The other day I was texting with my friend and collaborator Jacques about my desire to make cool things, not cool as in hip or stylish, but cool as in it feels good in my bones that this exists in the world. I said, “Let’s only make good art!” which is the kind of goofy thing maybe you only send over text but also why the hell not? It’s fun to think about making art, it’s soothing to think about goodness. Jacques thought maybe I should write about that line so I said I would give it a shot.
Just been wandering around at night, being obsessed with my neighborhood
I know that sometimes we have to write things that may feel less artful or satisfying in order to pay our bills or sometimes we have to write a letter we’d rather not have to send or sometimes we receive an edit or a note that turns a project into something different than what we originally had hoped to do. So we don’t always get to make good art, because for most of us, life is not a beautiful daydreamy world where all of our time is just ours.
But still, I think this is the thing we should be striving for, that one of our ultimate goals, if we take on any kind of project for ourselves, is to make something that we will feel proud of. Perhaps one that will evince some sort of specific emotion when it is consumed. Even if it is not some deeply serious one! It is more than fine, definitely Good, to make people feel relieved or amused. I only mean that we should be working toward something specific. We should have a particular point of view we are trying to express. We should be saying the things we want to say. We should be expressing the thing that is in our heart.
Let’s make the things that we love, that feel right to us, that we desire, we crave, that fulfill us, and we think belong out in the world. Not making a thing that we think we’re supposed to necessarily. Shut out the outside voices. This is yours and no one else’s. It becomes better instantly when you make it wholly yours.
And we should really be trying to make it the best that we can. Not cutting any corners. Giving it our time and love and affection. Doing whatever we need to do. The research, the reading, the thoughtfulness, the rigorousness, the showing up every day, the touching it, the considering it, the daydreaming about it, the asking for help when you need it. That’s how you make good art.
It’s your fucking art and no one else’s. Take care of it.
I’m nearly done with this new draft of my novel — I’ll send it out this week. It will be a while till I get edits back, and another month or so till I get copyedits back on the other book. How will I fill my time? Well for one thing I’m prepping for the new session of #1000wordsofsummer which starts June 17. But what about my daily practice?
I could just not write, take some time off, but I’m not really happy if I don’t have at least a little something to contemplate. This morning with my coffee and notebook I did see a new character emerge out of nowhere, one who was different than any I’ve ever written before. I’m not surprised. Lately I‘ve been reading The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, and the stories are pretty wild, beautiful and grotesque and weird, and it’s been doing funny things to my brain. What a pleasure it is to try something new.
After I was done spending some time with this character, I wrote beneath it, “Work on this just to have a thing to do while you wait.” And then, without thinking, I added, “Make yourself a friend.” And that is why I keep writing. Because I could always use another friend.
Hope you all have a healthy and productive week.
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 Whole Village Art Therapy.
Thanks. As a new writer, it's so hard to balance the need to produce with the creation of "art".
This is inspiring on many levels. Appreciate you, Jamie. Thanks!