3Ws – Mark Erelli

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What do you create?

Ostensibly, I’m a songwriter and I create songs. But I’ve created a lot of seemingly different things over the years. Growing up, I was an avid visual artist and for a long time everyone just assumed I’d go into graphic arts or design of some kind. Then I got really into ecology and started doing a lot of finely detailed pen-and-ink scientific illustration. Then I got a masters degree in evolutionary biology and I had to wield a fair amount of creativity to develop hypotheses and solve problems with experimental design. Though I’ve been a professional musician for 15 years, I write essays for my monthly newsletters and have gotten back into visual arts by creating illustrations for covers of my albums. Now that I have kids, I’ll create in their media as well…like ABC books with a Beatles theme or kickass Lego spaceships.

Why do you create?

The real thread that ties all my disparate endeavors together is an overall desire to create some kind of understanding the world and my place in it. I create to make sense of the world, which would sound pretentious if I really thought that it was ever possible, which I don’t. I think of it as like surfing on this asymptotic curve, which always approaches the axis (or objective truth, if you will) but never meets it. That feeling of just wanting to get a little bit closer to the truth, to write or play a little bit better than I did yesterday, that’s what keeps me creating. That this process can never be finished inspires me.

What do you consume?

In the most general sense I am a voracious consumer of the details of my environment, whatever that may be. I don’t necessarily need to seek out new environments–I’m not a natural traveler, I’d be fine walking the same path through the woods everyday–but I love finding new observations in familiar surroundings. I can extrapolate this process to my emotional environment, learning new things about the way I’m feeling or how my actions affect others. Or I can use the same tools to tease new observations about things like books and songs that I love, so that they seem to become richer and more resonant over time. That is essentially what I’m doing every time I read a book or listen to music, which are the things I consume the most. If we’re talking about the physical act of consumption, then I’d have to go with Earth Balance’s Coconut & Peanut Spread, which I spread on apples and consume in quantities greater than I should ever admit.

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