Slow web culture found us as we gathered stories for Different Office and recognized ourselves as craftspeople by listening to the stories of other craftspeople and taking great care with every word, and image, and person in the process.
It found us as I watched my husband produce photos that perfectly capture the joy and spirit of the people we interview who love their work and the work spaces they’ve created. It found us as we noticed that by pulling our crafts together that all our work is becoming exponentially better. And our lives too.
It found us as Bas and Simone sent me a rockin’ funny Foo Fighters video very late last Friday night (for them) when I was so frustrated and exhausted (from trying to help reunite four baby squirrels in our attic with their frantic mom outside, while Daniel was out of town) that I thought I would burst into tears at any moment.
And it directly found me (thanks Bas) when he sent me this message: “I just came accross this term: the slow web. I think that’s what we do http://blog.jackcheng.com/post/25160553986/the-slow-web“.
Slow web culture defies simple definition, like we do. Fiesty buggers. I don’t really feel a need to define it. It’s just who we are. Yet I’m interested in how we got here. So I looked back at our exchanges across the spring and summer, and I found these signs that we were already part of the slow web culture, and we just didn’t know it yet. Please add the words “most days” to the end of each of these points. We’re still learning, always learning. Wouldn’t want to imply otherwise. Our signs:
- Life and work and play have become one fluid thing. Since Bas and I met, our work together has been a joy, and we’re becoming increasingly playful (not to mention quirky) through it, which makes our lives better, which makes our work better, which makes us more playful, which makes our marriages better, and so it goes…
- “Thank you for confirming my genius, which was previously only confirmed by 3 cats and 1 dog.”
- “Wow. Great mail. You write very well! You should write something. Stories perhaps ”
- My sense of time has shifted–when I think about time now, I think in seasons, decades, or generations. There isn’t the same sense of rush as before. No feeling of not getting enough done on any given day. No guilt for taking a workday off. Here, Bas and I are discussing how big our upcoming collaboration, Different Office, will be. “Before I go to bed … what if it took 4+ years? It is a BIG goal. And we can do all the places we want to do even if you want to do a 1000 from your block. ”
- Strategic planning gives way to spending as much time as possible with people we love, doing work we love, for communities and a planet we love. As we talked about the future of Different Office… “And I think if we get this ball rolling, cheap travel and getting some money on the side will be increasingly feasible. But that’s a multi year, long term bonus Down the road stuff Remember, the journey is the thing, not necessarily the goal itself ”
- We are all in together. “I will commit to as big a number of stories up front as you will commit to: 50 or 100 or 200 or 500. Bring it. Big commitments among close friends don’t scare me. Maybe we could make travel cheaper by telling people that sleeping in the work space is an important part of our story creation process. heh heh”
- We regularly, naturally talk about what matters to us, who we are, and what we want. Just the regular act of sharing this seems to be 99% of all the “planning” we need. And the conversation never ends because these things continue to evolve. The fact that I talk with Bas about this so much isn’t just helping our work, it’s helping my marriage, my friendships, my family, and my whole Seattle community.
- We receive and give emotional and seasonal weather reports. “I truly hope you have an incredible memorable and lovely time together with your family. I just had dinner by the sea. Lovely weather today.”
- We slow down or completely stop working when we have no energy, and we work faster when we are full of energy. For example, I had a rough June–unexpected chronic pain from oral surgery, worries about my extended family, and unusual gun violence in my neighborhood and city. I found myself uncharacteristically depressed. Not the “I’m a bit sad” kind but the “I can’t get off the couch for weeks on end” kind, which I’ve never experienced before. Bas and I decided to start our next project in late July. I did almost no work in June, taking time to grieve and heal, and worked less than half time in July.
- Getting closer to the people you’re with = cake. Everything else = icing on the cake. I love to work and get things done! And I didn’t fully grasp that relationships are at the dead center of my work until Bas and I released our first book. A week later I told Bas that he and I becoming friends across the past year was what mattered most to me. And that Daniel and I becoming friends with him and Simone was what mattered most to me about the coming year. This surprised me as I said it and was so deeply true it brought tears to my eyes. Now anything else that happens with our work–the first book, the new web site, future ebooks, our separate blogs, coworking space creating, consulting, speaking, paper-airplane making, whatever we do–it’s all just icing on the cake. Today, all our work feels like icing on the cake.
- Being our whole, geeky, messy, quirky, amazing selves is ok and strongly encouraged. I love context and tend to ramble in my storytelling on the Collective Self site. Bas is a quirky minimalist on the Shinkonia site. Stubbornly being ourselves online led us to each other. These differences–not just our similarities–make us a really good match to work together. By embracing both these selves, we’ve landed on what works for the Different Office site: a context-rich (me) + minimalist (Bas) + photography-rich (Daniel and Simone) work space. It’s the same self + another self for all of us. And it’s all good. We are becoming more ourselves with each other, and better selves. And more quirky. I’m beginning to strongly suspect that we’ll all hit eccentric before we turn 45.
- We have real community. Since I began working for myself, I’ve wanted doing my work to be as dead easy as, say, loving our Grady dog or watching my favorite SciFi show. To sustain work, and to grow it, I feel, I need it to be easy as often as possible so that when it’s tough I have ample energy to keep going. To make this happen, we need real community. Real community is about creating energy together and being so grateful to the people you’re with that you’re internally compelled to give spontaneous gifts of self. It’s the people who know and love the good and the bad of you. Know what you need as or even before you need it. It’s the people who bring soup over when Daniel’s sick, help me with my website when I can’t figure something out, send me funny videos when I’m about to cry, or paint garden marker rocks with me as a form of group therapy and relaxation. Ten million followers or “likes” does not a community make. Soup and a funny video–delivered right when you needed them most–does. I have an easy way to recognize my community today. In person, I feel inspired to give them home-canned goods. Online, I feel inspired to give them ample time, energy, and ideas. Gladly, gratefully, and all for free.
- Community revealing/building is part of our weekly work flow. We don’t do marketing. We share what we’re excited about as we’re excited about it. Showing people who we are and what we’re doing together is a natural part of who we are and how we work together. Found this gem in one email exchange: “Marketing plan = non existing We’ll be fine. People who need it will find it. On to the next project. ” We’re so thrilled about the people we’re working with and the stories we’re gathering that we take the time every week (on occaision, every day, when we’re really excited about something) to share our excitement with our communities, which are like extended family (the good kind, not the crazy uncle kind).
- Work critiques are spot-on and gentle, silly, and/or joyful. The only critiques of my work that I hear come from people I respect (those I work for, work with, and love–or from myself), and they are delivered to my ears gently, often via playful teasing. “Uhm yes. All sounds fantastic and awesome. Just don’t forget to shoot pictures from the actual storytellers this time hehehehehehe.” I do the same for those I’m connected to. I’m not saying everybody needs this. I’m saying that I need this, and that I get it, which wasn’t true for me until I joined the slow world.
- Worry doesn’t worry us much any more. Fear is good if a bear is about to attack you. Yet in my world, individual worry doesn’t serve me, my friends/work mates, communities, or our planet nearly as well as collective work/play does. So I stay focused on our collective work/play, and consciously notice and then let worry go most days. When I don’t, Daniel, Bas, Simone, housemates, and other coworkers here step in to help me let it go. Often without me asking, because I still suck at asking for help. So I’ve come to see individual worry as a gift–a doorway to slowing down and getting closer. We also regularly, happily take the time tell each other what we’re doing and preempt potential worry points. Found this gem from an exchange in July: “Oh. I might get carried away with this site stuff. I’ll find my balance no worries…” I work with superheroes.
- What we once saw as different threads of our lives and work, we now often experience as a woven together whole. Both Bas and I see our collective work, and our separate work, as one big giant quilt of connectedness. He’d choose a more superhero-esqe and masculine word than quilt, perhaps, but the experience is the same: “I was thinking … it’s amazing how things can come together all of a sudden.”
- Wonder and awe are a regular part of our experience. One of my favorite work tasks today is the “menial” task of listening to our Different Office interview audio recordings and transcribing them into written words. I type out the words and I also type out all the things in between: the giggles, the belly laughs, the speechless surprise, the unexpected connections and learning, the moments of shared self recognition, and the finishing of each other’s sentences. Humans have the ability to get so close, so quickly, that they can finish each other’s sentences having spent less than one hour together. Wow, just wow. It gives me goosebumps every time it happens. And today, it happens all the time.
So those are some of the signs I found in our experience. There were many more. I stopped at 15 because I’m hungry and need to go make lunch and then sit in the still-warm fall sunshine and figure out what I’m going to can for winter this weekend.
As we slowed down, ample room showed up in our lives for all these things, including wonder and awe and goosebumps. Based on our experience, these things weren’t in our direct control. But slowing down was. And letting go of things that didn’t really matter to us anyway was, and always is. I can’t make wonder and awe happen in my life or in my work or in my storytelling. But we can give them room to show up. The more room we give them, the more they show up.
For me, slow web culture is about noticing something amazing that I love, giving myself as fully to it as I can, and letting go of everything else–all with the hands-on help of close friends and community. It’s about falling in love with who we are as humans and about falling in love with what we do: the crafts our hearts can inspire, minds can devise, and hands form. And it’s also about helping ensure that when our great, great grandchildren hear the words “rat race” that it won’t occur to them–not even for a single moment–that they, as humans, could enter one.
What we do for ourselves, we do for them. That’s slow web culture. Our culture now, too.