In his 1979 novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, Italo Calvino explores a story of beginnings. A reader discovers a book that, after a few pages and always right at the peak of interest, breaks off in various ways. The reader, in search of the rest, begins a new book they think is the continuation but the process repeats itself, and so on. We realise it is the fictitious author Silas Flannery who, after a deep period of writer's block, constructs a novel made up of the first few pages of all the books he wanted to write but couldn't make it past the introductions.

Throughout my career in art & design—I chose this amalgamation rather than one or the other because this was how I was first introduced into the subjects in high school, neither being thought indistinguishable enough from the other to thrive as their own qualification—I have continuously found making work difficult. I struggled through projects balancing and battling introversion, perfectionism, identity crises and full-blown mental breakdowns. And then, just at the exact right time I forget those moments, instead romanticising specific parts of the process, self-summarising my artistic journey from the newspaper clippings of my career. Much like If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, it is always a story of beginnings. The very first moments of a new project, the blank page, the portfolio update, the rebrand.

Dr. Brian R. Little, a pioneer in the study of human personality and well being, describes a place—physical or mental—that one goes to in order to return to their true self as a restorative niche. I was first introduced to this idea in the Susan Cairn book, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking as she explores the dangers of an introvert being out of character for too long.

This publication will become my restorative niche. A place I can realign my character by exploring and making sense of the parts of my artistic process where I feel least myself. That is, beyond the beginnings. The long, drawn-out middles that stretch and smear and take us with them and the empty ends we stare blankly into and sometimes fall straight through. I’ll be skipping productivity hacks and reductive career advice and heading straight for the dark depths of creative misery.

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Michael William Lester

I am an artist currently living and working on the West Coast of Canada.