Tuesday, January 12, 2016


by Matt PotterIt would come as no surprise to those who know me and/or have worked with me (in any capacity, but in this venue, as a writer/editor/publisher) … but I am an intensely creative person. Not creating makes me sick.

For a few years, in my thirties, I turned my back on being creative for creativity’s sake and focussed on my paid job. I was a site manager in the community services sector, and managed three programmes aimed at keeping older people in their homes. Two programmes provided care in the home, and the third was a therapy service, providing podiatry, physiotherapy, nutrition education, and gentle exercise programs.

I had a staff of 50 and a budget of about $1.5 million and I loved the leadership part of the job, taking programmes in new directions, winning people over to new ways of thinking and doing and being. (I was lucky in that the 4 staff who reported to me directly were great managers … I was a great leader, and they were great managers, so basically, it worked well.)

And I thought my job was worthwhile.

But ultimately, I realised that my job was to support other staff inventing and developing and guiding new initiatives … not the actual doing of those things. (Which can be very creative.)

And not being creative was actually making me, mentally, quite ill (aka I was, ultimately, very depressed).

So I left that job, took a pay cut and started a much more creative job, in sexual health. I was involved in local and national safe sex campaigns, working in communications and writing text for leaflets and brochures and resources and websites and designing flyers and posters and print ads and the problem was it was too creative! I wanted to be more creative and get back to writing and creative stuff for me but who wants to go home and do that when you do that in your day job five days a week?!

So what I’m saying is, there is always a tension in my life about being creative. I can’t NOT make things … to NOT make things makes me ill. But I also want to make things that are worthwhile and I want to do so when I feel like doing it, not because I have to. And I admit to giving a value to most things. I’m the kind of person who says, “That’s really a job?” and “You’re happy earning money doing that?” and “How fulfilling can that be?”

(I feel the same way about certain genres of literature … I can’t take them seriously.)

I also have a need to be funny, to make people laugh, which I think is seriously undervalued in western culture. (My humour also makes people think too.)
Growing up, my mother often seemed to be in a bad mood. But I think it was about her finding fulfilment in life, and I share that with her: there’s a constant question, is this worthwhile? Am I fulfilled by this?

Making my mother laugh also broke the tension. It was also something I realised, at a very young age, that I was good at.

So much of my writing is funny.

Sometimes writing and editing and publishing can be fulfilling for me, and sometimes, I think it’s a waste of my time.

I love it, but I also like to keep a distance from it. It doesn’t just define me.
You know those people whose idea of heaven is being able to take themselves away and spend their time writing? Not me. Full-time writer? No. Never. (It’s too limiting!)

I like to cook (in a big way, not a coming-home-from-work-and-cooking way) and if I ever ventured into clothes design, it would have to be women’s summer frocks and probably kids’ clothes. (This is a serious option for me, in a small scale fun and boutique way.) Walking into a fabric shop is breath-taking for me … the bolts and bolts of fabric present endless possibilities. I was a film and TV student once, making short films (my writing is quite cinematic) and I loved editing as well as storyboarding.

I’ve lost count of the items of clothing I’ve dyed. It would be hundreds and hundreds. (Ask to see the devilled ham t-shirt I dyed!) I love colour and I love creating welcoming environments, whether through design or through attitude or through being a version of me.

I love projects! I love the beginning, the middle and the end, and then I like to see the reaction.

That’s what writing is for me. I started “writing” when I was twelve, and while clearly I have got better at it, it’s still the same: think, do, finish, get the reaction. And hopefully, others think it’s worthwhile, and I do too.


Matt Potter has travelled widely, read a lot, and plans to do more of both in the future. He lives in Adelaide, Australia, and is the founding editor and publisher of Pure Slush and Pure Slush BooksMatt's latest book is a travel memoir, Hamburgers and Berliners and other courses in between (Cervena Barva Press), also available through Amazon.com and Small Press Distribution.

(Photo at left by Paul Beckman)


Susan Tepper said...

I don't see the iconic green t-shirt with the white band collar amongst all those t-shirts? This is lovely. An inside glimpse into the wonder that is called Matt Potter, someone who stretches creativity to another realm.

Anne said...

Matt -- this is a wonderful essay. I'm so lucky to have crossed paths with you on these imaginary byways.

janstout said...

Yours is truly a creative life well-lived, Matt. As Anne said, I'm so glad we've crossed paths on the Writing highway. Thanks for the peek at your journey.