Search Results for: something small every day
Though you might not think it from the comic, I’m actually sympathetic to questions about tools and process, as I myself am a kind of process junky. I love hearing about how other writers work.
I’m also not someone who dismisses questions about tools with the line “the tools don’t matter.” In fact, I think tools matter so much that if you don’t talk about them correctly you can do some damage.
In On Becoming A Novelist, John Gardner wrote:
In my experience the single question most often asked during question-and-answer periods in university auditoriums and classrooms is: “Do you write with a pen, a typewriter, or what?” I suspect the question is more important than it seems on the surface. It brings up magical considerations—the kinds of things compulsive gamblers are said to worry about: When one plays roulette, should one wear a hat or not, and if one should, should one cock it to the left or to the right? What color hat is luckiest? The question about writing equipment also implies questions about that ancient daemon Writer’s Block, about vision and revision, and at its deepest level, asks whether there is really, for the young writer, any hope.
Of the question, “pen, pencil, or typewriter,” Gardner said that there “is of course no right answer… nor is the question worth answering except insofar as it reveals something about the creative process.” Gardner then writes beautifully about the “dreaming” part of writing vs. the “mechanics,” and how bad penmanship or poor typing skills can get in the young writer’s way:
The trouble is that having started up the dream and written some of it down, [the writer’s] become suddenly self-conscious, self-doubting. The dreaming part is angel-like: it is the writer’s eternal, childlike spirit, the daydreaming being who exists (or seems to) outside time. But the part of the writer that handles the mechanics, typing or writing with pencil or pen, choosing one word instead of another, is human, fallible, vulnerable to anxiety or shame.
It’s for exactly this reason that when Lynda Barry was suffering from writer’s block, she decided to write the first draft of her novel Cruddy by hand:
She said, of the first draft:
My goal was to not think about things at all. To dream it out instead, trying very hard not to edit at all as I went. The first draft really took shape when I found that I needed to slow way down and distract myself at the same time so I used a paintbrush and Tuscan red watercolor and painted the manuscript on legal paper, trying to concentrate on the calligraphic aspect of writing rather than trying to craft beautiful sentences. I figured as long as the sentences looked beautiful, the rest would take care of itself.
What I love about Gardner and Barry is that they believe that the tools you use do matter, but the point, for them, is finding the proper tools that get you to a certain way of working in which you can get your conscious, mechanical mind out of the way so that your dreaming can go on, undeterred.
You have to find the right tools to help your voice sing.
For Lynda, it was the paintbrush that allowed her to get to the point where she could basically take dictation—“to dream it out” without editing—but it could’ve been anything, really. (I should note that Lynda happily details the exact sumi-e brush and ink she used to make One! Hundred! Demons! in the back of the book.) While I don’t myself use a brush and legal paper to draft my work, I keep a page from the manuscript hanging in my bedroom to remind me of the importance of handwriting and slowing down.
As for non-fiction writing, my friend Clive Thompson took the “pencil vs. typewriter” thing literally and researched when you should write with a pencil and when you should type on the keyboard.
What he discovered was that handwriting is great for coming up with ideas, for note-taking and big picture thinking. So, when you’re at lectures or in meetings or brainstorming ideas, it’s a good idea to scribble or doodle in your notebook. So always carry a pencil. (Clive got me into Palamino Blackwings.)
Typing, on the other hand, is great for producing writing for other people, say, writing an article. The faster you type, Clive said, the better your ideas will be. There’s a thing called “transcription fluency,” which boils down to: “when your fingers can’t move as fast as your thoughts, your ideas suffer.” If you help people increase their typing speed, their thoughts improve. (Learn to type faster!)
So, yes, the tools matter, but again, it’s all about what you are trying to achieve. So a question like, “What brand of pen do you use?” is not as good as “How do you get that thick line quality?” or “How do you dodge Writer’s Block?”
On my Instagram, a follower was very upset with the above cartoon, saying it was “mean” and “hurtful” and not smart and ungrateful to my fans, and that I should try to “remember what it was like to be a beginner.” I’m gonna quote her at length, because I actually don’t disagree with a lot of what she says (although, I would argue that wrestling with your materials can lead you down interesting paths):
I would politely argue that sometimes the tools DO matter, especially at the beginning. Instead of fighting your materials you can focus on the work. We all have to start somewhere; what better way to get started then to try the tools of a creative person whose work you admire? […] When I see people asking about pens and notebooks I think to myself they must be at the very start of their creative journeys, and they’re looking for guidance, maybe even encouragement; for a place to start.
I try, I think, my best to be helpful to my young fans. (What else is this blog and my books but attempts to be helpful?) But I would also push back a bit here: Sometimes when we talk about artists and writers there’s this expectation that they should always defer to the needs of the young fan. Very rarely do we cut writers and artists a break for maybe being a little tired of a constant barrage of the same question over and over or for not necessarily wanting to take on the role of a teacher, a job which, in my opinion, is a very serious responsibility.
It’s the artist’s job not to be a total dick but it’s also the fan’s job to not overstep. If you want to be someone’s apprentice, but they haven’t agreed to be your teacher, you have to stay silent, watch and learn.
There is a Zen parable in John Cage’s Silence that changed my life:
The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget once said, “Every time you teach a child something you forever rob them of the chance to learn it for themselves.”
There are actually very good reasons for not wanting to teach young artists. There are good reasons for not answering a question like, “What brand of pen do you use?” or questions about process at all.
If you are just starting off and I tell you exactly how I work, right down to the brand of pen and notebook, I am, in a some small sense, robbing you of the experience of finding your own materials and your own way of working.
Trying to approximate someone else’s work with your own tools can lead to wonderful discoveries. For example, the guitarist Adrian Belew is self-educated: he taught himself to play the guitar by listening to records. Because he was unaware of all the studio trickery involved in many of his favorite recordings, he found a way to reproduce the sounds on his records without any effects pedals or fancy gear. And from those experiments, he “was left with an urge to make the guitar sound like things it shouldn’t be able to sound like.”
In other words: Belew would not necessarily be Belew if he could tweet at Jeff Beck or Jimi Hendrix and ask them what brand of pedals they’re using.
Just something to think about.
I posted this image on Instagram, quickly, mindlessly, simply because the stack caught my eye as I passed the kitchen table and I thought it was a pleasing image. (A commenter cleverly titled it “Notebook Turducken.”)
This morning I looked and it had several thousand hearts and dozens of comments, many of them questions about my process and what brand of notebook I use. I’ve written about this subject several times, but, as Andre Gide said, nobody was listening, so I guess I’ll say it again. Questions all from Instagram commenters:
What brand of notebook do you use?
Who the hell cares? Just kidding. The top two notebooks are Moleskines, an extra-small pocket one, and a daily planner . The bottom notebook, the one I use as my diary and sketchbook, is a brand I cannot recommend because they’re unreliable and I’ve had several fall apart on me, but I bought them in bulk, so I use them. The closest thing I could recommend is a flexible Miquelrius . Here’s a storefront with all the stuff I use.
How do you use them differently and how are they linked together? Do you migrate entries from one to the other?
I carry the pocket notebook all day, scribble stuff in it, take notes. It’s basically a scratch pad. Then, every morning after breakfast, I open up the pocket notebook, check my notes, then I fill out my logbook, which is sort of like an index of my days and a memory refresher. Then, I write and draw 3-10 pages in my diary, based on my notes and my log. I cross off things in my pocket notebook after I write about them. The diary then becomes a place I go to when I need new writing and blog posts. It might sound like a lot of work, but using this method I am never lost for something to write about. Also, my job is to write, so, there you have it. (By the way, I stole most of this method off David Sedaris.)
You need a bullet journal so you can combine everything into one.
Oh my lord shut up about bullet journaling already!
“You start when you’re young and you copy. You straight up copy.”
All artists begin by copying. (I wrote a book about it.) But what’s instructive about hanging out with kids all day is understanding on a day-to-day kid’s eye level just how natural copying comes to us.
My kids (5 & 2) are gleeful, natural born copycats. Copying is how they wrap their hands and hearts and heads around the world. They not only copy drawings and music and recreate the world with blocks and play, they mimic their parents, they mimic each other, they mimic kids on the playground, etc. Copying and mimicry is as natural to them as breathing. There’s nobody around telling them they should do any differently, nobody saying something dumb like, “Don’t you want to do something original?” So they go about their mimicry, unfettered by any adult notions about originality.
When my son got into engines last year, he spent endless hours copying diagrams out of car repair manuals.
Soon, he was into drawing musical instruments:
And at that point, since he’d landed on one of my own passions, I decided to start copying him. I would copy his drawings into my notebook, trying to steal some of his line style:
Then he started copying sheet music, just for kicks:
I’ve decided to copy that from him, too, and start copying piano pieces I want to learn by hand. There’s a beautiful story told by Paul Elie in Reinventing Bach:
Johann Christoph [Bach’s older brother] kept a collection of sheet music locked in a cabinet with latticed wood doors. Bach, perhaps now twelve, yearned to make music, not run through the exercises his brother assigned him, which he had already mastered. One night while the others were asleep he slipped a hand through the latticework, took hold of a sheet of music with thumb and forefinger, drew it out through the slats, and copied the notation onto a fresh sheet. Working by moonlight, he copied the manuscript the next night, and the next, until the moon entered a new phase. After six months of moonlit nights he had a complete work. Finally one morning he brought the fresh piece of sheet music to the clavier and played it….
Bach himself liked to tell that story, and his point was that this is how he educated himself and learned how to make music—by deeply studying the work of other composers. One of the best ways to internalize someone’s work is to copy it by hand.
Here’s Nicholson Baker, with his advice to writers:
Copy out things that you really love. Any book. Put the quotation marks around it, put the date that you’re doing the copying out, and then copy it out. You’ll find that you just soak into that prose, and you’ll find that the comma means something, that it’s there for a reason, and that that adjective is there for a reason, because the copying out, the handwriting, the becoming an apprentice—or in a way, a servant—to that passage in the book makes you see things in it that you wouldn’t see if you just moved your eyes over it, or even if you typed it. If your verbal mind isn’t working, then stop trying to make it work by pushing, and instead, open that spiral notebook, find a book that you like, and copy out a couple paragraphs.
After our last presidential election, the artist Morgan O’Hara went to the reading room at the New York Public Library with “with a small suitcase of pens, a few Sharpies, papers and copies of the Constitution. I brought old notebooks, half-used drawing pads and loose sheets to share with anyone who might show up.” Then she started copying the Constitution by hand, with other people who showed up joining along. She wrote of the experience:
Hand copying a document can produce an intimate connection to the text and its meaning. The handwriter may discover things about this document that they never knew, a passage that challenges or moves them. They may even leave with a deeper connection to the founders and the country, or even a sense of encouragement.
The cartoonist Lynda Barry writes beautifully about the magic of copying writing and drawings by hand. Here’s a page from Everything, Volume 1:
I think copying someone’s work is the fastest way to learn certain things about drawing and line. It’s funny how there is such a taboo against it. I learned everything from just copying other people’s work.
She brings the practice into her classrooms, and every few weeks, has her students get up and look at the notebooks of other students. “They are encouraged to try out anything they see. To copy all they want. To draw in a way they would have never thought of on their own.”
When I was in middle school, my English teacher, Mrs. Neff, had us keep composition books, and sometimes she gave us a prompt to answer, but sometimes she simply wrote a poem on the board for us to copy. She never made it explicit exactly what we were supposed to be learning by copying, but now I know. We were absorbing the poem. (I still do this regularly in my notebook.)
Eventually you can’t help but move from copying into something of your own. My 5-year-old is already figuring this out: A few months ago he started recreating Kraftwerk songs in Garageband, but his versions always had something new and interesting in them. It was his inability to perfectly replicate the song that made something interesting happen.
This process was brilliantly summarized by @neinquarterly on Twitter:
This is one of those poems you tape to the fridge. It ran in the May 18, 1998 issue of the New Yorker. You can find it in Koch’s Collected Poems. I love it because unlike many when they talk about “work-life balance,” there’s no value judgment, no correct answer, just Koch laying out the choices. Work, family, or friends: pick two. You can have it all, just not all at once. (Seasons, man.)
I thought of it again today because Jocelyn Glei made a supercut of some of her podcast guests’ answers to the question “What’s the key ingredient in work-life balance?” My answer was included in the batch (something about loving something more than your work, irreverence, ego, blah blah blah) but I wish I’d just recited the Koch.
One thing I did think was interesting: of the six guests, the two men, myself included, didn’t question whether such a thing as “work-life balance” was possible, while two of the women, both friends of mine, said they didn’t really believe in it or think about it — they didn’t see a big distinction between their work and their lives. On the whole, women have, historically, if they were lucky enough to have creative careers at all, not had much of a choice of easily separating work and life. (I think of poor Clara Schumann, raising seven kids as a widower and a performing artist. I mean, damn.)
There’s a great 2008 conversation between Muriel Murch and Eleanor Coppola on Murch’s podcast, Living With Literature. Coppola talks about the challenges of raising a family and supporting her husband, Francis Ford Coppola, while trying to do find time to do her creative work, too. She says she was always “trying to reconcile these two sides of myself.” She talks about being relieved to start shooting documentary footage on-set during Apocalypse Now so she had something creative to do with her talents other than go to the grocery and find a dry cleaner. (Read more in her books, Notes on a Life and Notes: The Making of Apocalypse Now.)
At one point, Coppola speaks explicitly about the different ways that men and women (with families) of her generation worked on their art:
The men artists I knew had a studio, and they went out to their studio, and they spent the day, and worked, and then they came back. I once read a book by Judy Chicago, who interviewed all these women artists, and they made their art on the back porch, they made it on top of the washing machine, they made it next to the kitchen sink, and they made it anywhere they could, for the hour and a half while their kid was taking a nap, and for the two hours while they were at the play group. They made it in between. It wasn’t, like, you get to make art for eight hours. You make art in 20-minute snatches, and you don’t, like, fiddle around. I know one time I went to see Francis in his working room, and he had his pencils all laid out, and his espresso there, and there was this whole little ritual of getting into yourself and into your work. There was no time [for women] for the ritual of getting into your work! You just snapped into that taking 10 minutes and making 3 lines on your drawing or whatever was possible. It wasn’t the same as the way men worked. And that’s how women got their work done.
Tillie Olsen, in Silences, writes: “More than any other human relationship, overwhelmingly more, motherhood means being instantly interruptible, responsive, responsible. Children need one now… It is distraction, not meditation, that becomes habitual; interuption, not continuity.” A mother can’t avoid interruptions, so she has to find a way of “scurrying,” as Muriel Murch puts it.
Coppola speaks of having to escape out into the garden, just to “catch a breath” and “hear yourself” and have some time with that creative voice that was speaking to her, and what a terrific luxury it was, later in life, when she was 60, and her kids were gone, and she could have a little studio of her own, outside the house, where she could work uninterrupted. (In spite of all she had to give up, she says she’s thrilled that her children are all good, creative people. “I think they’re my greatest artwork.”)
I am extremely fortunate that my wife stays home with our boys and I have a space of my own out in the garage behind the house where I can escape to work, but, especially now that the boys are older, I am trying to take inspiration from some of these artist/mothers, to counter the “pram in the hall” nonsense, and to not only spend more time with the boys, but to actually bring them into my space here and there and let them work alongside me.
People always ask me how I managed to paint when my two boys were small. My children were a joy to me, and there was no problem working with them around — I just let them play at my feet as I painted. They would even run toy fire engines up and down my easel, but it didn’t bother me.
What is really the issue here is a sense that art and domesticity don’t play nicely together. Here’s Tom Waits:
Family and career don’t like each other. One is always trying to eat the other. You’re always trying to find balance. But one is really useless without the other. What you really want is a sink and a faucet. That’s the ideal.
Maybe family and career are at odds, but I don’t think family and art-making absolutely have to be. I take a lot of inspiration from artists deep in domesticity. (Literally: “home or family life.”) From a New Yorker profile of Ursula K. Le Guin:
At a little kitchen table, over tea served in the indestructible handmade earthenware mugs of the seventies, she commented, somewhat defiantly, that she had always taken pleasure in cooking and keeping house. It sounded like criticism of the heroic writer, alone in his garret, but there’s more to it than that. She feels that marriage and family have given her a stability that supported her writing—the freedom of solitude within the solidity of household life. “An artist can go off into the private world they create, and maybe not be so good at finding the way out again,” she told me. “This could be one reason I’ve always been grateful for having a family and doing housework, and the stupid ordinary stuff that has to be done that you cannot let go.”
In the documentary Look & See, Wendell Berry talks about how he thinks art-making is actually given meaning by interruption. Here’s writer Winn Collier’s recollection of a discussion with Berry on the topic:
You have been given a gift to help you resist the temptation to believe that your writing must never be interrupted. The modern idea that our art must always come first and never be interrupted is complete BS. I can’t live that way with my land. When you have a mule and it needs something, you can’t tell it to wait. I can’t tell Tanya to wait. I couldn’t tell my kids to wait, I still can’t most times. I can’t help but be interrupted by my neighbor. Now, I have some ways of being unfindable when I have to be, but I’m going to be interrupted.
Here’s what I’m trying to do with my life and my work. I’m trying to fully integrate everything. So the transition from work to play to everyday life is all seamless. So that it’s all one thing. There’s no difference between living and making art. I’ve gotten really close. Music, comics, writing, painting, playing with Eli, doing dishes, cooking, all that, fully integrated into one seamless unit. That’s pretty much my goal…
The writer L.P. Jacks might’ve said Kochalka is on to something. He wrote in his 1932 book, Education Through Recreation:
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.
It’s not going to happen for everybody, of course. In the end, you get away with whatever you can get away with. You live however you need to.
I really did not mean to write so much in this post, but I wanted to wrap up with this story from the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a great writer and mother of three, who put “You Want A Social Life With Friends” in her book, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, and met Kenneth Koch:
In the fall of 2000, I had the privilege of recording Mr. Koch reading this poem in his Upper East Side apartment for an audio magazine project I was working on. I used a tiny Radio Shack tape recorder, and take full responsibility for the lack of high sound quality. (But I do admit I like the crackling and soundproof-lessness.) He was an impeccable, flawless reader–we were finished in two or three takes. Though he had been reluctant to agree to our session, once underway, he was a gracious, charismatic host. He had set up a nice tray with glasses of grapefruit juice. Fitting, because the whole thing was bittersweet. Mr. Koch died a year later. I believe this is one of his last recordings.
Here’s the recording:
I have this Oblique Strategy hanging up in my studio. Note that it says WHEN IN DOUBT. It doesn’t say ALWAYS. Tidying up is for when I’m stalled out or stuck. Tidying up a studio is, sorry Marie, not life-changing or magical, it’s just a form of productive procrastination. It’s avoiding work by doing other work.
The best thing about tidying is that it busies my hands and loosens up my mind so that a) I get unstuck with a new idea or I solve a problem in my head b) I come across something in the mess that leads to new work, like whenever I come across an unfinished poem that’s been buried in a stack of papers or blown across the garage by the air conditioner:
The best studio tidying is a kind of exploring — I’m re-discovering spaces as I sift through the objects that occupy them. The reason I tidy is not to clean, but to come into contact with something special that I’ve forgotten that I can now use. This is a slow, dreamy, ruminative, reminiscent form of tidying.
When I come across a long-lost book, for example, I open it to random pages, give it a browse, see if it has anything to tell me. I often stop tidying because I get swept up in reading. This is the exact opposite of the kind of tidying Kondo prescribes:
Once you have piled your books, take them in your hand one by one and decide whether you want to keep or discard each one. The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it. Remember, I said when you touch it. Make sure you don’t start reading it. Reading clouds your judgment. Instead of asking yourself what you feel, you’ll start asking whether you need that book or not.
This might be a good time to mention that while The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can work wonders on your sock drawer or your kitchen pantry, I have serious doubts about its usefulness to artists and creative people. Some of my favorite artists not only have messy studios, they have intentionally messy studios, because they understand that creativity is about connections, and connections are not made by siloing everything off into its own space. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place.
You think that if your studio is tidy, it will free you up to be more efficient, and therefore, you will produce more. Maybe that will help you if you’re a printmaker pulling prints, but it won’t help you come up with an interesting design for the next print.
It is always a mistake to equate productivity and creativity. They are not the same. In fact, they’re often at odds with each other: one is often most creative when one is least productive.
Of course there’s such a thing as too much clutter. It’s hard to work if you can’t find the tools you need when you need them. My friend John Unger has an interesting take on this, by making a distinction between tools and materials:
My rule is— keep your tools very organized so you can find them. Let the materials cross pollinate in a mess. Some pieces of art I made were utter happenstance where a couple items came together in a pile and the piece was mostly done. But if you can’t lay your hands right on the tool you need, you can blow a day (or your enthusiasm/inspiration) seeking it.
Let’s return to books. “Books are made out of other books,” as Cormac McCarthy says. Books are, for the writer, a material. And you never know which one you’re going to need, which is why writers like Nassim Taleb advocate for an “antilibrary,” or a library full of books you haven’t read. This requires collecting books, and collecting books that you’re not sure you’re even going to need. Sometimes, a library is better if the books aren’t organized. Coming across unrelated book spines on the shelf can lead to even more ideas. (See Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project.)
Also: art is not only made from things that “spark joy.” Art can be made, also, out of what is ugly, or repulsive. (Says the man who just yesterday collected litter on the side of the road and taped it into his notebook. Garbage in, art out.)
I wrote in Steal Like An Artist that artists are collectors, “not hoarders, mind you, there’s a difference,” but I’m starting to suspect that the difference is pretty small. (I come from a long line of pack rats.)
While I find the Kondo craze mostly benign, I do think there’s something insidious about what Ian Svenonius calls the “war on hoarders,” in which Americans are being convinced to give up all their paper books and CDs and other material clutter and embrace the digital cloud, accessed by sleek machines sold and controlled by powerful corporations.
“ALL POWER TO THE PACKRATS!” Svenonius exclaims in Censorship Now!! He knights hoarders as “the only thing standing between the incomprehensibly rich, all-controlling, degenerate, digital despots and the absolute destruction of any deviant or alternative consciousness.” (Let’s not forget that Winston Smith’s first transgression in 1984 is owning and writing in a paper diary.) If part of the artist’s job is to be that alternate consciousness, then we must keep our weird stuff around — stuff that other people find no value in.
“Stuff is important,” said George Carlin. “You gotta take care of your stuff. You gotta have a PLACE for your stuff. Everybody’s gotta have a place for his stuff. That’s what life is all about, tryin’ to find a place for your stuff!”
So, yeah, tidy up. But not too much.
Here’s a big list of stuff I like that people who like my stuff might like. (I get a cut if you buy through the links.)
Copies of my books, of course!
Blackwings. My favorite pencil overall — great for sketching, perfect for making notes in books. Sometimes I like to just sharpen them and sit around and sniff ‘em.
Aqua Notes. They might seem goofy, but I get a lot of ideas in the shower, and nine out of ten of them are bad, but that one that is good, well, it’s worth having something you can write it down on.
Leuchtturm1917 pocket notebooks. These are small enough that they fit in my shirt and jeans pockets, and they take a beating. I carry one everywhere. (Pro tip: sometimes you can get the calendars this size on mega clearance — then I just scribble over the calendar part.)
Pilot G2 Bold. My favorite pen. (I’m a weirdo: I don’t like to write longhand with less than 1mm of ink.)
Moleskine Daily Diary. This is the notebook I’ve used to keep a daily logbook for over a decade. My logbooks are invaluable to me—easier to keep than a diary and way more helpful. I like the smaller paperbacks, but you can also get a bigger hardcover.
Mitsu-Bishi 9852EW HB – I ordered these completely based on the case and now they’re my favorite for writing in notebooks. I like to saw/break one in half, sharpen the jagged edges, and wrap them in the elastic of my pocket notebook.
Zequenz flexible notebooks. What kind of notebook you use seems incredibly personal to me, but people always ask, so this is the kind I use for my diaries. (Why this brand? They sent me a huge batch once and they worked for me, so I just kept using them.)
5 Year Diary. Designed by the brilliant Tamara Shopsin. I write a quote in mine every day.
Prismacolor Ebony pencils. These things are chunky and thick and black. I use them to mark up books, but I also use them to shade backgrounds in my diary comics.
Carl. Angel-5 pencil sharpener. This thing gets pencils super sharp and it makes any desk more cheerful.
UHU glue sticks. Simply the best glue sticks. Perfect for collage.
Wonderboom wireless bluetooth speaker. I love this thing so much. Tiny and waterproof and sounds great. You can link two for stereo sound if you want.
Cutting mat. I keep one of these on my desk to protect my desk.
Anker power brick – I love this thing. (And Anker products in general.) You plug it into the wall, and it’ll charge two USB devices, and once those are charged, it’ll charge the internal battery. Take it to go, and you have enough to charge two phones. (I’ve heard this Nano is great for laptops.)
Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World. My favorite drawing book, for all ages.
Crayola Slick Stix. I don’t know why regular crayons are so popular for kids other than the fact that they’re cheap and they don’t make a mess. (I think I just answered my own question.) Crayons are hard to hold in tiny hands and kids have to really press hard with them to get any kind of decent result. These Slick Stix are easy to grip and they lay down a really silky smooth line. They also have the added benefit of making everything you draw look like a Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Do A Dot Art! My son had trouble making circles early on, so he loved to use these for wheels on cars, faces, etc. They’re a little expensive, but they last a long time, and they mix really well.
Lynda Barry’s What It Is. My favorite book about writing and creativity.
Bernstein Favorites: Children’s Classics. Terrific introduction to classical music for kids.
On the one hand, this is a stupid time to get into vinyl because it’s so expensive now. On the other hand, it’s easy to build a nice collection because you can get a ton of great stuff reissued. Here’s a mix of some classics I recommend:
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- The Beatles – Either of the new mixes of Sgt. Pepper’s or The White Album sound amazing (or you can go with my personal favorite, Revolver.)
- Prince, Purple Rain
- Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
- Amy Winehouse, Back To Black
- Al Green, Greatest Hits
- David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust
- Sam Cooke, Live at the Harlem Square Club
- Joni Mitchell, Blue
- Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
- James Brown, Live at the Apollo and Greatest Hits
- Nirvana, Unplugged in New York
Whenever I’m sort of bummed or in need of some inspiration, I love watching good documentaries about art and artists. Here are some of my favorites:
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (for everybody)
- Los Angeles Plays Itself (for film geeks and Los Angeles friends)
- Stories We Tell (for people who tell stories)
- Beauty Is Embarrassing (for art geeks and artists with families)
- Don’t Look Back (for documentary lovers, Dylan nuts, and music fans)
- The Last Waltz (maybe the best concert film ever)
- Bill Cunningham New York (for photographers and all artists — “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid!”)
Books make great gifts… they’re particularly good gifts to yourself! If you have a local bookstore, buy ’em there!
Here are some books I’ve read in recent years that I think would help a wide range of people:
- Getting Things Done (for folks who struggle with productivity)
- Bird By Bird (for folks who want to write)
- Several Short Sentences About Writing (does what it says on the tin)
- The Journal of Henry David Thoreau
- The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (for folks who want to read more and read better)
- Understanding Comics (for all visual communicators)
- The Gift (for artists struggling with the marketplace)
- Ways of Seeing (one of my all-time favorite books about art)
- 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write (for folks struggling with balancing creative work and parenting)
You can also see my favorites year by year, for the past decade.
For years now, I’ve been collecting stories about artists whose physical “shortcomings” or disabilities have led to their signature work. Examples:
- Chuck Close, along with his paralysis, “suffers from Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, in which he is unable to recognize faces.” And yet, he’s most famous for his face paintings, which help him remember faces.
- Tommy Iommi, guitar player for Black Sabbath, after he lost fingertips in an industrial accident, was inspired by Django, and formed homemade prosthetics, and detuned his guitars down to C#, so there was less tension on the strings. This detuning is part of what makes Sabbath’s guitars sound so heavy, and thus we have heavy metal…
- Henri Matisse’s failing eyesight and health led him to make his “cut-out” paper collages
- The guitarist Django Reinhardt lost the use of 2 of his fretting fingers, and played all of his solos with two fingers
- Regina Spektor has very small hands, and while studying classical piano, “scores had to be rearranged, her left hand taking on part of the role of the left.” After a while, it became clear that “the life she expected was perhaps not so attainable.” So she quit classical piano, but sat at the piano and wrote songs instead. (“The gift of small hands” as a NYTimes profile called it)
- Art Spiegelman has amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” which flattens depth perception. He says he suspects it’s one of the reasons he’s a cartoonist—because the world looks flat to him
- Walter Tandy Murch (father of film editor Walter Murch) a magical realist painter, was almost blind in one eye from a teenage accident, his vision as if “seen through translucent plastic”
This list is, of course, terribly incomplete, and man-heavy. (Please email me or tweet at me if you can think of other examples.) I’ve also done a poor job of including other creative types, like inventors, scientists, etc.
(There are all sorts of stories of inventors and artists with impairments related to their work. Beethoven’s deafness is the classic example, and while reading Damon Krukowski’s The New Analog last night, I found out that two of the men who developed the telephone had connections to the hearing-impaired: Alexander Graham Bell’s mother was deaf, he taught in a deaf school, and married one of his deaf students, and Thomas Edison was deaf in one ear, almost deaf in the other.)
One of my favorite contemporary examples is Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, who has been sick with chronic fatigue syndrome since 1987. For almost 25 years, she’s been confined indoors with crippling vertigo. She can’t go out and do research, she can’t attend literary festivals or book signings, or do any of the “normal” stuff that most authors do.
In a NYTimes profile, Wil S. Hylton writes:
It may be tempting to think of Hillenbrand as someone who has triumphed in spite of her illness. The truth is at once more complicated and more interesting. Many of the qualities that make Hillenbrand’s writing distinctive are a direct consequence of her physical limitations. Every writer works differently, but Hillenbrand works more differently than any writer I know of. She has been forced by the illness to develop convoluted workarounds for some of the most basic research tasks, yet her workarounds, in all their strange complexity, deliver many of her greatest advantages.
For example, she can’t go to the library and read old newspaper microfiche, instead she orders old vintage newspapers off eBay and reads them in her living room:
Hillenbrand told me that when the newspaper arrived, she found herself engrossed in the trivia of the period — the classified ads, the gossip page, the size and tone of headlines. Because she was not hunched over a microfilm viewer in the shimmering fluorescent basement of a research library, she was free to let her eye linger on obscure details…
…It was in those vintage newspapers that Hillenbrand discovered her next book. “I happened to turn over a clipping about Seabiscuit,” she said. “On the other side of that page, directly the opposite side of the page, was an article on Louie Zamperini, this running phenom.”
Since she can’t travel, she can’t do interviews her subjects face-to-face, so she relies on phone interviews:
This would seem to almost any reporter a terrible handicap. One hallmark of literary nonfiction is its emphasis on personal observation. But Hillenbrand found that telephone interviews do offer certain advantages… “I thought it was actually an advantage to be unable to go to Louie,” she said. Because neither of them had to dress for the interviews and they were in their own homes, their long phone calls enjoyed a warmth and comfort that might otherwise be missing. She could pose the deeply personal questions that even her father had trouble answering.
Finally, because of her vertigo, she often finds herself unable to read, and so she has to listen to a ton of audiobooks:
Hillenbrand sometimes longs for the tactile pleasure of the printed page, but she believes her immersion in audiobooks has actually improved her writing. “It has taught me a lot more about the importance of the rhythm of language,” she said. “Good writing has a musical quality to it, a mathematical quality, a balance and a rhythm. You can feel that much better when it’s read aloud.”
Saul Steinberg said, “what we respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.” I am not sure where I am going by collecting all of these examples, and I certainly do not mean to romanticize these artists or their conditions, merely point out that by (creatively) dealing with them, the artist came up with something new, or great.
What lesson or takeaway there is for the rest of us, if one exists, I’m not sure of yet, other than confirmation of the title of Ryan Holiday’s book: the obstacle is the way…
* * *
- (9/18/2019) After a tonsillectomy, Ernest Tubb couldn’t yodel like his hero Jimmie Rodgers anymore. So he started writing his own songs.
- (7/21/2020) Film director Martin Scorsese couldn’t play sports or run too much with the other kids, so his parents took him to the movies. (He developed a habit of observing people from a distance…)
- (3/29/2021) Pianist Leon Fleisher lost the use of his right hand, and turned to playing left-handed pieces and teaching, eventually regaining his use of both hands again
- (3/29/2021) Composer Molly Joyce, who lost use of her left hand in a car accident and found a toy organ with chords on the left, keyboard on the right, which became a signature sound
- Mozart’s clarinet quintet in A major.
- Taking a walk every morning because demons hate fresh air.
- Discovering and researching unschooling. Roberto Greco’s fantastic Tumblr and Pinboard archives. The work of John Holt, his books How Children Learn and How Children Fail, his 55-year-old journal entry, his thoughts on the true meaning of intelligence and how babies are scientists. John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down. Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s Teaching As A Subversive Activity. Lori Pickert’s twitter. DH Lawrence on how to educate a child: “Leave him alone.” Manifesto of the idle parent.
- Mulatu Astatke, Ethiopiques, Vol. 4.
- Moving into a new (old) house in the suburbs. Watching the rain from the front porch. Magic in the back yard. Fixing the 40-year-old whole house radio. Taking instruction from our old ovens. Playing hide and seek in the yard. Drawing in chalk on the driveway. Lying in a hammock in the back yard. Looking out the window while doing the dishes.
- Still working in a garage, but an insulated, fully A/C-ed one. Looking through my notebooks. Setting up a bliss station.
- Doing my part to destroy that dumb cliché, “The enemy of art is the pram in the hall.” Trying to copy how my 3-year-old son makes art in the studio. His lettering. The way he copies signs. His art. Making masks out of Trader Joe’s bags. Collaborating. Baudelaire’s quote, “Genius is nothing more or less than childhood recaptured at will.” Toddler color theory. Do A Dot Art Markers. Crayola Slick Stix. Mid-century photos of children making art at the MoMA. Paul Klee’s handmade puppets for his son. Darwin’s children doodling on the back of his manuscripts. A fifth-grader’s cure for writer’s block.
- Practicing piano. Satie. “My Favorite Things.” Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones.” Vince Guaraldi’s “Skating.” Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debbie.” My son finishing the high E in “Fur Elise.” Pulling up Shazam, playing nonsense on the piano, and seeing what it matches. “Pianovision,” Chilly Gonzales’ word for videos of piano players shot from above.
- Filling the house with music. My oldest son requesting the 5th symphony on our walks. (Later, my youngest son singing it. “Duh duh duh duuuuh.”) Drawing musical scores. Reciting the narration from Benjamin Britten’s “A Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra” by heart. Singing all 9 minutes of Van Morrison’s live version of “Caravan.”
- Plain ol’ family life. Doing obsessive dad things like inflating the tires and breaking down boxes for the recycling. Sending my son out to get the Sunday paper. How old toys that disappear for a month become new toys. My wife comparing parenting to being a green screen puppeteer. Coming up with dumb parenting lines like, “Dad is one letter away from dead” and “You can’t spell family without FML.” Complexity. Nailing down what we expect.
- Michael Chabon on taking his son Abe to fashion week in Paris.
- Hearing Delta 5’s “You” on the radio and discovering that every time I play it my youngest son squeals with delight and starts dancing. (The way he stomps to Caspar Babypants’ “Stompy The Bear”!)
- Small victories. Sleeping through the night. Eating dinner. Not hitting your brother. Pooping on the toilet. Indoor voices. Learning to whisper.
- How Ed Emberley clears his mind.
- One-star Amazon reviews.
- Photos of people reading my books and my art in the wild. Seeing blackout poems in the classroom. (So many!)
- Finding these huge decades-long books of Peanuts daily strips at Costco and reading them at breakfast. This website on the the use of Beethoven in Peanuts strips.
- Schumann’s “Ghost Variations.”
- The martian landscape of Odessa from a plane.
- Strawberry rhubarb pie.
- Watching Road Runner cartoons with my sons and then seeing real roadrunners out on our walks. Suburban Texas wildlife. Cicada shells everywhere. Squirrels judging me. Deer looking at me like I’m an asshole. The Texas Mountain Laurel blooming in March. Junebugs kamikaze-ing into the windows. Fireflies! The neighborhood guy with huge parrots and a COME AND TAKE IT flag. My son literally having ants in his pants. Biggie Smalls on why he wouldn’t move to the suburbs.
- Rooting for escaped animal stories.
- Getting a projector, making an A/V cart, and watching movies huge on our bedroom wall. Awesome old movies, like Ball Of Fire, Laura, and The Palm Beach Story. New-to-us stuff. What We Do In The Shadows. Chef. Ex Machina. Enough Said. Iris. Love & Mercy. Weiner. Spotlight. The Big Short. Vernon, Florida. Old favorites, even better than we remembered. Chinatown. Stop Making Sense. Grosse Point Blank.
- Seeing movies at the Alamo Drafthouse, solo, or with a friend. Hell or High Water.
- @NitrateDiva on Twitter.
- Finally taking the Black Friday bait and getting the Seinfeld box set.
- Reading comics when nothing else feels right. Chester Brown, Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus. Daniel Clowes, Patience.
- Finding books that my kids love that I love to read, too. Jon Klassen’s Hat Trilogy. Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad.
- When my wife says, incredulously, “You’ve never seen [X]?” and then watching X and loving it. (This year: You’ve Got Mail.)
- Beethoven’s late string quartets and sick burns.
- Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists.
- Taking things apart to see how they work. Showing my son the piano’s guts.
- Walking the riverwalk from the San Antonio public library to the art museum and all the way up to the zoo.
- The Bill Murray method of drinking champagne.
- Chance operations. Throwing dice. Turning the dictionary to random pages. John Cage, Silence. Tossing coins and consulting the I Ching. Getting a Rider tarot deck and pulling cards. Jessa Crispin’s The Creative Tarot and her tarot newsletter.
- Collecting envelopes with security patterns.
- Reminding Siri to take revenge on my sons in 30 years.
- Standing in the Costco produce fridge in August.
- Accepting that creativity has seasons. How somebody asked Marcel Duchamp what he was working on and he said “just breathing.” George Carlin on taking time to figure out what’s next. Figuring out what I’m really working on.
- Robert Irwin’s hat: “High mileage, low maintenance.”
- The brief return of @JennyHolzerMom.
- Stress relief. Getting overwhelmed and watching a live-stream of the “bear cam” in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Replacing the doorknobs in my old house, one at a time, as needed, whenever I was losing it.
- Long-neck ’ritas.
- Calvin Trillin’s question, “Did you clean your plate?” The chicken-fried steak at Jim’s Restaurant on 71. The sides and fried chicken from the Golden Chick next door. No line at Rudy’s BBQ. Chinese delivery.
- Desire lines.
- Saying “it wasn’t for me” and moving on.
- Discovering the work of William Steig, especially his book, Shrek.
- A terrific story about typewriters.
- Wasting time, even though you know there’s not a lot of it. Joe Brainard’s “People Of The World: Relax!” World of Tomorrow: “Do not lose time on daily trivialities.” Hagakure: “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily.” Jim Harrison: “‘The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.”
- Putting on an art show at Mule Design in San Francisco. Lunch at House of Nanking. Staying at Wendy and Caroline’s place, warming up by the firebowl. Walking around Potrero Hill. Talking to a fellow dad from Texas in Christopher’s Books. Lunch by the ocean with Ted. Lying on a couch in Wendy’s studio overlooking the bay, reading David Hockney’s Cameraworks.
- The word “nitwit.”
- Reading about con artists. Steering clear of the exact recipe for remaining a horrible person forever. Finding lessons about dealing with Nazis in books as different as Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes and Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Cafe.
- Turning to poems. Maggie Smith, “Good Bones.” Philip Larkin, “The Mower.” Allen Ginsberg’s “America.” Emily Dickinson’s “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark.”
- The work of Ursula Franklin. The Real World of Technology. The Ursula Franklin Reader: Pacifism as A Map. Her idea of society as a potluck supper—we all bring our best dish.
- Garry Shandling saying, before he died, that America needs to hit rock bottom. Morris Berman’s bleak trilogy about the crumbling of the American empire: The Twilight of American Culture, Dark Ages America, and Why America Failed. The future politician at the playground shouting “This is my territory!” but it sounded like “This is my terror tree!”
- Taylor Swift summing it all up: “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of.”
- Turning your eyes into a sewage treatment plant. Finding inspiration in mundane retail spaces. Pee-Wee Herman on his favorite Walgreens. Andrew Bird on finding inspiration in Costco. Zan McQuade on how to learn to love the mall. Fast food joints as third spaces.
- Good albums. Finally getting that Frank Ocean record. Solange’s A Seat At The Table. Lambchop, FLOTUS. Frank Sinatra, In The Wee Small Hours. Brian Eno, Before and After Science. Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker. Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book on a flight to Chicago.
- The Ohio Players.
- Ali Wong: “I don’t want to lean in, I want to lie down.”
- Chappell Ellison’s weekly twitter roundups, her Cartoon GIFs twitter, and epic thread of her favorite Vine videos.
- Being completely sucked into the voice of Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead. Her interview with the president.
- Good TV. Atlanta. The Americans. Mozart in the Jungle. Fleabag. Silicon Valley. Soundbreaking. Fargo. Catastrophe. Better Call Saul. OJ Simpson: Made in America. The Night Manager. Chef’s Table France. The Great British Baking Show.
- The Longform podcast.
- Moonlight. Getting out of bed to take a leak and seeing the moon out the bathroom window. The moon through binoculars. Can, “Moonshake.” Looking up at the stars as often as possible. Watching meteor showers in the courtyard. Looking for the moon, and my son saying, “The moon isn’t awake yet.” My son seeing the supermoon and saying, “Papa, the moon looks like the sun is shining!”
- All the other beautiful, grumpy, wacky things my son said. The musical threats. “I’m gonna put a bow on you and string you like a violin.” “I am going to beat you like a percussion instrument.” The insults. “You got a big ole butt!” The exclamations. “Electricity is coming out of my penis!” “I used that rock as a toilet!” The complaints. “I can’t walk. I’m out of walking steps.” “I don’t like sunscreen. I don’t like anything.” “I want to fight this drawing.” “We’re not going anywhere today all the places are closed.” “No tub time! I’m working on my book.” “Get out of here! Leave me alone! No talking during the symphony!” “I want to go back in the house. My music is killing me.” The observations. “The toilet in the lunch store was not so loud.” “This place smells delicious!” “I don’t like the grocery, but I like Papa’s studio.” “Mama, I have an idea in my head!” “Harmonicas are in the woodwind section, papa.” “Thunder sounds like kettle drums.” Seeing his first remote-controlled car: “You move it without your hands!” Seeing an old movie: “The pictures are black and white and silver—not colored in.” Training him to say, when he sees an ad on TV, “They’re trying to sell us something.” The time he said, “I want to disappear!” and my wife said, “Join the club!” The time I played him “777-9311” and he said, “Is this jazz music?” The time I asked him if he thought Beethoven drove a pickup truck, and he said, “No, he just played the piano.” The time I asked him if he wanted to go to the fire station and the candy store and the bookstore and he said, “No, papa, there is work to do.” The time I asked him if he had a good morning and he said, “The morning is still going.”
The way he, a native Texan, says words like “hair” with two syllables. The questions. “What music is mama going to listen to on her way to the grocery?” “How did you make this lovely dinner?” “Can you tell me what I want?”
- The meatloaf dinner at 24 Diner.
- Hong Kong french toast.
- Avoiding human vantablack.
- Recording on my old Tascam 424 four-track cassette recorder.
- Carving pumpkins.
- Shrimp and grits.
- Walking through the airport with Miles Davis’s “Solea” on my headphones and feeling like the baddest ass alive.
- The soundtrack of Stranger Things. Discovering the Austin synth scene. Visiting the store Switched On. SURVIVE. Xander Harris.
- Fred Rogers on why you’ve already won in this world.
- Nathaniel Russell’s fake fliers.
- Cartoonist Liana Finck’s instagram.
- Mourning Prince with these amazing mixes of deep cuts. Mourning Bowie with all the guest DJ sets, like Iggy Pop’s.
- Great songs, old and new. Leonard Cohen’s “Is This What You Wanted?” Wilco, “Impossible Germany.” Grimes, “Realti (Demo).” That vaporwave classic. Sonny & The Sunsets’ “Green Blood.” Jackie Shane’s monologue at the end of “Any Other Way.” Otis Clay, “Trying To Live My Life Without You.”
- Peanut butter shake season at P. Terry’s.
- Good pre-dream reading. Grimm’s Fairy tales. Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter. Joy Williams, Ninety-Five Stories of God.
- Seeing the Leap Before You Look show about Black Mountain College at the Wexner. Reading the beautiful catalog. Seeing the Pond Farm exhibit at SFO.
- Finding out the delightful link between two of my favorite books: Studs Terkel’s classic Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do was conceived when his editor read Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? and thought there needed to be a version for adults.
- Watching the World Series with my Cleveland-born wife.
- Meeting people for lunch.
- Losing the afternoon to a long phone conversation.
- Going out once in a while. Beers with old friends in Cleveland. Third row seats at Elvis Costello at the Moody Theater. Mark Mothersbaugh at the Contemporary Austin.
- Talking to strangers. Discussing the Ramones with a panhandler.
- Interviewing Box Brown at Bookpeople. Interviewing a bunch of great illustrators at the Texas Book Festival. Another interview with Chase Jarvis.
- Dismissing the knuckleheads in the Oasis: Supersonic documentary and then listening to What’s The Story, Morning Glory? for 3 days straight.
- The difference between libraries and schools. Visiting the main branch of the Richland Library in Columbia, SC, their amazing children’s room, their new Steal-inspired maker spaces, and revisiting my time as a librarian when speaking at their staff day. Identifying the public library as the American institution I most want to protect and support.
- Scanning my library card barcode and putting it into a Dropbox folder so I’m never without it at the self-checkout machine.
- Sound on Sound Fest weekend. Eating at Curra’s with The Dead Milkmen. Eating so much BBQ with my friend Christy that I popped a button on my jeans and had to go next door to the Elgin Wal-Mart and buy a belt. Visiting my first Buc-ees’.
- My first-come-first-serve barbershop putting up a whiteboard so you can sign in and not worry about who got there before you or after you.
- Re-learning cursive.
- Long emails from retired English professsors.
- Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes.
- Staying married for 10 years.
It’s felt impossible lately not to be distracted and despondent. I’m trying to spend as much time at my bliss station as I can.
What’s a bliss station? Here’s Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth:
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.
My wife pointed out to me that Campbell says you must have a room OR a certain hour — whether Campbell really meant this or not, she suggested that maybe it’s possible that a bliss station can be not just a where, but a when. Not just a sacred space, but also a sacred time.
The deluxe package would be having both a special room and a special hour that you go to it, but we started wondering whether one would make up for not having the other.
For example, say you have a tiny apartment that you share with small children. There’s no room for your bliss station, there’s only time: When the kids are asleep or at school or day care, even a kitchen table can be turned into a bliss station.
Or, say your schedule is totally unpredictable, and a certain time of day can’t be relied upon — that’s when a dedicated space that’s ready for you at any time will come in handy.
What’s clear is that it’s healthiest if we make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.
“Choose the time that’s good for you,” says Francis Ford Coppola. “For me, it’s early morning because I wake up, and I’m fresh, and I sit in my place. I look out the window, and I have coffee, and no one’s gotten up yet or called me or hurt my feelings.”
The easiest way I get my feelings hurt by turning on my phone first thing in the morning. And even on the rare occasion I don’t get my feelings hurt, my time is gone and my brains are scrambled.
“Do not start your day with addictive time vampires such as The New York Times, email, Twitter,” says Edward Tufte. “All scatter eye and mind, produce diverting vague anxiety, clutter short term memory.”
Every morning I try to fight the urge, but every morning my addiction compels me.
“The new heroin addiction is connectivity,” says V. Vale. “The only solution is not one that most people want to face, which is to become lovers of solitude and silence… I love to spend time alone in my room, and in my ideal world the first hour of every day would be in bed, writing down thoughts, harvesting dreams, before anyone phones or you have any internet access.”
Kids, jobs, sleep, and a thousand other things will get in the way, but we have to find our own sacred space, our own sacred time.
“Where is your bliss station?” Campbell asked. “You have to try to find it.”
* * *
This post became a part of my book, Keep Going.