Some of the kids’ drawings fall into the “I don’t want to recycle this, but I can’t see keeping it in a folder,” and those often get pasted into my notebook. Funny thing is, I have a hunch that these collaged scraps will mean more to me in the future than some perfect, saved drawing. (“Oh, this is when J was into drawing Kraftwerk and O was into playing waiter…”)
I think you really have to see the days to know what you can do with them.
I cut up one of my calendars and taped what’s left of April to May and June and, voila, it made 10 whole weeks. I like seeing them all there, without the month headings. Makes what I’m doing seem more doable, somehow.
I got this sign from Aesthetic Apparatus back in 2014 and it’s hung in my studio ever since. An evergreen status for parents of young children.
Sometimes when the 5-year-old is being really annoying I’ll draw a comic of him to snap him out of it. Then sometimes he’ll ask to draw, too:
I often draw his one-liners as a little single panel comic in my diary:
Sometimes our conversations warrant multiple panels:
Some mornings he will hover over my diary and ask to read all of them. As Camus said, “One has to pass the time somehow…”
I don’t answer my phone without knowing who’s calling, but from now on I’ll think of Jason Robards in A Thousand Clowns every time I open my inbox.
I love reading more than one book at a time and letting the books talk to each other. I love promiscuous reading. Here’s Octavia Butler on her practice:
I generally have four or five books open around the house—I live alone; I can do this—and they are not books on the same subject. They don’t relate to each other in any particular way, and the ideas they present bounce off one another. And I like this effect. I also listen to audio-books, and I’ll go out for my morning walk with tapes from two very different audio-books, and let those ideas bounce off each other, simmer, reproduce in some odd way, so that I come up with ideas that I might not have come up with if I had simply stuck to one book until I was done with it and then gone and picked up another.
I’m currently dipping in and out of two books: 1) Harold Gatty’s Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass — a 1958 wayfinding manual and Christmas gift from my wife — and 2) Tom Hart’s How To Say Everything, material Tom’s been working on for the past decade, but just recently published in book form.
They compliment each other beautifully on the subject of storing up images. Here’s Gatty:
There is something which all the greatest artists and writers, naturalists and scientists, voyagers and explorers, poets and pioneers, share. It is an interest in the external world and the ability to contribute something creative to human life in this world by means of taking parts of the world to pieces and putting them all together again. The ability to observe, and the ability to see the little things that seem trivial at first, may become amazingly important and meaningful. Out of little observations huge ideas may grow; and if a mind, made receptive by training in the use of the senses, can store away a mass of observations, the time will come when the whole collection can be unrolled, connected together as a great novel is planned, in a compelling pattern that tells us something new.
And here’s Hart, quoting Stanislavski, in his chapter, “Creating A Store”:
You must be constantly adding to your store. For this purpose you draw… principally upon your own impressions, feelings and experiences. You also acquire material from life around you, real and imaginary, from reminiscences, books, art, science, knowledge of all kinds, from journeys, museums and above all from communication with other human beings.
In both of these contexts the word “store” refers to stocking up or keeping a supply for future use, like a squirrel, but it also conjures retail associations in my brain. I’m reminded of Allen Ginsberg, in “A Supermarket in California,” who, dreaming of Walt Whitman, wandering around, looking at the moon, stops into the neon supermarket, “shopping for images.”
That seems to be so much of what I’m always doing — shopping for images — adding to the store, stocking up for the future…
Top image: Drawing of a brain by Jules (3)
My new favorite thing, stolen from Ryan Holiday: Whenever I’m scheduled for a long phone call, I go for a walk.
In the past month, I’ve talked for 2 hours to my dad while I walked the greenbelt home from downtown, chatted with my friend John on a 3-mile hike in the woods behind my house, and caught up with my editor on the trails behind my branch library. It’s been really delightful.
Best of all, if you’re using a headset, you can still use your camera when you’re on the phone. Here are some pictures I’ve taken while chatting:
Cutting and pasting comic strips is one of my favorite ways to clear my brain. I especially like cutting up a whole page of the comics section and swapping dialogue from one strip to another. Here’s Blondie with dialogue from Garfield:
Then I love taking the scraps and making new one-panel cartoons:
“When I’m finished and the work is off the loom, it sits there and ruminates. Then it starts having a name in spite of myself.”
“Part of the impetus to name things is that if you don’t they get called Untitled, and that just gets to be a drag to have a thing referred to as ‘untitled.’”
I’m one of those writers who likes to come up with the title for the piece first and then write the thing. That’s how my last two books worked, but now I’m working on this new book, and nobody can agree on any of the titles I’ve come up with so far.
In My Life in France, Julia Child writes about what a pain in the ass it was to come up with the title for Mastering The Art of French Cooking. She and her husband Paul debated “the merits of poetic titles versus descriptive titles.” They made lists and lists of titles, trying to come up with the right “combination of words and associations” that would work.
Editor Judith Jones (who got the original manuscript with the title “French Recipes for American Cooks”) finally came up with the title after “playing with a set of words like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, trying to get them to fit together.” (Dramatized in the movie, Julie & Julia.) This seems to me like a totally sensible approach, so I’m stealing it: I’m writing words I like on index cards, and shuffling them around.
Still, even if you come up with a great title, there will be Unbelievers. Alfred Knopf, when he heard Jones’ title, supposedly shook his head and said, “I’ll eat my hat if anyone buys a book with that title!”