Real Artists Ship

Five Books in 2021 Journal, Issue #18

Stuff’s getting real, y’all. It’s crunch time, meaning transitioning from artist mode and into project manager mode. It’s time to make sure we ship!

I need to be done in a month

I use for my books, and I live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Oh, and there’s a shipping crisis. And Christmas is coming. So…

If my goal is to have everything done by January 1, 2022, then I need to order my books by December 1, 2021. That’s about three and a half weeks away.

I need to do a lot of spell-checking

I have four books, and all of them need spell-checking. I started with Bedtime Stories, a book full of fantasy creatures and lands, which is very slow-going. Every second word is a “weesh” or “Ku-Tut” or “Moonstrike” thanks to all our world-building. I’m hoping that once I get through this book (I’m on page 28 out of 330, ugh) the other ones will go much faster.

Can I just say the Touch Bar is amazing?

I know most people don’t like the touchbar in MacBooks. But I love it because it gives me one-tap shortcuts. For example, I’ve had to manually update the styles of every single paragraph of every single book, which would normally take several clicks in submenus to do in But with the Touch Bar, I can select the paragraph, tap a contextual button to change the style, and shoot on to the next paragraph. It’s a life-saver.


When I’m editing, I’ll often jot something down like “JONNOTE: REWRITE THIS.” Then I can search later for “JONNOTE” and make a todo list out of all the notes I left for myself. I’ve got a good number of these waiting for me.

Check out the greatest book cover of all time

I asked an illustrator to design a Sgt. Pepper’s-style book cover for Bedtime Stories. I provided a Figma file with a few dozen fantasy animals, some pictures of my kids, and descriptions of some of the main characters in our fantasy world. And she did this, which I love.

Her name is Giulia Di Cara, she was a breeze to work with, and I’d highly recommend her for your illustration project. Here’s her Instagram and here’s her Behance. She’s open for commissions, grab her time before she blows up!

(Where is the book title, author, etc? Well, this is a book for my own family so other than a barcode on the back, none of that is necessary!)

Check out my zine collection book cover

How do you beat Bobby Fischer? Don’t play chess.

Call it a joke, call it a riddle, call it a zen koan. Whatever it is, I’ve tried to live my life by it. When you ask the wrong questions, every answer sounds wrong. When you play by someone else’s game, don’t be surprised when they win. And when you’re going up against a Bobby Fischer, you need to get creative. That’s where you’ll have the most fun. Or maybe I’m just speaking for me.

I have ten back issues of Plebe to publish in this book. One issue was me writing dialog. Another was me writing a series of essays tackling big issues which I named things like “I Have No Idea What I’m Talking About: Sexism” or “I Have No Idea What I’m Talking About: Meditation.” Another was a series of interviews with how people deal with information overload. Plebe is me trying to channel Aaron Cometbus and writing a zine about anything I want.

My Design Trilogy

About ten years ago, I ran an anonymous blog called Fuck Jetpacks, which led to a Kickstarter series called For 100 of Our Closest Friends, which led to a book called The Thing About Jetpacks. It contained essays about design, mostly from the point of view of an independent practitioner. (And it’s worth noting that the brilliant and wonderful Lukas Mathis wrote half the essays!)

About four years ago, I wrote a second book called Reasonable Defaults that was more from the perspective of a Design Manager. The three sections were called Learn, Listen, and Lead and it described me maturing into someone who was figuring out how to run whole teams and inspire others.

About two years ago, I kicked off a series called Near Future Field Notes as a way to write about what interests me a lot more than graphic design or debating UX trends: business strategy. If you’ve ever enjoyed Stratechery or Mary Meeker’s forecasting work, that’s sort of what I’m going for.

So this year, having finally finished the third book in my design trilogy, I’m finally able to realise this vision I had several years ago. Three books, representing three frames of a comic, in a CYMK colour scheme, all meant to sit next to each other on a shelf.

These were originally drawn by Erin M Murphy, who works at freakin’ NASA, all the way back in 2019. She was also amazing to work with, and also a great communicator, and I would highly recommend her to anyone looking for UX or illustration work.

My political book

Ugh. Politics. I had a lot to say for many years, but I think I’m looking forward to publishing this book and stepping away from politics. And that will be my fifth book, meaning I’ll hit my goal. And that brings up a pretty deep insight.

I think I’m done with design and politics

Any one of my friends will tell you that two of the biggest parts of my personality are design and politics. And after organising my thoughts on them for a few decades, I think I might have bored myself. I think I’m done. Re-reading my own books has made me realise that I’m repeating myself, which is boring to me and others.

So it’s possible these aren’t just books. They might be goodbyes to the topics that have taken so much of my attention throughout my life. I think I’m ready for new hobbies. And I can’t wait.

But first I’ve gotta ship. Real artists ship. Then onto something new!



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