The Story of a Piece of Paper

Free PDF download

You can now download the story that I illustrated for my kids as a PDF.

I hope that you know a kid or two that you can share it with, and that they enjoy it as much as our girls did.

The download is available in English and Russian.

Edited to add: The Story of a Piece of Paper was featured on Boing Boing. As I have no words to express just how ridiculously thrilling this is, I present it here as a bare statement of fact.



In progress: Illustrations for The Story of a Piece of Paper

Apropos of nothing, here are some of the illustrations I’ve been drawing for a children’s book called The Story of a Piece of Paper.

Story of a Piece of Paper, page 3

As you can see, this story has a paper rabbit in it. So I’ve gotten quite good at rabbits. Here’s another one.

The Story of a Piece of Paper, page 4

The reason I’m drawing these right now instead of, say, finishing the Sprawl mosaic, is that our kids’ birthdays are coming up in just over a month. And this is a story we made up together.

Our older daughter Katya, who is almost five, asked me a few months ago to make up a story about a piece of paper. Yes, that was her chosen theme: “Mommy, can you tell me a new story? Make one up yourself. What about? Oh, just a piece of paper.”

So I made up a story on the spot – with the girls’ help, of course – and they were quite pleased with it. So pleased, in fact, that they kept requesting that same story again and again. I personally didn’t think the story was all that great. But clearly I have a poor grasp on what literature appeals to children.

Since then, I have had to make up several different stories about a piece of paper. Variations on the theme of a piece of paper are now our family storytelling tradition. If we decide to get a family crest one day, we will have to put a piece of paper on the escutcheon. A4 rampant.

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On the balance of daily experience

A couple of years ago I came across the idea of optimal daily experience – like a recommended nutritional intake for the mind. It was suggested that to maintain a healthy balance, there are four types of experiences that everyone should have daily: social, physical, intellectual and creative.

Here’s an example of each: lunch with a friend, a workout, a foreign language lesson, and writing a song. Daily. A daunting proposition for anyone with a 9 to 5 job, chores to do and kids to take care of.

When we’re younger, it’s easier to maintain the balance: in school or university opportunities to have a variety of daily experiences are readily available, and it’s not difficult to incorporate them into flexible student schedules.

As we grow up and get full time jobs and families, these opportunities gradually drop off. Most adults probably don’t have occasion to experience all four types in any given month, let alone every day, unless they make a conscious effort to do so.

In the last few months, I was starting to find that maintaining this balance was taking me an inordinate amount of effort.

I would go to work at an office where I’ve worked for years and where few intellectual challenges remained. The nature of the financial industry has no place for creativity. Hence I would spend a huge chunk of my day having zero-value experiences – not learning much and not creating much, just counting off the hours until I could get home, play with the kids and put them to bed and then try to squeeze the entire daily ration of learning, physical activity and artistic projects into the two hours that were left in the day.

When, a few weeks ago, I made the decision to quit that job, it was partly due to the realization that if a healthy balance of experience was that important to me, then I would have to make some very different choices to be able to maintain it. I think I was having creativity DTs.

top two panels from xkcd web comic "Choices: Part 4"

Dramatization of my internal dialogue on choices courtesy of xkcd

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