Shitty sublets, broken hearts, and old-fashioned dreams of “making it” are just a few of themes you’ll find in @TheProspectives, an Instagram-published serial now in its second installment. (Each day, creator Adam Hurly publishes an illustration and caption on Instagram and readers are encouraged to follow along, but you can also read everything here.) After a fictional first season following Eric, an aspiring talent manager, Adam decided to turn the filter on himself for the second series, an autobiographical retelling of his journey from South Dakota to Brooklyn.
Anyone who’s ever searched for an apartment, a job, or love in New York will immediately take to Adam’s story, one of credit card debt, Grindr-fueled love triangles, and a fate so horrible I’m tempted not to type it (okay, it’s bed bugs). But it’s not all a downer — interspersed between the lows are the highest of highs, like landing a dream job and finding one’s own NYC-family of friends, along with biweekly interviews with other aspiring creatives. Ahead, Adam talks about the creation of the project, the pros and cons of telling one’s story publicly, and how he balances his creative work while making ends meet. [Full disclosure: Adam and I used to work together and are still friends.] —MML
How’d you come up with the idea for @TheProspectives?
I had a lot of friends who were hitting their stride, and a lot of the things they were doing really had no defined path. One of my friends I feature in this story, Eliot [Glazer], is a comedian who was just sort of making weird videos and doing stand up all the time; another friend of mine, [Patrick Janelle], was trying to be this social media personality and man about town.
Suddenly I saw them creating careers and making a living for themselves, and I decided that if my end goal is to be a writer full-time, I needed to find the thing that would be the “first thing.” In doing that, I looked at my screenplays as creative writing. I’ve written a few.
How’d you transition from screenwriting to publishing stories on Instagram?
Instagram just felt like a natural way to find people where they already were. You can start a blog, but to get people to go out of their way every day to read it is a really tall ask. I have about 100 subscribers either on the site or via email, but all of those people have found @TheProspectives through the Instagram channel. That’s always been the starting point.
What’s it like getting instant reader feedback on Instagram?
The feedback is great, actually. Instagram is great for finding a community. It’s so bizarre to me that so many people have found me through the algorithm — it pops up in their explore feed, or their friend likes a photo, or the friend tags them and says, Read this. [I’ve met] random people from England, France, the Philippines, China, the West Coast, and Missouri; people who live in New York City and have become friends because of it. I’ve met my next illustrator because of it.
As a writer, getting that feedback has been the most rewarding part. Like today’s post didn’t have any comments on it, and I knew it wouldn’t because it was purely exposition. But I love knowing when I’m going to illicit, like, a gasp or knowing today’s going to be a [big] comment day.
What’s the story behind the title?
The first two stories all take place in Prospect Heights [a neighborhood near Prospect Park in Brooklyn], so that’s sort of the home base. The theme of the first two stories has been people who are at a point in their life where they’re past this whole Lena Dunham, “what am I gonna do with my life” quarter-life crisis; they know what they’re going to do with their life, but they’re facing the scary realities that come with that. They’re all prospective-somethings: prospective writers, prospective singers, prospective talent managers. All of these people are full of potential and it’s yet to be used up. It’s exciting because they know how to use it, but they’re scared that they’re going to waste it. They’re scared that it’s finite.
The first installment followed a fictitious narrative, centered on an aspiring talent manager in NYC, and this second installment has been autobiographical, tracing your move to New York and all of the romantic and professional foibles that came with it. Why’d you decide to make that switch?
I want every installment to be completely unique. I wanted to be challenged. I have to say I like writing fiction better; I really don’t love writing about myself. I‘ve had to ask a lot of people to be vulnerable with me, and I’ve had to ask a lot of people to allow me to write about them. I’ve had to worry a lot about what work would think about what I’m writing, what my parents would think about what I’m writing. And I hate thinking that it can affect a lot of those relationships.
Has it affected you personally?
On the one hand, it’s been good for me to unpack a lot of those things and to look at them and to try to understand them. But on the other hand, I’ve had to unpack things that didn’t need to be unpacked. I feel like I’ve grown up in a weird way. It’s one thing to just say, I did this, I did this, and this happened. My goal with the story is to say, Because I did this, this was the ripple effect, and this is what I realized after the fact. More than anything, it has made me make more careful decisions.
We’re always interested in how creative people make money. @TheProspectives isn’t your full time job, right?
No, I lose money on @TheProspectives. I pay my illustrators; I want [them] to want to be part of it and I want to show that they are a valuable part of the process, and I want them to be proud to have their name on it. So if that’s even a small amount of cash every week and a monthly expense for me, it emphasizes how much the project means to me if I’m willing to pay for it.
So how do you make money and how do make time for your creative work?
Right now, I am a freelance editor and writer. For the longest time I was balancing a job that would be anywhere from 40-50 hours a week with this and I would find myself dedicating entire Sundays to that week’s episodes. What I like a lot more about being freelance is that I’ve been able to do them in one or two or three bits, where before I would only sit down to do them if I had time to write all seven. It’s a really healthy, gradual creative process. I wanted a writing process that wouldn’t make me hate writing. I’ve been writing @TheProspectives for two years now and I absolutely love it. I’m most excited about the one I’m about to do, [which launches Summer 2016].
What can you tell us about it?
Let’s say: Middle-aged lesbian love triangle noir melodrama.
What do you hope to achieve with this project?
My goal with this is to create more opportunities and to show people that there are ways, innovative ways, to tell the stories you want to tell. There are ways to find an audience, you just have to be ahead of the curve with it.
I want to look back on this project and say, That’s when it all started. I want this to be the thing where I say, Because I wrote that, opportunities followed. Because I wrote it and because I was proud of it, and because I was confident, and because I found my audience; I want that to be the reason that in 20 years I am where I am. But where I am is totally undefined and I’m excited that it’s undefined. I’m just certain that this will be why.Top: Illustration of Adam Hurly by Levi Hastings