Worth doesn't have to be tethered to recognition

A bad day and also some reading material

Worth doesn't have to be tethered to recognition
Photo by Liam McGarry on Unsplash

Checking in. Anyone having a rough week?

I ended last week with a bit of a …. let down. 

I’d spent the last month putting together an application for a MacDowell Fellowship. MacDowell is an artist residency in New Hampshire. Artist studios dot a 400 acres campus. I’m sure there’s a stream somewhere. People who are awarded fellowships get a studio - and food cooked for them - for up to 8 weeks. They finish novels, write symphonies, start visual art projects and find the right steps as they choreograph dances. 

Some of my favorite works of art have been made at MacDowell. But not everything that comes out MacDowell is a masterpiece. Some of it is just very, very good work. I was hoping to try to do some of good work there. MacDowell has an incredibly low acceptance rate. And honestly, I don’t think I would have gotten a fellowship. But it did finally seem important to try. 

I had kids at home for most of January. And so all of my work took more time. (See why I want to go to an artist studio in the woods? ha!) I finished editing the 25 pages I’d written for the application an hour before it was due. And then spent the next fifty minutes making sure I’d edited every word and filled out every form correctly. With ten minutes left, I pressed submit. Relieved I hadn’t let myself down, again. 

But I had. 

There was a captcha check box thing on the application fee payment form. And no matter how many times I pressed it before submitting my card, an error message kept coming back saying I had not pressed it. With 30 seconds left, it finally started to process. And then the application timed out. I’d missed the deadline. Never wait till the last ten minutes, obviously.

I cried in the shower after. But it’s not a tragedy. I’ll try again some other time.

Still, I was only able to get to the “it’s not a tragedy” part of this because of some kind texts from friends.

So, I don’t know…if you need a kind reminder that your work is worthwhile, whether it’s seen or not, here’s one. 

You’re doing good work. Whether anyone sees it or not. A lot of good work goes unrecognized, but we don’t have to keep tethering value to recognition. We can decide good work can happen anywhere, by anyone.

But also, if you want to share your good work with us - and work is always defined very broadly in this space - please do. (Just don’t try to recruit anyone to an MLM.)

Reading Material

I used to know what happened in the past and present world because of Twitter. I followed journalists, politicians, academics, activists, theologians, and people with interesting reading habits. One tweet would direct me to an academic article about Roman cement mixing and the next would break news about a movement half way across the world or just down the street. I don’t know Elon Musk did to the algorithm, but Twitter doesn’t serve any kind of insight anymore. All the interesting tweets seem hidden. And Elon is now forcing his engineers to make sure his tweets get delivered to everyone. 

Anyways. I’ve been on the waitlist to try the private beta of Artifact, a new product from the founders of Instagram. It’s a “personalized newsfeed driven by artificial intelligence.” In most interviews, the founders are calling it a TikTok for Text. Which means your newsfeed isn’t dependent on who you follow, it’s based on your own reading history. Artifact uses machine learning to serve you articles you’ll be interested in from a wide variety of publications. I got my link to try to the beta yesterday. 

You can set your own interests too. I chose U.S. Politics, Stocks, Tech Companies, Startups, Ukraine, Crypto, International Politics, Art and Design, Science, Architecture, Gadgets, IVs, Apps, Climate, Interior Design, Aviation, Education, Parenting, Home Products, Housing, and Space. 

Artifact says it needs you to read 25 articles so it can begin learning what you want to know. I hit 25 articles by last night, and I have to say…my recommendations this morning were pretty good. My home page had a great rundown of breaking news. And several scrolls worth of articles from publications like TechCrunch and Dwell. The machine has more to learn, especially when it comes to the type of parenting stories I like to read. Like, I don’t care about the Meme that led to the Downfall of a Once-popular Baby Name, for instance. (I am not even linking, because I do not care.)

Anyways, here are some of the stories Artifact recommended - I think some of you will like to read them too. 

Youngkin opposes effort to shield menstrual data from law enforcement. Of course, he does. 

Amazon is planning to “go big” on brick and mortar grocery stores. Some of Amazon’s recent 18,000 layoffs were in their grocery business. So I am not exactly sure what going big means in this context, but I guess Amazon thinks it won’t need people to go big. 

How to Heat a Castle. I will never need this knowledge, but that’s true of most things I learn.

The 1619 Project Isn’t Going Anywhere. A fantastic interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones

Leonardo da Vinci’s forgotten experiments explored gravity as a form of acceleration If AI could create a headline I was guaranteed to click on, this wold be it. 

I find this use of machine learning helpful, so far. It’s not creating anything by ripping off the creations of others, it’s helping me find work created by real people. There’s no inflammatory commentary or captions with the news stories. No way to follow people. (Although I think that part might be changing in the future.) Of course, machine learning isn’t neutral and my feed is still being organized by an algorithm and there’s still plenty to be wary of when it comes to bias. But…I don’t know. So far…so good?

These two poems from Chris La Tray

This excellent rant from Lyz Lenz is a must read. And not just because she quotes me in it.

This from Kate Wagner and Baffler examines a proposed futuristic city-state to interrogate an issue I’ve felt frustration over for a long time.