Always get the name of the dog

“Scenius,” laws of psychology explaining the Internet, getting over writer's block, timeless rules of good journalism, how writers make money.

Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven”: Seven links on writing and creativity in your inbox by 7 AM EST every Wednesday, as well as Headphone Nation and ARTS & FARTS song reviews. 1st Friday: a new short story. 2nd and 4th Fridays: interviews with writers. Read on your browser.

my face when I talk about twitter

It’s Wednesday morning. Oof. Here are seven things to make your week more interesting:

1 Egosystem vs. Ecosystem.

(AKA, “scenius.”)

There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.” If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.” Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals: it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.

2 I haven’t read too many new books this year - my reading list so far is made up of two very long books, George Eliot’s Middlemarch (yes, worth reading) and Tony Judt’s Postwar (one of the best history books I’ve read, but NOT a fun or uplifting read) - yet now I’ve fallen in love with Jon Yablonski’s new book, Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services. It’s an expansion of Yablonski’s Laws of UX website, which is a collection of today’s most important maxims and principles that designers and coders should incorporate into their work. Also, his posters are gorgeous.

(Even if you don’t know anything about coding or web design, the book is very accessible, and it weirdly acts as a sort of philosophy on how to best understand today’s Internet and how to combine technology, creativity, and responsible design.)

(If nothing else, I wish I would have learned about the Peak-End Rule in therapy.)

3 ***NEWSLETTER ALERT*** I’ve become a fan of David Nichols’ The Land of Random newsletter, which has a goal of making finding things on the Internet weird again, in the best and most interesting way. It’s definitely one of the more fun newsletters I’ve started to follow.

(If you’re into links to cool websites, coding tutorials, vaporwave, and more, check out this recent edition.)

4 ***NEWSLETTER ALERT*** Another newsletter that I’m really enjoying lately is Scott Nover’s Pressing, which covers many topics revolving around press freedom. I especially loved his latest edition about journalism and writing burnout.

“That’s called writer’s block, Scott. If you don’t have anything to write about, just write about that feeling. Write about not being able to write.”

 Like the rest of the world, I found out about the new Taylor Swift album last Thursday. A few hours later for New York Magazine, I interviewed The National’s Aaron Dessner, who produced much of the album, and we explored his experiences and interpretations of each track.

(I believe this will go into print as well - next time you see a copy of New York Magazine and it’s social-distantly safe to pick up a copy, check it out!)

(Speaking of New York Magazine, I really enjoy their A New York Minute interview series, in which a different writer each week breaks down how they do their work. I especially loved this quote from their most recent interview with Zak Cheney-Rice: “I also try to keep in mind something Adam Moss told me when I first started here, which is that I shouldn’t feel pressured to approach everything I write like it’s the final word on that subject. He said, “You’re building a body of work.” Every piece is an opportunity to learn, ask questions, and draw interesting connections. Sometimes I’ll be wrong. More often, hopefully, I’m onto something.”)

6 Via Elisa Doucette’s excellent newsletter on writing tips (again, a heck of a newsletter week): Poynter’s 40 time-tested good journalism tips that never go out of style.

(“Always get the name of the dog” rightfully is the No. 1 tip; if you don’t end up clicking on this link, this is a good summary of what makes good journalism. You’re conveying a story and information for the reader, yet in a way in which only you, as a writer and journalist with a specific kind of view and access at one point in time, can offer. Anyone can google your subject’s name; only you can get the name of the dog.)

(OK, yes, depending on the subject, you might be able to google the dog but you know what I mean.)

(Also through Elisa’s newsletter: Eight things in your writing that make you look dumb, even though you’re not.)

7 And finally, how do writers make money?

(A lot of different ways! You find what works best for you - I have a full-time job and write on the side - but the important thing is, when you can, to be intentional and have a plan that allows you the time and resources to write.)

And so …

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(think global)

GIRLSGIRLSGIRLS (Netherlands) The kind of insufferable charm that also attracts people to The 1975 and pop-punk/emo in general. The MTV2 mallcore revival is right on time.

INTELLIGENCE (Vienna, Austria) Daft Punk's bratty but better-than-you-admit cousin.

Anhedonia Records (Cuernavaca, Mexico) new-to-me Mexican indie label featuring the very bizarre and very great Outlet Americano; weirdly reminds me of a more mellow Primal Scream?

Billi Monzo (Belgium) as weirdly enjoyable and clubby as a sunny day in November.

MONKEY MACHINE (Pl, Brazil) Warhol discovers the Tony Hawk soundtrack.

… we carry on …

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Song “reviews”

The Chicks - “Gaslighter” (2020)

Good single, great story, forgettable album.

Taylor Swift - “mirrorball” (2020)

Not mad that Swift made a David Gray album.

Big Red Machine - “Forest Green” (2018)

This is … pretty much a Taylor Swift song? It’s definitely a Swift melody. Or rather, the new Swift album is … a Big Red Machine collaboration?

Dan Reeder - “A Sandy Beach” (2020)

I did an interview last week (more to come), and the person I talked to described Reeder as John Prine meets Guided By Voices. Apparently Reeder found Neil Young’s On the Beach piano as well.

AC/DC - “Overdose” (1977)




Brady writes about music (and other things) and draws cartoons. You can find him in New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Interview Magazine, McSweeney’s, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and more. Check out his website, where you’ll find his reading list this year, his latest features, and more ways to connect. Brady is a freelancer for hire who can do interviews, reporting, criticism, and playlists - get in touch if you need a writer.

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All cartoons by Brady Gerber. Headphone Nation logo by Sophie Wiener. This newsletter was made possible with the help of Simon Morrow, who also designed the ARTS & FARTS logo. Thank you, Simon!