March of Intellect, Robert Seymour
“I’m trying to take less pleasure in extremes of capitalist production.” So goes New Yorker columnist and New York Times bestselling author Jia Tolentino in an August 2019 interview with The Creative Independent. Tolentino, who has made a career of writing lucid, if circuitous, critiques of neoliberalism, is emblematic of the sort of interview subject you’ll find on The Creative Independent (TCI), an editorial vertical that seeks to “illuminate the trials and tribulations of living a creative life.”
Guest writers and interview subjects at TCI range from smart, young individuals at the intersection of art, music, literature and technology to legacy artists in the twilight of their careers. The platform has spoken with incisive thinkers and cultural figures like Saidiya Hartman, Maggie Nelson and Adam Curtis, as well as aging rock stars like Julian Casablancas, Billy Corgan and Joan Baez. TCI stands alone in the contemporary media environment in its singular focus on the figure of the creative and publishes everything from interviews with celebrities to how-to guides for working artists.
In a self-assured, and sometimes self-mythologizing manner, the platform presents itself as both a retreat from the clutter of social media and an ideal of what a cultural publication could aspire to. Subject matter fluctuates depending on the particular interview subject, but TCI’s bread-and-butter is the first-person account of what it means and how to function as an artist in an often inhospitable cultural landscape. Essay and interview titles like “On finding your voice,” “On taking your time,” and “On learning through doing the work” set the affective tenor for TCI, which prides itself on presenting the artist outside of the compromised album, book, film, etc. promotion cycle.
Institutional critique has a role at TCI, although some of the platform’s own, non-interview content does have a bootstraps tenor, a quality paralleled by its founder Yancey Strickler’s lauding of the Financial Independence Retire Early movement in This Could Be Our Future, his 2019 memoir/management ideology volume. More than discontentment with existing institutions though, the overwhelming orientation of interviews on TCI is that of the preeminence of inner subjective attitude. The individual artists’ profundity of ideas and ideals, of their strength and ability to counter oppressive systems, is the abiding affective and intellectual impulse of the publication.