This week, I shipped off a new, three-months-in-the-making draft to various concerned parties. I felt a sense of relief, and that was it. I had already squeezed every last ounce of catharsis out of the experience. By the end, I was just doing my job.
All photos taken at Shannon Stewart’s “Involuntary Park” show at the Front Gallery.
Sometimes I wonder how I managed to write a book in the past year and didn’t just spend it sobbing in a corner instead. And the answer is always that this is my job and lots of other people did their job this year, too, so I don’t get to check out completely just because I feel sad or overwhelmed — although I did a few times, and that was OK, too. But truly, I was lucky to be strong and healthy. I was able to keep going to the finish line.
(Counterpoint: Melissa Febos has an affecting and thoughtful thread on how we pressure ourselves to work through pain here, and the downsides of it. We hope Melissa feels better soon.)
For me, the end result of working through it is that I have no words left for you this week as I used up all the inspiration on myself.
The brain is broke, friends. But it will return soon enough. I just need a little recharge.
For now, I will suggest a few things for you to consume:
This conversation between Robert Jones, Jr and Kiese Laymon in honor of the launch of his book The Prophets.
This conversation between Maris Kreizman and George Saunders in honor of his new book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain.
Ladee Hubbard’s latest novel, The Rib King.
Dantiel W. Moniz’s debut story collection, Milk Blood Heat, which is technically out February 2, but I heard pre-orders are showing up early.
You could also pre-order a few books:
Kristen Arnett’s second novel, With Teeth.
Melissa Febos’s new essay collection, Girlhood.
Elissa Watusha’s new essay collection, White Magic.
And now, I’m going to take a nice long walk today. I’ll see y’all soon.
You are reading Craft Talk, 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). Last week I donated to Culture>Covid.
It's wild that on 1/24 you said your brain was broke, and then 3 days later you wrote one of the most beautiful Craft Talks to date.
I noticed that you posted yesterday that you started writing some fiction this week, just a scene between two characters. Which has me super curious about how you write. Do you know your story and its end, your characters desires and flaws, what drives the plot? Or do you write like Doctorow, driving in the fog where you can only see as far as your headlights? Or is your process different for each book? I've had three novels published, started and stalled on two more, and am just beginning another one. Thanks!