shrewsbury (/ˈʃroʊzbəri/ shrohz-bər-ee, also /ˈʃruːz-/ shrooz-) is a market town in shropshire, england.

did you know that if you move your mouse over the ipa symbols in wikipedia, a hoverbox (yes, that’s the actual term) appears explaining how to pronounce each symbol?

in this case:

sh in shy
r in rye
oo in goose
z in zoom
b in buy
er in letter
y in happy

in a coffeeshop near shrewsbury train station, i sit sipping my hot chocolate. the three baristas are youngish guys with moustaches, stubble, well-worn white tshirts, black sweatpants, old trainers. one of them is wearing a bandshirt for a band i sometimes listen to, but i say nothing.

in two hours, with a pen and a stack of yellow postits, i plan out this entire lunatic enterprise.

My job is to notice things that other people don’t notice.

grayson perry

writing is noticing, and there’s all sorts of way to notice.

one of the least helpful ways i’ve found is just going around trying to notice.

bukowski put it perfectly: ‘don’t try. don’t work.’ like so much of his writing, this advice has been misinterpreted as meaning ‘be lazy’, in much the same way as timothy leary’s ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’.

quit your day job.

here’s bukowski again: ‘writing is like most writers think fucking is: just when they start thinking they are doing it pretty good they stop doing it altogether.’

don’t try to write.
don’t try to fuck.
don’t try to skateboard.
don’t try to notice.

this mantra works for all sorts of shit.

i don’t try to notice.
i just walk around.
every part of my process is as simple and easy as possible.

i walk around
i take notes, if i feel like taking notes
i take photos, if i feel like taking photos
then, using my notes and photos,
if i feel like drawing, i draw
if i feel like writing, i write

that’s it. that’s how to be an artist, a step at a time.

my process doesn’t involve any trying; only being in motion. i think more clearly, more calmly-chaotically when i’m moving. walking, cycling, skateboarding, sometimes even being on a train works. indoors, i pace, like a circus cat. or i dance. dancing is one of the absolute best ways to write. i mean that. if you can dance, you can write.

because writing is dancing.

i tend to have a few points of focus. these depend on my environment. if i’m in a city, it might be lamppost stickers. if i’m in a forest, it might be mushrooms. it might be shadows, reflections, silhouettes. it might be a book i read or a film i watched or an album i listened to.

the whole see-smell-taste-hear-feel dogma isn’t really my thing. it doesn’t do it for me. alternative ways of documenting require alternative ways of experiencing.

because i’m not interested in documenting for its own sake. i’m not interested in data storage. i’m not interested in generalities. try walking around any town or city in the uk. in europe. in the world. they’re all the fucking same. the same people the same cars the same supermarkets the same fucking supermarket layouts. that’s all you can say. they’re all the same.

until you start noticing things.

for example:

from left to right
and top to bottom:

  • a manhole cover
  • an upside-down tree
  • a sculpture of a bee’s wing
  • ‘the quantum leap’ sculpture
  • an american guy with a cool hat gigging from the roof of his vintage vw camper
  • some suggestive signs found on an agricultural building
  • an actual street sign
  • the top half of a bizarre and beautiful pipelike instrument on display in shrewsbury museum
  • ‘sshhh’ sculpture (and the artist)
  • a tree that looks like a shark
  • the bottom half of the meandrous musical mechanism
  • a pictogram on a contactless pedestrian crossing