Chris: Yeah, that’s it. We think we’re going to turn into Gollum or something.
Adam: Yeah, it’s a thing where so much of it is based…you let your imagination run wild a bit and you confront what your imagination says and break it down into what would actually happen.
Adam: Yeah, literally. A very useful exercise.
Chris: That’s great. And so you’ve read the book, that got the gears turning, also doing the blog was getting the gears turning. How did you reach that breaking point and what did that look like?
Adam: Let’s see, it was the summer of 2009 I think it was and yeah, I think it was partly I find that if I’m in the same place for more than a year and notice that if I start to hear myself say oh I remember doing this exact same thing a year ago, I suddenly become very aware that I’m not moving or something, so as a journalist it was very clear where I would go into work one day and be covering a story that I’d covered exactly a year ago and it would make me go oh I’ve been here a year. So I’d been doing this job for about a year, so I think that pushed me a little bit, and then actually the thing in the end that really again, a lot to say, I just sort of completely went there on my own accord and some of that just kind of fantastic courage. One of the things that certainly helped me on the way was I, through the blog I had been writing, got an email from a university down in London who were looking for someone to come in part time and do an hour’s lecture a week I think in video journalism. And so they had seen my blog and realized I might be a good person for it, they offered me a contract of teaching two or three hours a week for three months. And I did the math and realized it wouldn’t be nearly enough to kind of cover my costs but it was like this was a really cool opportunity and it was kind of the hand that needed to grab my hand and pull me over the threshold. I wonder if I’m honest with myself and if that hadn’t of come, how much longer would I have delayed. But I do remember it was a good eight months to a year where I was furiously writing in a journal and reading all of these books, really trying to find within myself or find externally the bravery to do it.
Chris: It’s sort of a loose tourniquet, and so then you put in your notice and moved?
Adam: That was pretty much it, yeah. So that was September 2009, that’s when I…I think I moved to London on a Monday and on a Friday I was literally teaching video journalism which was a bit strange going from radio reporter to university lecturer in four days was quite intimidating as well. But it sort of…when you have to do it, you do it and there’s a real sense of feeling alive when you do it as well I think.
Chris: Yeah, I have a course on composition and visual story telling called The Painting Drama and something I encourage those students to do from day one is find people, and this is not at all difficult to do to find people who you can help right out of the gate, intellectualizing the process and articulating these abstract concepts of image making and in doing that you get better because you start to make your own connections and you become a better artist because you understand why you make the decisions that you make. So anyway, I think even very early on it’s important to deliberately put yourself into a position where you’re having to articulate these abstract concepts to a group of students in one form or another.
Adam: Absolutely, and actually I think you’re on the nail actually when you sort of talk about that idea of teaching others as a way of learning yourself. For me that’s been a really, in the last year or two years, that’s been a real kind of foundation for a lot of the work and the projects that I’ve done, they’ve stemmed from wanting to or being really fascinated by the topic and wanting to know it and understand it. Yeah, finding a way to share that knowledge as you learn it with other people as well as being (inaudible) to build a community around what you do is also a fantastic way. I think you’re right, it’s like one thing to learn it, but another thing to then explain it to someone else.
Chris: Yeah. So you were teaching, freelancing, and then were you still doing the blog and is that still going on now?
Adam: Uh no, the blog has stopped. I carried it on for another three years until 2012 and it was kind of the consistency of my whole, that very kind of topsy turvy period actually where there’s lots of uncertainty about work and where my career would go. It was kind of a weekly or biweekly blog posts that was one thing I always came back to. And I became very fetched for it because it was one of those things, my blog never made me a penny directly in the entire six years I did it but when I look back at the opportunities that it brought me are insane. I had executives from TV channels who were bringing me in for meetings to talk about ideas and I was invited to talk at conferences in different bits of the world and do training and make films just from this WordPress blog that cost me nothing to set up. So it was a source of great opportunity and I think yeah, happiness in lots of ways as well, it was always…I learned a lot about and you’ll see the (inaudible) of what it is like to publish online but I also learned a lot about what it is to connect with other people as well and to make stuff that helps others. I think again you’ve said this earlier how important it is. I found that a lot of the emails I would get from readers or the comments would be about, they were very inspired by something or excited by something or I kind of thing that kind of gift I suppose in a sense being able to do that for other people made it extremely rewarding as well.
Chris: That’s great. Is the blog still live where the listeners can go to see the articles?
Adam: Absolutely yeah, so the web address is my name AdamWestbrook.Wordpress.com. So I never actually got a proper URL either, it was just a good old fashioned WordPress blog. And I was writing a lot about future journalism and the future of publishing as both of those, and storytelling as well as those three things came in and out of my interest field. And then I think, the reason I stopped it in the end, it’s funny – lots of people said I was very stupid for stopping it because it was kind of among my sort of other contemporaries, it was something that I think a lot of them wish they had. But for me, I still go back on it and certainly there was a noticeable correlation between I stopped blogging and then the sort of opportunities and work that came my way ended, sort of stopped quite abruptly with that as well. That’s really interesting and for a while it had me a little bit worried but the reason I stopped it was because I felt like I wanted to start making things that took a lot more time and care and love to make. I wanted to make books or documentaries or courses, not just weekly blog posts. I think actually again, looking back like I probably got that wrong because what I didn’t realize was that actually with a blog and things that are similar, an individual blog post of course just takes an hour to write and then three minutes to read but actually it’s not about the individual posts, it’s about the bigger website and the bigger thing that you build. And I think that I’d forgotten that I’d actually been building something for six years and thought I’d just been writing blog posts. But it was still good, it was still important to do something new and to move on, and my interests had moved on as well so I really enjoyed since doing more ambitious projects rather than blogging.
Chris: Yeah, and this is important I think that consistency and dependability of course, those things are incredibly important to sustaining any type of content feed, a podcast or a blog, or a Twitter feed for that matter, whatever, any kind of the sort of broadcast feeds. However, it’s not the end of the world because that sort of core group of people who love what you’re doing are going to be interested in the other things that you’re doing and then you’ve also created…that’s the amazing thing about the internet is that we create things out of nothing. Now it’s an asset, now it is a thing, it’s a thing that’s there forever.
Adam: Yeah exactly, we forget sometimes the accumulative effect of the internet where yeah, you make something and it stays there forever and you sort of start to build this library, this catalog of great things. I think that’s the way of thinking about it and I think in lots of ways we don’t appreciate that enough. I think there’s a lot of people that, we’ve got most people I think put things on the internet and don’t rethink that one day their grandchildren are going to look at that. I’m looking forward to this kind of future where there’s a generation of grandparents who’ve all done naked selfies on Instragram and having to explain that to their grandkids. But I think it’s remembering that your legacy almost starts now and my late grandfather who got also some crazy stuff in the 1930’s and 40’s and none of us would ever know that because there’s no record of it. But I think also it’s remembering that one’s that you don’t have to have are one of it, certainly with the Delve project that I’ve started working on this year and those video essays, that thought sustained me a lot through the first few months when I put a lot of blood and sweat into making these things and they weren’t getting watched at all and it was really important that I reminded myself that they will stay on the internet forever and they are evergreen and maybe it might take you a year, two, three, four, five years until you make something that maybe lots of people see. But then when they do, they’ll look back and they’ll see there’s a whole library of other stuff that you’ve made that cumulatively will mostly blow people’s minds.
Chris: And also, if articulating ideas and articulating your own ideals is not necessarily…I can’t say it’s necessary but it’s almost necessary, it’s really helpful, it’s vital. It’s vital to growing as an artist and as a communicator, Delve couldn’t have happened without that blog. Like you could never have made enough mental connections to reach that sort of critical mass to where it had to become something more elaborate.
Adam: Absolutely. I mean I actually came up with the idea for it in 2008, I remember there’s actually a journal entry I wrote really excitedly about this idea I had. And it’s taken me six years to actually make it into something real which is a really long stagnation period. When actually when I think about it, I don’t think it could have happened any sooner. I think it just took me that long, I mean so much of it really isn’t…I think when I first came up with the idea, it seemed like…the reason I never did it straight away was because it seemed like that there were problems I couldn’t solve. So for example, the original idea was as it originally stood was to make really interesting history documentaries on the internet because I was a history student and I was watching history documentaries on TV and just saw how boring and formulaic they were. There’s lots of…I love Ken Burns but there’s lots of other clichés, lot of really terrible keyboard synth music and artillery montage…(inaudible) and I was like that’s such a great opportunity to reinvent the history documentary which really excited me. But when I started working on it straight away in 2008, it didn’t take me very long to realize that actually if I’m going to make a history documentary, I still have the same problems. Characters are dead and the events I want to show have already happened so I’m basically stuck with artillery montages and oil paintings. And so that stopped me in my tracks, I was like I don’t know the answer, and when I look back I actually still don’t know the answer that problem, the only thing that’s changed is I’m not creatively or whatever have reached a maturity where I’m willing to start making it anyway. I think that was for me not knowing how to make a great history documentary stopped me making them for six years or else finding the place where I could say, well I’m just going to start making them anyway and I’ll figure out the rest as I go along. Like it took me a long time to kind of reach that creative maturity I suppose.