When the Art is Just For Us
Oh my god I’m going on book tour!
What is fun about this tour is that some of these events will be chit-chats and some will be panels and some will be craft talks and some will be write-alongs and all of them are going to be great because it will be all of us together hanging out and talking about writing and creativity. I’m really looking forward to it!
A small addendum to this announcement is I am also doing a virtual event on January 9 with London Writers Salon during the day. (Details tk.) There will be a few more events this spring, too. If your organization would like me to come visit, please contact my speaking agency. And remember, if you would like a signed copy a great place to pre-order it from is Loyalty Bookstores.
Hope to see you in January! I’m psyched!
Thank you to these brave authors for taking the time to ask for a ceasefire during the National Book Awards ceremony, and thank you to the National Book Awards for creating a space for it. These authors have worked so hard to make their art, and to share last night’s spotlight with a request for peace was such an honorable moment. I admire their fearlessness and respect for humanity. I was inspired.
Take the inspiration where you can get it, when you can get it. If not for your art then at least for your soul.
Lately I’ve been reconfiguring where I get my news and ideas and inspiration, particularly online. I appreciate it when smart people share their knowledge. I am grateful for the wisdom of others. I crave education. I want to be constantly evolving and challenging myself and listening and learning from other people. This is one main point of life, to me.
In terms of being online, I used to use twitter as one of my primary resources to find links to information and inspiration, but now twitter is mostly useless. So, particularly in terms of creative inspiration, I have found myself reading more newsletters lately. For news, creative ideas, thoughtful engagement, and links to other resources. Gathering and assessing your resources can help you prepare for new phases of your work.
Elif Batuman’s letter in particular has been an absolute joy. I really enjoyed her last letter where she talked about “plagiarizing” herself. How she was interested in returning to earlier works/ideas/themes, but sometimes that’s seen as bad form in the writing world. She seemed to be done worrying about what anyone else thought, though. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to continue a conversation or reframe it? Why can’t we quote ourselves? Why do we think about the same things over and over again? (Why the fuck not?)
I got very excited by her letter because I recycle/reuse/reframe ideas all the time, but don’t really talk about it. I wrote Elif with great gusto:
“I definitely have plagiarized myself! I am thinking of things I used in the newsletter, then transformed them into sections of my memoir, then pulled them out again to use in the 1000 WORDS book. The words are slightly different each time, and also living in a different context. Not just the context of letter vs memoir vs motivational book but also the context of the surrounding chapter. I also have used similar sentences/phrases and themes and images from book to book and it does not bother me and in fact I enjoy it because it is my universe and I can do whatever I want with it…I may write about this in my letter, again plagiarizing myself. Who cares? We are just taking care of ourselves!”
Even if you are just a long-time reader of this newsletter you will certainly see how repetitive I am at times (sorry) (whatever, it’s free, so not that sorry) but I wonder how it is even possible to write everything new and fresh all the time for years and years in a row across any kind of medium? Again I think it’s the context that changes things, the framework of the discussion. I lean on that.
And also where you, the reader, are coming from, changes things. (You are the inherent context!) Reading a newsletter I might have written about how to do an intense edit of your novel might be meaningless to you when you are just starting out at the beginning of a new project and are just looking for general inspiration about making art, but it might mean a lot more to you a year later when you’ve got this big messy pile of words and you are trying to figure out what to do with them.
This whole project of mine is meant to support you as you write and it is truly a cyclical process: we just go through the same shit over and over again. Same agony and joy, same neuroses, same exhilaration. Hopefully we grow as writers and learn new things while we work on our projects, but I think we all know it is truly about sitting down and doing the work, which is just an extremely repetitive act. If you can find ways to crack things open and make them more interesting for yourself, then I say go for it. Break those rules.
When I leave little Easter eggs from book to book it’s a gift for myself, to entertain myself, and to extend the storyline of my life as a writer. My storyline. For me. Sometimes our art is just for us. It has to be.
Have you ever re-used or re-framed your work? Have you ever seen the impact of something you’ve written change over time? Or re-read something and suddenly noticed a different meaning in it? (You have, I know you have.)
I felt very free thinking about all of this these past few days. When things are all mucked up and intense and complicated in the world, at least, for a moment, we can free ourselves when we think about making our art.
p.p.s. Today’s donation goes to New Orleans Mission.