try less hard


Try Less Hard is a zine that was written and drawn collaboratively by Sarah Best and David Emanuel. You can buy a copy for $8 at Quimby's, a fantastic independent bookstore in Chicago, or by emailing us at

What is it?

Try Less Hard is the story of a king and his owltopus. Try Less Hard is about leaving home, remembering the places that you have left, imagining the places you haven't been yet, and acquiring experience along the way. It's both funny and poignant, and there's a lot of meat in it.


How was it made?

From 2005-06, Sarah and Raver were members of a multidisciplinary arts group called Structures Without Integrity. The group presented an installation called Simultaneous Landscapes at Version, an indie arts festival in Chicago, in 2006.

Structurs Without Integrity collaborators built volcanoes, forts, a cardboard city, a giant house made out of bread and other 2D, 3D, and performative elements for the installation. During the festival, they led tours of real and imaginary places using the structures in the installation as landmarks. The collaborators invited festival goers to interact with and change the landscape as they explored the space.

Raver and Sarah collaborated on an audio tour of Heimaey, a volcanic island located off of the southwest coast of Iceland. The tour blended historical facts about the island's history and a volcanic erruption in 1973, with fantasy.

As festival goers listened to the audio tour they were invited to take certain actions: 1) don shoes that looked like small houses and "migrate" from the volcanic island to the mainland 2) create a bundle of objects that represents what you would take with you if you were suddenly asked to leave your home during a natural disaster 3) catalog your belongings and 4) draw maps and pictures of the island before and after a volcanic erruption.

The objects in the installation, the materials generated by festival goers, and Sarah's photographs of the installation and how it changed over the course of the festival, were the raw materials that Sarah and Raver used to create a brand new story, Try Less Hard. The process of creating the zine took nearly a year and encompassed collaborative writing and collage.


A note about collaboration

Try Less Hard is a philosophy for artistic collaboration.

Definition #1: Try less hard is relying less on inspiration and more on process and collaboration. Try less hard is listening, being patient, being tolerant, being still. It is hard to try less hard. We sometimes fail when we try to try less hard. Try less hard is a work in progress.

Definition #2: Try less hard is letting work direct itself, allowing the process to take its course. Try les hard is near the owltopi, fish coats and shores made of bread. It can be cultivated as a houseplant with the requisite constraints, collaboration, fertilization and many hours of work. It takes more time than trying hard.

Try Less Hard is partially supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council, a stage agency.

The cover of try less hard.


A running list of things we like:

  • Finding new words in the dictionary
  • Iceland
  • Tiny plastic farm animals
  • Fake trees
  • Postcards
  • Our former collaborators, Ira Murfin, Irene Hodes and Brianne Waychoff
  • Electrical tape
  • Finnegan's Wake
  • Volcanos
  • Drum machines
  • Agricultural textbooks
  • Poems by Elizabeth Bishop
  • Collaborative writing
  • Fort Nap
  • Maps
  • Compasses
  • Lists of things
  • National Geographic
  • Giant houses made out of bread
  • The owltopus
  • Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities
  • Goat Island Performace Group