“Be mindful. Stop. Don’t ‘just do.’”
– James Shelley
written by Jasmine Hon
It is becoming more and more common nowadays to see people running on autopilot – heavily relying on their electronic devices and consuming information without fully understanding it – so the Caesura Letters were born out of a personal effort by James Shelley to create more time for pause and reflection in his own life.
“Caesura” is defined as two vertical parallel lines indicating a full stop or pause in poetry or music. James chose it as the title of his project, because his ideas about life, living, and sociology are reflective and contemplative in nature. “The Caesura Letters are an incarnation of what I love most about life: a time to stop and catch a breath while the world races on,” he said. They are published in various electronic formats, and a compilation of 60 pieces is published every three months. The fifth volume came out last December 21st.
Although copyright and open-source sharing are becoming issues of concern for many writers, James remains untroubled. To him, the Caesura Letters are simply something he greatly enjoys doing. “There isn’t anything I’d rather be doing. This is it,” he said. “Find what brings you meaning in life, and chase after it.”
The project’s debut was two years ago, yet James has never once run out of ideas to write about. He is constantly researching and learning more about subjects that he is interested in, and the money he earns goes back into the project for more research.
To artists or entrepreneurs who are hesitant on starting a new project, James says, “Why not? You’re only on this planet once. It is sad how many people seem fixed with the way things are in their life, job, whatever – implicitly saying that the way things are shall forever remain that way.”
He credits advancements in communicative mediums and lowered barriers of entry for having fostered the startup community, allowing artists like himself to realize their dreams. Startups are having large geographical impacts; the majority of James’ readers live in urban centers all around the world. James does most of his promoting online, and his reader base has grown remarkably over the years. “I don’t really have a coherent strategy,” James admits, “I just kind of go along and see what works, what doesn’t, and continue from there.” Although he calls himself a researcher and writer before a businessman, James also identifies himself an entrepreneur, as he is managing his own enterprise that requires a considerable amount of initiative and risk.
James is very excited about his future plans. “What’s most exciting is that nobody really knows what the future of the written word is in a world of digital publishing,” he said. The Caesura Letters will be launching its first app (for iOS devices) early in 2014.
Through my conversation with James, I realized that my responsibility as a writer should be to write pieces powerful enough to provoke a change in readers. I have read a number of Caesura letters now, and every single one of them after reading has made me pause to reflect on my place in society. I am inspired by this project to always ask myself whether my writing would be compelling enough to stop readers in their tracks – I do not want it to be another thing for them to just consume while running on autopilot.
Jasmine Hon is a first-year student studying Media, Information and Technoculture (MIT) at Western University with Advanced Entry Opportunity (AEO) to the Richard Ivey School of Business. While her interests lie within the fields of journalism and business, she is uncertain as to the kind of career she’d like to pursue in the future. For now, Jasmine is just greatly inspired by the entrepreneurs she’s met to continue working hard and discovering more about her passions. In her spare time, this eighteen-year-old is often spotted exploring the city of London, visiting the farmer’s market, or tapping away furiously on her laptop in various coffee shops around the city.”