dave olson: blogging and creativity

dave olson and kris krug at northern voice 2008, a blogging conference in vancouver northern voice was a wonderful experience. as nancy white said

northern voice is a living community indicator and lives in the culture of love. where else can you find the intersection of geekdom and love?

i’ll be blogging about nancy’s and other people’s sessions in the days to come.

today i want to tell you about the session that touched me the deepest. it was dave olson’s “f**k stats, make art”. miss 604 has a great synopsis of it, and you can find my notes at the end of this post.

one of the things that became very obvious for me after dave’s presentation was sadness/frustration/disappointment that i had abandoned my practice of doing at least one piece of “artful writing” a day, no matter how short, kitschy or silly. dave may just have just stirred me enough to go back to that.

so i ended up writing two poems and would like to dedicate them both to dave.

thanks to dave olson, no. 1

a concussion of the most
mindful sort
comes over me as i indulge in these
northern voices.
poems must be written,
suns must be risen,
earths must be quaked
in this pyramid of
gentle thoughts
— not just yours,
not just mine —
that shake up this world.


thanks to dave olson, no. 2

we all know it
and we reach for it
deep in our hearts,
deep in our mothers’ wombs.

where is the mirror, we ask,
where is the mirror of that,
this knowing “with”, not just “about”,
this connection “between”, not just “with”,
where is it, where is it, where is it?! we scream



this feels …
this must be …

“yes, for sure, this must be it”: as we come down from it,
the scratchiness, the hard, uneven road, the
clawy longing,
and settle down a
bit and feel the
or finally take off
and race past
ninety thousand clouds.

and then the fall.
out of the sky,
or off that comfortable, sturdy stool that gave
us so much hold
just half an hour ago.

slowly, then, it grows again,
the question, craving, begging:
where is the mirror?
and the knowing?
the connection?

a circle, circle, circle.

may that circle, lord and lady, please, be broken.
by and by, yes, by and by.


here are my notes from dave’s presentation:

  • art makes the future
  • the only reason why we have history is because we have artists who write, draw, paint – they are our historians
  • technology and art have never been better friends than today
  • we can go directly from idea to execution to sending it out to the world
  • code is poetry
  • redefine your sensibilities
  • the original creation of art is what is important, not the replication of it
  • art’s a weird word, it’s nebulous, like social media
  • (image of oily smiley shriner guy in front of pyramid of gizeh)
  • art is like pyramid, the lower, thick part is the schlock area
  • the next layer is the craft layer
  • when craft and intent are married, that’s the top of the pyramid

examples of blogs before blogs were invented:

  • japanese petroglyphs
  • stonehenge
  • hammurabi’s code
  • scribes and monks
  • van gogh as a blogger – he took his easel out into nature, that wasn’t done
  • picasso came in and confused things
  • typewriters as blogging tools

what is art now?

dave’s suggestions:

  • upgrade your heroes: thoreau, gandhi, MLK – “suffering” heroes; how about d.h. lawrence, ed abbey, vaclav havel, gary snyder, bev davies, a street artist by the name of jerry kroll (sp?)
  • embark on personal archeology: major matthews; look at your old work / art work
  • embrace (transparency) translucency; how much of yourself are you willing to put out there: rousseau’s confessions – too much transparency?
  • express yourself with vigor – step it up; read the classics; go to an art gallery; find your craft and do it seriously; do what you do better (there’s a big difference between typing and writing)
  • cross training skills (painting, pottery, mash mash mash)
  • declare your story to the world: do something and the stories will come, help journalists (they need stories); put the LOG back in the blog; don’t work for the rubber stamp
  • redefine success
  • don’t get precious; share your stuff; don’t steal; be willing to ask for and participate in collaboration – it cross-pollinates – spread the art around
  • ignore the gatekeepers – the hunter s. thompson rule of creation – if you have strong skills, you can mock them at their peril; stick to your artistic integrity
  • don’t take it all too seriously
  • “know much fu” (don’t know exactly what that means? know your skills?) – for validation, don’t look to stats; what are you getting out of these stats?

(image by sonson)

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