Make a map

I recently came across Dishoom’s cookery book, a “highly subjective guide to Bombay with map.” The description very clearly explained a path to becoming a leading thinker or authority on something: make a map.

The most obvious place is to start with an area you’re familiar with; where you live, where you work, your favorite part of town, and so on. You could zoom in or out—the more common ground someone can relate to, the more interested they’ll be in looking at your map (e.g., a map of your living room is probably less interesting than your interpretation of a map of downtown):

  • What buildings, spaces, landmarks would you highlight? 
  • How personal do you want to get? 
  • Why is this place significant to you, and what does it mean? 

Most maps, by definition, are subjective; if you’re making one, you need to decide what to highlight and what to omit.

That’s pretty much the process for all creative work—you’re deciding what to leave in, and what to leave out. In other words, you’re expressing your taste and your motivations. 

I haven’t read Dishoom’s book, though I really appreciated Aesop’s guides, and it’s the same idea—except presented in an alphabetical list format instead of a map. 

This is a slightly different topic: You could also “translate” your online activities into a map (see the analogy of platforms as countries): What does spending time at Twitter look like, compared to Medium or Substack? 

Thanks to Peter Kang for tweeting this really cool map. Also, check out Alex Danco’s map of Dancoland, and Terrible Maps.

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