A Studio Uniform
If you’re in New Orleans, I added a last-minute event: I’ll be reading with Samantha Hunt tonight, April 23rd, at the Allways Lounge.
If you’re in Paris on May 16, I’ll be in conversation with Lauren Collins at The American Library in Paris.
#1000wordsofsummer starts in TWO months. Learn more about the history of it here.
A few things I read that I liked this week:
This old interview with Lauren Groff that is chock full of advice.
Catherine Lacey’s newsletter about being on book tour.
Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter about asking for blurbs.
Flow State on Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou.
My friend Brooke is a visual artist who for many years has worked full-time day jobs in addition to keeping her practice steady when possible. I say “when possible” because in the past six years she has also gotten married, welcomed a child into her life, and been displaced from her home for a year because of a hurricane. And yet, somehow through all of this, she has continued to produce art in one way or another. Because, I am guessing, it feels utterly necessary to her.
I find this inspiring. All I do all day is sit around daydreaming about my work with few interruptions except those I might bring upon myself. The last time I worked a full-time office job while writing was a decade ago. I can still recall how challenging it was, though. Add to that a child? I am in awe of the parents out there making their work happen.
Lately she’s been also making quilts, and I got this baby one from her this past winter
Brooke stopped by the house last week and we found ourselves talking about finding space within our home to make our art, but also just even finding the headspace to do it at all in the first place. She told me that in years past, when she has had to put together work for shows while working full-time, she had a simple strategy to get her into the mindset of working at the end of the day: a studio uniform.
She would come home from work and then change into this uniform she had sitting by the front door. Black paint-covered jeans, a brown sweatshirt, yellow shoes. She would have the same meal, too: a frozen Annie’s organic pizza, on top of which she would put fresh arugula. She would wear the uniform, eat the pizza, do this for months, until all the work was done for the show.
There’s something about removing all the choices from your life that can help clear that headspace for making all the choices you need when it comes to your art. I will eat the same scrambled eggs with greens for breakfast for months, and have the same turkey sandwich for lunch. Walk the same exact path through my neighborhood in the afternoon. Wear the same dress for days and days in a row. Laura Dave famously listens to only the same Bruce Springsteen song while she writes her novels.
But listen, the secret to it all is this: you have to decide you want to even make room for yourself to produce your art in the first place. The uniform, the pizza, the music, these details, they all exist already anyway in our regular existences. They’re just potential rituals. You’re not inventing anything new. You’re just applying a framework to it all. A context. This is what I require to make my art. This is what I have to do in order to be this version of myself. And it’s important to me, to be this version of myself. I choose it.
Here’s to making that choice today.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to Sankofa.