Purpose of Special Projects
Make books, deliver talks, create art.
Share the work and share my own process, to encourage others.
I wanted a more formal relationship with people who support my work, but as I’m sure you can imagine I was anxious about setting up Special Projects, and launching it to the world.
The fact that you had the confidence in me to join this membership – well, to be honest I’m lost for words.
It’s clear, at this early stage, that Special Projects memberships won’t pay my bills any time soon. But this is about so much more: by joining, you have given me a quite extraordinary boost.
Naturally, I don’t take your membership for granted. I hope you will feel that you have a small stake in what I produce. I’ll do the work, obviously, and I’ll set the direction. I hope I will deliver more than you hoped for. Your ideas and encouragement are always gratefully received.
Further down this page, you’ll find a review, month by month, of my outputs in 2021. When I went through my notebooks I was pleased to see what I have managed to do. There’s quite a lot, so I’ve tried to keep it simple, with footnotes and links so you can find out more.
I’m still waiting to upgrade the way this website handles pictures, so I can’t do all the wonderful things I’d have liked to do, but in the meantime, to say thank you, here’s a hitherto unseen drawing.
My dog, Peanut, running in the local park.
Highlights, January to June
|Jan||Start new method1 of keeping paper diary and to-do lists.|
|Feb||A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech published by Short Books. Articles in national newspapers2 to help publicise it, and 28 new posts to website3.|
|Mar||New posts to website include a focus on RSS. Start updating writing archive. Return to Twitter after 3yrs off.|
|Apr||Arvon Masterclass (online): “The Art of Hooking A Reader.” Start audit of website.4|
|May||Deliver 50 poems to publisher of my next book, London Psalms5. Start publishing Everyday Writing newsletter (monthly). Launch online course for The Idler Academy: “How To Write, with John-Paul Flintoff”.|
|Jun||Start publishing pop-up newsletter, Great Speeches (weekdays, one month).|
|Jan||Start an ADEQUATE podcast6.|
|Feb||Book launch, The Union Club Soho (online).|
|Apr||Desktop Pilgrimage: a 22 day “walk” on Google Streetview, with guests. Plus, several talks, including one to speechwriters: What Makes An Adequate Speech?.|
|May||Launch online course for The Idler Academy: “How To Write, with John-Paul Flintoff”.|
|Jun||How To Academy course: “On Making Great Speeches”7|
|Jan||Online drawing workshops.|
|Feb||Commissions: illustrations of Shakespeare (Henry IV part 2 and Hamlet).|
|Mar||Start creating “Portraits of the Artist in a ____” (PotAia)8, posting them to Instagram as I go along (see pic below). I created 33 during March – more than one a day.|
|Apr||26 more PotAias this month.|
|May||Deliver 50 illustrations for London Psalms.5 11 more PotAias.|
|Jun||Publication of The Unbreakable Student.9 10 more PotAias.|
|Share Process, Encourage Others|
|Jan||Launch The Whizzy Group10, to end early April.|
|Feb||Book launch, The Union Club Soho (online). Finished six months of coaching writers of memoirs.|
|Mar||Build website for a friend. Learn more about the mechanics of my own site. Create a Facebook Event, fail to promote it, sell one ticket.|
|Apr||Desktop Pilgrimage, open to guests. Plan relaunch of Whizzy Group, for May to July. Deliver talks and workshops to therapists, speech writers and Freedom From Torture. Start a review of a year of Covid, and how support of others kept me going.|
|May||Whizzy Group restarts. Experiment with Google Ads to teach Wedding Speeches. Idler Academy “How To Write.” Arvon Masterclass. Talk about my breakdown to Little Challenges group. Interview my own psychiatrist on podcast. End year-long work with an author, on submission of her complete manuscript. Launch Special Projects, to formalise the support I’ve received.|
|Jun||Launch The Newsletter Challenge11. Publish my own pop-up newsletter, Great Speeches, every weekday for one month. Audit of apps on my phone.|
- 1 Paper Diary and To-Dos. The method I use, enormously helpful to me in writing this Report, is borrowed from Bullet Journals. But I don’t like that name.
- 1 National Newspapers. One such article was for The Observer Magazine.
- 1 In six months, I wrote 123 posts on this site. By comparison, I wrote just 40 in the whole of 2020.
- 1 Website Audit. In practice, this involved taking part in a three-day workshop on marketing, and learning a great deal about SEO.
- 1 2 London Psalms. This will be my first book of poetry, and the first book that is half words, half illustrations (all by me).
- 1 An ADEQUATE Podcast. It’s about self-expression, through writing, drawing and speaking. It’s “adequate” because I can’t do perfect. To create momentum, I released two new episodes a week.
- 1 How To Academy. Delivered live (albeit online), for one hour a week over three weeks, with homework.
- 1 Portraits Of The Artist. To date, I’ve done 80, inserting myself into masterpieces of art.
- 1 The Unbreakable Student. Written by Nic Hooper and illustrated by me.
- 1 The Whizzy Group. Full details on this page. The group in its current format closes at the end of this month.
- 1 Newsletter Challenge. I invited individuals to join me for just one month writing a pop-up newsletter together. I do mine, they do theirs, and we take courage from the fact that we’re all doing it at the same time.
After all that detail, you might need a picture break. Here’s one I drew for Nic Hooper’s book, encouraging the reader to take time and notice good things.
I’m mildly obsessed with statistics. I like wrestling with them to make sense of whatever it is they describe. And sometimes I just enjoy the sheer random variety of numbers.
Portraits of the Artist in a _____
15 PotAias based on 20th century masterpieces
12 based on 19th century masterpieces
80 in total, to date
55 days of actually drawing
3 artists I tackled more than once (Millais, Picasso, Matisse)
4 drawings started and finished in a single day, my personal best, on 6 April (Gillray, Lowry, Hockney and a Tudor artist)
+52% more visitors than previous six months
+50% more new visitors
+2% more sessions per user
+108% more page views
+34% more pages per session
+63% longer sessions per user
-7% bounce rate (ie, fewer visitors leave after looking at just one page, hurray)
185 visits over three months by people looking for a story I wrote 15 years ago, about the actor Chris Langham
309 visits over same period to an even older story about UK investment bankers being extradited to the US
A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech
17 five-star reviews on Amazon, which is nice
£9.99 cover price
22 illustrations by me
45p per illustration, if you look at it that way
3p per page, if you look at it that way
Google Ads Experiment
(I’m advertising my help with wedding speeches)
2,830 ad views on Google
243 clicks on the ad
<10% of viewers click
£39.85 total spent on ads
16p cost per click
18 of them comprising interviews
8 touching at least in part on my 2018 breakdown
2 episodes about wedding speeches
3:0 ratio of women to men in the episodes about wedding speeches
3 months duration per cohort
60 minutes together every Wednesday lunchtime
9:3 ratio of women to men in Whizzy Group 1
4:3 ratio of men to women in Whizzy Group 2
4:3 ratio of UK-based participants to non-UK (in total, 1 and 2)
Winter Sunset, from Hampstead.
I wish I could be equally precise about what’s coming up – or do I? Part of the joy of creative work, and of life itself, is being open to surprises.
That said, I do know how important it is to have a plan. In the coming six months I aim to:
- Write a book proposal for Everyday Writing.
- Actually write the book.
- Write a time-limited pop-up newsletter, in October, looking back 10 years to when I wrote How To Change The World.
- Start a new series of an ADEQUATE podcast, August to October.
- Do a mini speaking tour of bookshops with my agent Jaime, to promote A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech (budget is already in place).
- Put on a real-world exhibition of (some?) Potaias.
- Create a special limited edition illustrated book of PotAias, as an experiment before seeking “proper” publication.
- Audit my archive of art.
- Install (with help) a better way to show pictures on this site.
- Relaunch the Whizzy Group, September to November
- Run another month-long Newsletter Challenge in October.
- Break even on Google Ads, with some kind of Wedding Speech training offer to cover the cost of the advertising (profit may come later).
Thank you for reading.
Please tell me if there’s anything that stands out, or just say hello.
Send me an email