your responsibility
  11. why do YOU need to tell this story?
  12. action > reaction > action > reaction
  13. the secret to stealing is you have to steal around
  14. fire the judge
  15. we read to discover what happens next
  16. does it serve the work?
  17. your characters are their ACTIONS
  18. People love to pretend
  19. “Be patient…”
  21. “you’re good. get better…”
  22. nothing moves forward without conflict
  23. process, not product
  24. what are you trying to say?
  25. the stories are what make us. we will overcome. we will endure.
  26. You are loved and capable of loving.
  27. You don’t get a life–you build a life.
  28. Life is a gamble. Bet on yourself.

listening to yourself

Everyone I talk to needed this time.

It seems we all needed to sit with ourselves. To stop rushing around. To keep quiet long enough to hear ourselves.

Austin Kleon articulated this idea beautifully in the context of advice. He writes, “I think, in all times, but especially in these, if you sit quietly for long enough, you can hear that voice inside you that tells you exactly what you need to do.”

I think everyone needed this time. I know I did.

why Mad Men now more than ever

I really enjoyed this article from The Ringer, describing why Mad Men is the perfect choice for binge-watching right now.

“Beyond catharsis, Mad Men’s depiction of historical chaos can be strangely calming. After all, it’s the past; not every fictional character got a happy ending, but society itself survived and moved on, despite the not-unreasonable feeling it was in the process of disintegrating.”

I couldn’t agree more.

kill your heroes

Like most American men, my early twenties could easily be described as my “Kerouac Phase.” From roughly May of 2012 until sometime in the early fall of 2018, my life was a flurry of road trips, drug use, and pursuit of genuine connection with my own artistic circle, all shaped by Jack Kerouac’s prose and poetry.

(The argument could be made I never really emerged from the shadow of Kerouac’s influence, but I’ve felt myself slipping away from his influence in these last few years.)

Like so many others, my first exposure to Kerouac came with On The Road. The semi-autobiographic story of two best friends roaming the American continent arrived at the pivotal moment in my life, as my relationship had imploded and I found myself in shambles. The urge to escape my life as it had been yanked at me day and night. I wanted to start over again and found the strength to do so echoed in the first line of the book: “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.”

Instead of Dean Moriarty and a Beat Generation, I had a circle of friends I dubbed the “Nocturnal Generation,” a salon of writers, poets, musicians, artists, and activists who seemed awake as everyone around us was asleep. Instead of Columbia, we had ArtStreet on the University of Dayton campus. Our road didn’t lead to San Fransisco, but snaked through the Midwest, with detours in Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.

Graduation came. People took jobs and moved to new cities. Friendships reached their expiration dates. Prominent artists faded into obscurity and adulthood. By the time I moved to Los Angeles, I found myself alone. The Nocturnal Generation had reached the end of its road.

At this point, I’d read Big Sur, The Dharma Bums, and made several attempts at Visions of Cody. But the deeper I dove into Kerouac’s catalogue, the less I saw him as the patron saint of a Beat Generation. Instead, he had faded into a sexually frustrated alcoholic pining for greatness.

As The Wonder Years say, “growing up means watching my heroes turn human in front of me.”

To be clear, I do still greatly admire Kerouac. On The Road remains one of my favorite books and his writing is truly remarkable. But my admiration of Kerouac faded as my life took me a different direction.

Enter Aaron Sorkin.

Near the end of my time in college, I watched The West Wing for the first time and quickly found myself in love with Sorkin’s aesthetic. As I’d done with Kerouac, I threw myself headfirst into Sorkin’s writing, watching every film and TV show he’d written and studying each syllable under a microscope. Most people can easily identify what makes Sorkin great, but it would be years before I could pinpoint his flaws.

I still love Sorkin, but I took what I needed from his work and left the rest behind.

Kerouac and Sorkin are only two of many great artists whose time in my life came and went. Green Day, Bret Easton Ellis, Richard Linklater, and Twenty One Pilots are among others. Their fingerprints remain all over my own work, regardless of my current taste or interests.

As with everything else in the world, love of certain writers, artists, and musicians only last for a season. It’s the reason you don’t listen to the same music you did in junior high. Tastes develop, evolve, mature.

Sometimes love of something lasts a lifetime and other times it lasts a few minutes. Both are fine.

As Austin Kleon cites in his book, Keep Going, “If you’ve never changed your mind about something, pinch yourself; you may be dead.”

the work continues

Charles McNulty, a theater critic for the Los Angeles Times, recently published an open letter to his students, detailing how even now, theater and literature have immense power to sustain the human spirit.

“Great literature, as Chekhov illustrates in his plays and short stories, is where simplistic binaries die. Characters live personal lives while contending with political miseries. They meditate on metaphysical conundrums while fixing the evening meal.”

building a routine

As we’re all navigating the strangeness of being trapped at home, I keep hearing time and time again that the best way to mitigate depression and insanity during this time is to stick to a routine.

While I was in college, I spent my summers working as a camp counselor in rural Ohio. The camp operated on a set daily routine that was followed to the exact minute and hadn’t changed since the camp was founded in the early 1990s. The morning wake-up bell rang promptly at 7am. Meals were served at 8am, 12pm, and 6pm on the nose. 12:30pm to 2pm was mandatory rest hour. After following this schedule all summer long, my body naturally stuck to this rhythm, even after returning to normal life. If I didn’t eat lunch at exactly noon and take a nap afterwards, my entire day was thrown into chaos.

We’ve all experienced this in some form or another, often with our sleep patterns. It’s why so many people can’t sleep in on the weekends, even if they try. Their bodies are accustomed to waking up at 6:30am and getting ready for work.

In these times of uncertainty, where it’s hard for us to make the most of our newfound free time, I thought I’d share how I’m trying to structure my days.

Daily Routine:

8am — wake up, put on a pot of coffee

8:15am — meditate

8:45am — make cup of coffee, sit down to write

9am — write (currently working on revisions for a play and the first draft of a book)

11:30am — spend time in my “Bliss Station” (as described by Austin Kleon)

12pm — make lunch and eat

12:30pm — read, take a nap

2pm — work on my To-Do List (send emails, draft correspondence, misc. work)

3pm — go for a walk, listen to a podcast

4pm — creative play (work on collages, play my guitar, etc)

5:30pm — meditate (again)

6pm — cook and eat dinner, clean kitchen

7pm — “Free Time” (watch TV and movies, go for a walk, phone calls, etc)

11pm — read in bed

12pm — lights out

spending my days

Thought I’d share a few thing I’m using to pass the recent days.


Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) – The greatest cinematic crossover event in history. Don’t @ me.

Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

Revenge of The Creature (1956) – yikes…

Frankenstein (1931)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Wolf Man (1941) – You know I’m going through it when I dig this one out.

House of Frankenstein (1944) – Avengers: Age of Ulton, but for Universal Horror flicks.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Remember when Dashboard Confessional played over the closing credits for superhero movies, back when emo music slapped? Those were the days, folks…

Spider-Man 3 (2007) – I spent most of this most recent rewatch face down on my living room carpet screaming. COVID-19 was not a factor.

TV Shows:

Halt and Catch Fire (Netflix) – What starts an a Mad Men rip-off set in the world of personal computing quickly spins into something all too magnificent.

House of Cards (Netflix) – While this show flew off the rails after showrunner Beau Willimon made an exit, in a time where we’re all powerless in our present circumstance, there’s something cathartic in watching Frank Underwood bulldoze anyone and anything that gets in his path.

Barry (HBO) – As an artist living in Los Angeles, it’s so real it hurts.

Billions (Showtime) – I’ve been a fan of showrunner Brian Koppelman’s podcast for years now, but I’m just now getting around to this show. Phenomenal acting, stupendous writing, even if it has the visual look of a CBS legal procedural.


The Moment with Brian Koppelman – As mentioned above, I’ve been a fan of this podcast for a long time. Koppelman is someone I always look to for creative insight. His recent conversation with Seth Godin is especially noteworthy, as they offer some wisdom for the times in which we live.

The Trap Set with Joe Wong – A recent discovery on my part, but worth a listen. Check out his recent conversation with Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service).

Lead Singer Syndrome – Hosted by Shane Told of Silverstein, this show features interviews with a variety of (you guessed it) lead singers from various punk, emo, hardcore, and metal bands. As someone who grew up in this scene, I cant’ recommend this show enough. It’s a fantastic peek behind the curtain with the members of Bayside, The Used, Yellowcard, Motion City Soundtrack, and pretty much every other scene band you can imagine.


Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie – “What happens when our heroes don’t even know how to pay their bills?”

Just Kids by Patti Smith – always a classic

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The Collected Poems of W.H. Auden – “O let not time deceive you, you cannot conquer time…”


Lemon Sky by Lanford Wilson

Burn This by Lanford Wilson – It hurts so good.

Frankie and Johnny in The Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally – Almost enough to make you think love might exist out there somewhere.


A Beautiful Place to Drown – Silverstein

Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

Opening for Steinbeck – John Cragie

Best Buds – Mom Jeans.

“Blow Me” & “Paradise Lost – The Used

“Sudden Desire” by Hayley Williams