The Third Something

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Thoughts on managing multi-year creative projects.

A photograph of Adam’s desk with a clean sheet of A3 paper on it

The purpose of today’s letter is to record a specific moment in time.

That blank sheet of paper in the photo above is about to become Page 1 of my first graphic novel! As this letter drops in your inbox, I’ll be nervously applying the first lines of pencil to the page…😬

My estimate is that this will be #1 of roughly 160. And just like that, the enormity of the task ahead becomes clear: to layout, pencil, ink and paint 160 of these pages, scan each one and add text.

I feel like a marathon runner at the starting line, waiting for the gun to fire.

How I got here

The process so far has been rather lovely, albeit moving a little slower than I expected.

I began in July 2023, drawing and writing the first draft, following my intuition through the story and letting it take me wherever it wanted to go. I wrote about that process here.

I finished that draft in late November and, after a short break, spent December and January working on a story design pass: organising the meandering plot into scene-by-scene drama and those scenes into beat-by-beat action. This was satisfying, bringing a little underlying order to the chaos I had created.

February was spent re-writing the script from scratch, trying to make the dialogue pop and iron out the feelings and motivations of my characters. I found this tough: dialogue and character are new territory for me and I’ve moved cautiously and self-consciously through it.

The dangers of lingering

In fact, I’ve moved too slowly through this part of the process and I can feel in my bones that I’m lingering.

Part of the challenge of managing a multi-year process like this is knowing when to slow down and when to bound forward.

And I think you always want to be slightly ahead of yourself: that is to say, moving forward before you’re ready. It’s essential to stay motivated and, for me, that requires an ongoing sense of adventure and discovery; a sense that — even as I put down permanent ink and paint — the story is still revealing its secrets to me.

Preflight checklists are great for pilots, but artists ought to be powering up the throttle before the flaps are down and the route calculated.

Like an impatient toddler, my spirit is pulling at my sleeve: “Come on, let’s go! I wanna draw!”

Honestly, I could stay in script land for weeks more, perfecting every line, fully understanding every contour of the story.

But then, what might there be left to discover?

So here I am: late March, 2024.

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A bunch of new people have joined The Third Something this month: welcome! I’m Adam, I’m a journalist by afternoon and an artist by morning. I share the lessons I’m learning leading a creative life in this newsletter, which is currently firing out roughly once a month. I hope you’ll stick around


My new film for The New York Times was published last week and Elon Musk called me “a mouthpiece for the state”. Find out why.


Finally, I have just added a new artificial intelligence declaration to my website, stating how much of my work is generated using A.I. (currently: zero). It will most likely stay that way, but, times being what they are, the transparency feels important.

Until another Sunday soon,

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