This charming and inspirational book by Ayun Halliday is subtitled “The Small Potato Manifesto.” That’s because it’s about pursuing creative endeavors for joy and personal edification, not for mainstream success.
This book is inspiring, insightful, and clever. It’s filled with stories and advice from like-minded people who create things because they must, not because they have calculated that doing so will let them hit it big. I would have preferred more narrative, but a big part of the message here is that you are not alone. As the prophet Timothy said, “Find the Others.”
Although I never had the vocabulary to talk about it, I now realize that I have long been a “small potato” person. Looking back, this has applied from my earliest books, first software, and my ongoing performances.
In my corporate life, and by observing that of my wife’s, I have witnessed far too many “strategic” moves based solely on growth, with other consequences be damned. Too many good products and people have been ruined in the pursuit of getting bigger.
Halliday isn’t the first to embrace being small, and to be clear, this book is more folksy than philosophical. But if you commit yourself to small potatohood you might also enjoy The Long Tail, The Gift of Obscurity, and The Case for Low-Cost Ambition. (Some of these are by authors who are only small potatoes in spirit, not in distribution, but don’t let facts distract you.)
Just a few of the many tidbits that caught my eye:
- Think of yourself as one long work-in-progress. A false step leads to something else. Not everything has to last forever. It’s OK to let something run its course, then end it. (A philosophy that I came to embrace with my Usable Help.)
- “Bask daily in a subject that brings you pleasure. Study it. Leverage whatever tools are within your reach to present your knowledge to a possibly disinterested wider audience.” (This might be the most impactful statement in the book for me.)
- I particularly enjoyed learning of Ben Snakepit, whose long-running daily diary comics make me think of my Pandemic Drip Dry and 30-word dice tales projects.
- Let go of moldy old goals. “I am likely to be on my deathbed trying to forgive myself for not having gotten to everything I wanted.” — Liz Mason
- Freely and generously give small encouragements to others. Even if it feels awkward. Amen! I think trying to do this every day is a good resolution.
- A small potatoes creative challenge: Practice bibliomancy with a subject that you know little about. Open to a page, point to a paragraph, and create something (in any format or media) that day which reflects what you’ve selected. Sounds fun! (Stay tuned.)
- Jealousy stems from the fallacy of scarcity.
- “Crowdfunding is necessary in a country where the arts are so underfunded.” — Meghan Finn. And that’s why we have Patreon, GoFundMe, et al.
- Do your future self a favor. Preserve and document your work. Keep a copy of everything in multiple, portable formats.
Photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella on Unsplash