I buy magazines all the time. By the kilo. I have “always read” magazines that I either subscribe to (BusinessWeek, Fortune, Wired) or buy on reflex when I see them (Edge, The Business, Shares); I have “sometimes read” magazines that I buy because there’s something on the cover that I like and that I buy more often than not (The Economist, New Scientist, American GQ, Running); I have “occasional” magazines that I only buy when they really pique my interest (Wallpaper, USA Esquire); and then I have the “I’m waiting at a train station/airport/hotel lobby and need something to read that I haven’t already read” magazines which usually means ones about gadgets, computers or cars.
The net result of this is a constantly growing pile of magazines by my desk at home (and a work bag that always seems to weigh a couple of kilos more than it needs to). Right now the pile is about two feet tall and that doesn’t include the magazines that I’ve “archived” (i.e. decided that I really must read and can’t throw them away but don’t have space for in the usual place).
The problem is there’s always some new, must-read article or even an entire magazine (I’ve recently started reading “Mother Jones” and the “New Yorker”, both of which are cover to cover reads) that hits the top of the pile – and, weekly must-reads arrive, by definition every week. And that’s not to mention the FT every day and the Sunday papers. So, every so often, I pick a few random magazines from deeper in the pile and catch up on the stories in those.
If I go right to the bottom, it seems like I can go back in time. Back to a time when global warming wasn’t on the front covers, when Tom Cruise was still a major movie star, when Abu Ghraib hadn’t jaded our thinking and when Pirates of the Caribbean was getting good reviews. After an intensive reading session of old magazines – usually on trains or planes – I end up with a far smaller pile of torn out pages, where I’ve read something that I want to work further on or perhaps with a weblink that I want to look up when I’m back online.
Going through my old slide decks has been a similar experience. I’ve dug up some ideas and pitches that I put together that just don’t make any sense now – maybe they didn’t even make sense then; seen some ideas that have taken firm hold and been developed, whether by me or by others; and seen some things that remain startlingly obvious but, at the same time, unexploited. The ideas that didn’t work out are best left unexposed in many cases, but I’d like to shake a few out and see why and whether I can rework them to make them worth a look again; the ideas that are unexploited, I’ll expose again and see if there’s more do be done.