I’m so happy to have a guest on the site today, an inspiration and good friend of mine, Nathan Brault! His book, The Knuckles in my Brain Cracked: And Other Six-Word Maxims is a unique collection of Nathan’s thoughts organized in six-word increments coming out December 11, 2018.
Nathan is a Beloit College graduate and existential humanist from Janesville, Wisconsin. He is a writer, musician, artist, and emcee who releases content under the name troyleft. In 2015, Nathan delivered a TEDx Talk titled, “Hip-Hop’s Place in Education.”
In my opinion, every one of these maxims deserves to enter English consciousness STAT. They are all witty and searing commentaries on human nature. They are by turns raw and emotional to spit-your-tea-out funny.
Some of my personal favorites:
we’re the most limited of editions
if Picasso worked as a cashier
the whites in their eyes fled
Okay, so Nathan. Tell us about your process. How did this project come about?
I was searching for a digestible and cohesive way to ideate, and the challenge of condensing/expanding thoughts into six-word maxims became intriguing to me. It wasn’t intentional at first; I just noticed that some thoughts on my notepad were six words in length. I decided to try and be consistent with it, and it wasn’t long before making these became a daily source of cathartic release. Within a few months, I had created over 1,000 maxims. The encouragement I received from friends and supporters led me to become adamant about turning the collection into a publication.
What was your inspiration?
Profundity steered the ship. Whenever I was moved in a profound way by a thought or experience, I started automatically meddling with the sentences in my head and forming them into six-word pieces.
Once I realized that I was capable of maintaining a sense of vulnerability and abstraction with the format, it became my favorite thing to do. I kept living to create these. I knew that the work that I would leave behind would outlive me as a person, and that was the primary motivating force. Now we’re here and I’m proud. These stand alone and they’ll be here when I’m not.
There are deceased writers whose works I adore. Their texts have reached audiences they wouldn’t have ever been able to fathom, because our species transforms and grows and ebbs and flows. Ernest Becker doesn’t know who I am, but had I not stumbled upon his works, I probably wouldn’t be here. The opportunity to have left something behind that others will connect with is as inspiring as anything else.
What did you learn as you wrote?
It became clear early on that each maxim possessed a life of its own. The density of each maxim varies, but their independence allows readers to sit with one at a time and take from it what they will. There are hundreds of attempts to connect an idea with the reader, and that gave the body of work more weight in my opinion.
I learned that these are tiring to create, and reading them is even more fatiguing, especially if you read them all in one sitting. Each maxim is a thought exercise in its own right. They’re designed to come back to and to be thought through in ideative ways.
I started to understand how differently these maxims can be interpreted based off of the reader’s experiences. It’s difficult to predict which will resonate and which will evoke less of an internal response. I find that more exciting than concerning.
How did this process compare to writing your raps?
It’s entirely different. It’s far more free-form than writing lyrics that are required to be on tempo and fit around sound. The words stand on their own, and every thought is allowed to stand on its own. From a writer’s perspective, it was less stressful. I’ve felt free to go wherever my mind stumbles to and to extract from that. The lack of thematic burden has been relieving.
I’m so excited to host the cover reveal for Nathan’s gorgeous compilation of maxims. Without further ado, please take a look at the cover!