And here’s what it looks like in my diary, without any cleanup:
In this week’s newsletter, I share collages and pages from my COVID diaries.
Here’s one of them:
Easy one page diary exercise #kleondiaries
And here’s what the newsletter looks like before I write it:
His idea of “convergences” — when something resembles something else, or makes you go, “that reminds me of…” and you make “free associative linkages” — has been a big influence on me. (See my blog tag: “Convergences.”)
Here is an example of a convergence from Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences:
In this recent taxonomy, Weschler proposes a spectrum of things that resemble one another, ranging from an imagined but not real connection (“apophenia”) to a connection that is being deliberately concealed (plagiarism).
The only trouble is that these marvelous pieces have been sort of buried in his numbered Substack issues, so I’m hoping by sharing these images from my diary and direct links to the pieces, maybe it’ll make you want to click through. It’s a lot to sift through, but it rewards the sifter.
First up is an introduction to the concept of “convergences.”
Second is Apophenia, Chance/Accident, and Affinity, or “inchoate projections, vague coincidences and misty affinities” in which there is no real underlying connection other than the one we make.
The third installment is “Co-Causation,” or “that part of the widening spectrum where if things happen to look alike, it’s because they’re likely to be drawing on the same sorts of sources.”
The fourth installment covers “Direct Influence” and “Invocation,” or, “the kind of things that happen as one artist or thinker or group of such artists or thinkers impacts upon another—both forward and backward, and consciously and unconsciously.”
The fifth installment covers Allusion, Quotation, Appropriation, Cryptomnesia, and Plagiarism. (My favorite of the batch.) Weschler ends at a point on the spectrum in which things resemble each other for a reason, but the reason is being hidden from us.
I suspect that some of us are wired to see these convergences more than others. But I also think this way of seeing is very infectious. (I call it “the world keeps showing me these pictures.”)
Today’s newsletter is my diary of taking a real vacation after being home for two years.
“Your kids… They don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
My grandma died on Monday night. I wrote these pages in my diary yesterday morning, and reflexively, almost without thinking, posted them on my Instagram. Since then, I have been awash in kind condolences in the comments.
I was surprised by how many people mentioned how well I knew grandma. One sentiment seemed to be something like, “How nice to be known like this!”
I was blessed with grandmas who had things they liked to do and things they liked to do with me. I always took it for granted that they shared who they were with me.
This is not a given thing, having adults in our lives who love us and are willing to let us really see them.
Yesterday I re-read an interview with one of my favorite songwriters, Bill Callahan, and he spoke about his relationship with his mother:
“I never understood her,” he admits. “And I didn’t ever feel like she was being honest or expressing her feelings my whole life. As she was getting older, I begged her: Show your children who you are, because we want to know before you die. She couldn’t do it. So now she’s still just an unfinished person for me.” He rubs his eyes and his spirit seems to lighten, as if suddenly struck with a pleasant memory. “We only have this time, each of us, 70 or 80 years, if we’re lucky. What’s the point of hiding?”
“Show your children who you are.” Or: Love what you do in front of the kids in your life.
It is a great gift to them, and the best way to be remembered.
In Show Your Work! I wrote about a way of working I call “chain smoking”: lighting the beginning of one project up with the end of another.
“We work because it’s a chain reaction,” Charles Eames said.
Each piece leads to the next.
One thing leads to another.
I wanted to show you four collages I made in sequence to show how my chain smoking actually plays out.
The collage on the above right, “Get Back,” began with the old image of Circleville, my hometown, which was ripped from a box of Wittich’s chocolates my mom brought for Christmas. I made it on New Year’s Eve.
(I don’t usually give my collages titles, but I am in this case, just for clarity.)
This next collage, “Go,” was made in my diary on the page facing “Get Back” a few hours later. It started as scraps of tape I didn’t use in “Get Back, ” then I added the security envelope pattern to match, and found some old onion prints I had made on newsprint that seemed to echo the wheel of Circleville.
I much prefer “Go” to “Get Back” — it’s looser, more visually interesting.
I wasn’t trying too hard.
I made this piece, “10-2-4,” on New Year’s Day, with the label from the box of a 4-pack of Dr. Pepper my son Owen got for Christmas. (10, 2, and 4 are the times of day the Dr. Pepper company research showed that people needed a pick-me-up.) I added even more onion prints from the newsprint I’d pulled out for “Go.”
The afternoon after I made “10-2-4,” I started the piece on the left, “Waves.” What’s interesting is that the beginning of the piece doesn’t actually show up in the finished piece: I had started with Sinclair Lewis’s head from the NYTimes Book Review, and thought it’d be cool to have the onion prints exploding out of his head:
I didn’t think this was very interesting at all, but I liked the way the waves looked — they reminded me of Hokusai — so I simply covered up the head:
I should note that almost none of this was planned out, and I wasn’t conscious of this chain when it was happening. When I make these pieces, I’m in a flow zone, working with mostly just instinct, moving things around on the page.
What’s remarkable to me is that in each pairing, it was the piece made of “leftovers” that led me to the most interesting place.
That’s the beauty of collage and working with real materials: when you don’t have a plan, when you don’t know where you’re going, you end up somewhere you didn’t anticipate.
It’s real discovery.
* * *
If you like behind-the-scenes posts like this, you’ll love my newsletter.
“I used to steal magazines from a store on Genesee Street, in Waukegan, and read them and then steal them back on the racks again. That way I took the print off with my eyeballs and stayed honest. I didn’t want to be a permanent thief, and I was very careful to wash my hands before I read them.”
What I do is, I keep a list of phrases in my notebook I want to make and then when I have a minute or I’m burned out, I make one.
Sometimes they’re phrases we say a lot around the house. (This one is stolen from one of my favorite movies, Withnail and I. I say this in mock outrage a lot to my kids.)
Sometimes they’re more abstract. (I took the Target tape off a package.)
Sometimes it’s a phrase I can’t stand. (“Don’t get me wrong.”)
Sometimes my wife suggests one like “They can’t all be winners.”
Sometimes I notice a phrase everybody starts saying.
I like to do conversational shortcuts and the passive-aggressive phrases you hear a lot in the South and the Midwest.
These pieces are very different than my other work, so it’s not exactly clear to me what I should do with them. Not sure they’re right for a book, but maybe I can work my way up to a dozen or so and make a notecard set or a series of posters out of them.
That’s the thing about new work, it’s not really your job to judge it, you just keep the channel open and let the stuff come…