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A newsletter about creative permission

In the spring of 2018, I was at a work offsite in Sedona, Arizona brainstorming the product strategy for one of the first NFT startups. The team had some downtime and folks were gabbing about the town's reputation as an international mystical center. Crystals, psychics, that sorta thing. Let's get some lunch and go check it out, we agreed flippantly.

Shing-shing. A bell hanging from the hinge of an all glass door clinked twice as it closed, immersing us in a crystallized city of towering gemstones—rhodonite, opal, quartz, moonstone, topaz. A cursory search on Yelp had brought us there, thumb-scroll after thumb-scroll of glowing reviews for a psychic named Joyea. After some resistance, I booked an hour session with her. A charismatic and beaming grandmother came out from the backroom to introduce herself—that's Joy-Yay! she proclaimed. You could almost smell the freshly baked cookies.

After some housekeeping, she asked for my hands and then studied them pensively. Some twenty seconds later, she looked up and probed, "you're planning an international move soon?" I had a one-way flight booked to Berlin the next week for a six month home-test.

Now, psychics are known to offer soothing generalities, but I found that question to be empirically specific. For the overwhelming majority, the answer is no. So I thought Alright, Joyea, and adjusted my posture—she had my attention.

A lot was shared over that hour and admittedly, I left a bit mystified, less skeptical than I went in. But it was at the very end of our session that Joyea told me a story that never left me—whomever she was in contact with from beyond insisted I hear it. To help me understand who I am, and why my path.

It was the story of Michelangelo and the Statue of David.

As it goes, Michelango was commissioned by the city of Florence to take on the project. And so he worked and worked and worked.

After years of toiling away, he finally unveiled it to a crowd in the town square. Awestruck, the people went up and asked him, "Michelangelo, how on earth did you turn a city block-sized piece of marble into this masterpiece?"

He didn't immediately answer—he was sincerely reflecting. And then he simply said seven words:

"I just carved away what wasn't David."

Touché, Joyea.

In truth, this narrative is an enlightening way to frame the process of becoming. And while "chipping away" at what we aren't is painful – as Michelango did – it's also a prerequisite to the downstream masterpiece that is an individual's full expression. Fear now takes on a very different role, merely a mark to aim your chisel.


And so in the spirit of David, I'm launching Leeway, a newsletter about creative permission. It's an "open-concept" space for something like free association, hatching projects of varying shapes, sizes, and themes with no specific goal in mind other than offering the imagination and instincts some room to breathe.

Leeway asks:

Can one "prototype" themselves to sustainability by doing the work one feels called to do?

My pop-up newsletter, Moved, was our first project produced in the spirit of Leeway.

A meditation on American railroading

I believe that this kind of self-permission – this leeway – is how the best and often dormant qualities in us emerge. What concretely will come out of this I do not yet know—it will be literary, there will be photography, and we may explore more. You, dear reader, are invited along for the ride and can always one-click unsubscribe.

Over time, Leeway will produce a body of work—my sense is it will reveal an insightful through line and I’ll converge on something like an archetype, a focus area to direct my energy toward. I see it as my job to fertilize and nurture an organic process, and know when to get out of the way. To continue carving away what isn't David.

And so, here we are. We don't know each other yet, but I’d like to build a bridge in your direction.

If you’re game, send a line—what have you carved away? What needs carving still? What made you who you are? Include a few sentences you wouldn’t mind me sharing anonymously. I’ll append a few to the end of Leeway's next entry. Give us all a little more context about the sculptor.

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