Music Opens The Door
My memoir, I Came All This Way to Meet You, is one of Time Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of the Year here in the US, as well as one of the Times of London’s Best Books of the Year over in the UK. If you would like to order a personalized copy of any of my novels or my memoir as a holiday gift, I’m happy to take a ride up to Blue Cypress Books and sign them for you.
Also, these newsletters are free, but if you feel like subscribing this holiday season (50% goes to charitable donations), that would be amazing. Either way, happy you’re here.
I had visitors in town this past week, which means I had less time to do my work. I did start every day with listening to music from different years of the book as I had decided to do last week, and I strangely have a newfound respect for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band? And somehow never want to listen to the music of Billy Joel ever again? My favorite moment was when I realized we were leaving the rocker era of the 1970s and sliding into disco with Donna Summer, Sister Sledge, and Blondie. I was like, well maybe some of these kids can have a little fun at last.
So it has actually been a quite soothing and thoughtful experiment which has helped me to stay in the book even if I have had less time to work on it than I thought I would. To sit down and look at the chapter for a moment and think, now it is 1976, be in 1976 for a second, think about these characters and what they are wearing and what is playing in the car as they drive from place to place, and what they might hum in the shower, and who they might get tickets to see play at the state fair, and who might be playing on the stereo as they sit in the living room having a stiff drink at the end of a long, tough day. It’s just another way to get yourself in the room with your characters. Music opens the door and escorts you in with a solid familiarity.
So I listened to the music and I felt OK and like I was still connected and that made me feel safe, that there was a safe relationship in my life, between me and my work. Every day, just starting it with being at least a little intellectually stimulated. And with a feeling of safety. A little gift I gave myself.
I know I’ve mentioned this a hundred times but there’s so much value in just touching your work every day, circling it, thinking about why you started it. If you can’t be totally in it all the time just keep it close to your heart. This is it, the holiday season is really heating up. You’re about to see your time disappear before your eyes for the next month. Parties, family, long-standing commitments. “I’m just going with it,” says everyone I talk to, and they throw their hands up in the air, and really, that’s all you can do. No one should beat themself up for having a good time, not on my watch anyway.
Alternately this time of year can bring a solitude you may or may not prefer to be experiencing. I’ve had some really quiet Christmases in my life. Hello, Jew over here, so it’s not my holiday, but still, it was a holiday, and things got downright silent. There are times when we’re too lonely to make art — it can happen. Our hearts and minds need a little warmth. Being alone is helpful for the creative process but we need to know we are loved, too, and not entirely alone in this world, that when we emerge from the creative cocoon there will be someone there waiting for us. Christmas can make you feel like it’s just you.
But it’s not just you. I have to remind myself of that all the time.
Touch the work however it’s possible. But also look after yourself when you need it. The words will follow.
Thanks for reading, and for being here.
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 support the HarperCollins Union.
Thanks for this message- I love knowing that someone else relates to their work in this way- and the way you acknowledged how easily the feels can go to either of the poles (I’ve got nothing going on/I’m overwhelmed with things to do). Reading this message felt like a friend swinging their arm around my shoulder, reminding me that it’s going to be alright.
Needed this today. Thank you!