Sara Blake

Sara Blake

ZSO FRAGMENTED is a creative writing experiment by NYC based illustrator ZSO.

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When I read these old fragments part of me panics. Writing turns your mind inside out to the world in a way that visual art just can't. I think I may have chosen a career creating visual things because being a story teller is just too terrifying—in many ways, more risky, more exposing—a dangerous step toward allowing yourself to be judged and interpreted too literally. In the past year, I've had many friends, many mentors, as well as my own babelfish-battlecry asking that we be fearless. Take these writing fragments with a grain. Or even more frightening, really read them.

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When I moved to New York City 10 years ago I knew I either wanted to be an artist or a writer. Naiveté ended up serving me best in school. I applied to the only department at NYU that I thought would let me major in both. It was called The Gallatin School of Individualized Study, a paradise in academia where I was more or less allowed free reign of the university's nine undergraduate departments. I took a few classes related to art, a few related writing, but mostly I read about psychology and poetry and anthropology, and tried my best to get a grip on living in New York City for the first time. In many ways it was culture shock, which admittedly I enthusiastically sought out, coming from what I felt was a boring, sheltered adolescence in Richmond, VA. While I still hadn't found my visual language by college-age, I mostly relied on processing my new environment through creative writing. I invented characters to speak my experience, but I also relished in imagining complete fiction. For a long time writing was my main source of catharsis and creativity. 

Over the past 10 years through school, first jobs, and both full-time and freelance livelihoods, I ended up settling quite happily into my other passion of making art and design. Perhaps that visual urge was my dominant muscle. Perhaps I just loved it more, but somewhere along the way I lost part of my heart.

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Now as designer and illustrator, I pull the ol' art director joke to excuse my typo and grammar blunders: "You know art directors don't read, right?" But the truth is I started out wanting to write, and sometimes I still feel that itch. Ironically, while searching through very old files to put together a design portfolio, I came across some of my old writing. Though the storytelling and language is clearly that of a young twenty-something year old, I realized this part of my brain is atrophying, and that is simply terrifying. In a selfish attempt to revive my romance with words, I've started this project to put some old fragments of writing out into the world—as well as write some new ones. Some entries are nearly a decade old, some will be fresh—I won't be labeling which is which, and each week I'll publish a new fragment with an accompanying piece of visual matter I've made new and specifically to illustrate the piece in some way. These fragments have no order, no overarching story, only scattered vibrations, only particles of memory and fantasy. Something about them has nostalgic value to me, and I need to put them to bed—as well as create new fragments that can haunt me later.

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