“Tell all the truth but tell it slant…”
— Emily Dickinson
It feels like it should be a time in which people need advice more than ever, but I’m not so sure. (And though I could be seen as a professional propagator of advice, on the whole, I am skeptical of giving it.) I think, in all times, but especially in these, if you sit quietly for long enough, you can hear that voice inside you that tells you exactly what you need to do.
“Advice, wrote David Foster Wallace in The Pale King, “even wise advice — actually does nothing for the advisee, changes nothing inside, and can actually cause confusion when the advisee is made to feel the wide gap between the comparative simplicity of the advice and the totally muddled complication of his own situation and path.” (I got that from Tim Kreider, who is “Against Advice.”)
Besides, as Steinbeck said, “No one wants advice — only corroboration.” I think my advice books mainly give voice to what the reader already thought but couldn’t put into words. The books are permission slips, in a sense. “Go make some art!”
Then again, some advice is good. I know I always sought it when I was starting out. A reader on Twitter a few days ago told me, “Thanks to your advice I’ve stopped being an artist and I’m making art again.” That was my message perfectly distilled and it made my whole day.
Anyways, this zine is not actually about advice at all. It’s about the power of staying quiet when people ask you how you’re doing what you’re doing. Refusing to answer, Bartleby style. (“I prefer not to!”) Because the thing you’re doing is still very close to you, and it’s still very much alive, and like a wild horse that’s somehow letting you take a ride, you don’t want to spook it. Or it’s a gift being given to you and you don’t want to cheapen it. Whatever metaphor you want to use, it’s something precious to you right now, and you don’t want it out in the air. You want to keep it close and see where it goes. And besides, those who really look close, they’ll get what they’re looking for.
But it’s also about how much easier it is to say these things with art. And how freaking good it feels not to talk, but to make.