Perils of Design Writing

I come from a family of writers. Growing up, it sometimes felt as though writing was the family business. It was discussed around the dinner table, the way a family discusses its generational practice in dentistry, or its general store. My Russian grandmother, Olga Ilyin, my father’s mother, wrote memoirs and novels about her youth, and spent months with us every year, “in ze country,” which was actually in ze suburbs. She, with her Chekhovian mindset, didn’t choose to see the white rocks, the tract houses, the cheap stucco.

I grew up with her routine: breakfast at eight; writing from nine to twelve; lunch; a reading of what she had just written for critique by my father, who had spent the same time in his studio, painting; afternoon tea, then friends over for dinner and conversation in the evening. Sadly, growing up with this going on in the house, I missed the fact that most people were not retired, not painting and writing, not critiquing over the Earl Grey but in fact working for a living.

Consequently, I have spent my life trying to resolve these two ways of living, mixing tea and writing one day with hunkering down and hammering out work with clients the next. It’s been Dreams of my Russian Summers meets Marketing For the Small Design Firm every day of my adult life, and for this reason I now offer up a nugget of advice to those who would be design writers: be born wealthy, marry well, or invent something early on, because the bifurcation of spending time in the total concentration of writing-- the other world of it-- followed by the slam of reality that is business is one of the hardest things I negotiate.

The transition is akin to the grinding of gears, and it is a transition I make every day. When I look around at other design writers, it is only lately that I notice that a good deal of family money is floating around backing up the career choice. Heed my wise words. or the grey hair you see at my temples shall be yours at my august age.