Ansel's Pins

Ansel Burch is a writer, performer, creative polymath, and a friend of mine who specializes in re-enactments and professional radio dramas. His use of Pinterest as a way to curate visual representations of the places and people he writes about led me to interview him over the weekend. I’m a big fan of the social media platform, but usually reserve my inspirations in secret boards so as not to tip my hand on projects. Ansel is less concerned with that than I am, which allows others to gain more inspiration from his curating work. You can follow him on Pinterest as captfrobisher, or on Twitter @dndisms.

1. When did you start using Pinterest to organize your inspiration?

Probably about a year ago – I was against it initially, but my wife convinced me that it was a good idea, and I came around eventually. It’s currently the best way online to categorize and keep images for a specific project. Google Images seems to use textual parameters around the articles attached to an image, rather than the image itself; and Pinterest also loads faster on the smartphone, which is my main means of interaction with it.

2. Why do you find Pinterest useful for this?

You and I both work mostly with the written word, which can become very ethereal if you let it. Especially with my radio plays, when you’re writing, there’s sometimes this dream aspect where the characters move from point a to point b with no real description.

But if you have a visual concept you can refer back to, you get a more solid concept of “the rocket is so big, and people have to go from here to here …” You can narrate it more effectively. The characters have to get through the airlock, get around the bulkheads, etc. Getting that concept of where you are visually is so key when your work is mostly verbal and textual.

3. Do your ideas generally lead you to images, or vice versa?

I look through my feeds and pin things to the various projects I already have going on. I’ve not yet been inspired to a new project by Pinterest, but it’s given me a lexicon of imagery to work on for future projects.

4. Where do you start looking for your inspiration online?

My feed is made up by following boards rather than following people. I’ll look for an image that’s iconic for what I’m working on, then investigate what board it was pinned to, and follow that board. Then I investigate the lineage of pinning – looking for where similar images or boards exist, and follow up from there.

5. About how much time a week do you spend researching on the site vs. actively creating?

Probably 2-3 hours a week on the high end, mostly during my train commute. I only focus on it if I’ve got a specific project that I need inspiration for. For example, I may spend some dedicated time to get images of important locations or individuals for a storyline. But it’s mostly what I call distraction work.

Active creation usually takes 10-12 hours a week. Less than I’d like, but more than I can justify given the job situation. I’ll give all that active creation time in a day on a single project, rather than splitting the time between projects, and days of the week are devoted to specific projects – Monday I write the radio scripts, Tuesdays before a game are devoted to the upcoming scenario, etc.

6. Do you have a specific project or board you’re proudest of?

The curation for my constructed world of Tendar is probably my most well-designed board. Lots of architecture and landscape which show people exactly what I’m thinking of. There’s less “creep” of unrelated pins and pictures on this board.

7. What feature of Pinterest do you find most useful?

I honestly enjoy the “recommended for you” feature, which I know we disagree on and which my wife finds creepy. But it really delivers things to you, rather than requiring you to go look for specific images and hunt them down. I find it convenient, though of course it’s not perfect. For example, I wind up with a lot of women’s fashion being delivered to me because of the costume boards I frequent.