The top image of Friday’s newsletter, like many of my images, came straight from my diary:
I forgot to link to this blog post from earlier in the year, “Fire and Focus.”
In last week’s newsletter, I wrote about almost stopping.
In last week’s newsletter, I filmed a 15-minute walkthrough of my spring diary.
spiral (verb) 1. to move in the shape of a spiral 2. to continuously become worse, more, or less
Here’s how you do it:
1. Set aside 10 minutes and start with a fresh page in your notebook. Follow Lynda Barry’s instructions for drawing a spiral: Start in the very center of the page, and make the tightest spiral you can manage, trying to get the lines as close as you can without touching. (More in her wonderful book, Syllabus, and check out another version over at Wendy MacNaughton’s Draw Together.) You’ll know when you’re done.
2. Once you have your spiral, start annotating it with your feelings and thoughts, everything weighing on you or bothering you. (Wendy calls this “inside weather.”) Catalog what’s on the surface, towards the outside of the spiral, and what’s deep, on the inside.
3. Go about your day.
I can’t claim that it’s solved anything for me, but it has helped me feel a little less anxious, a little more calm.
(See also: “Spin art.”)
“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.
For today’s newsletter, I did something I’ve never done before: I filmed a 20-minute walkthrough of my diary.
Tomorrow’s newsletter is something I’ve never done before: a 20-minute video walkthrough of my diary.
Sneak peek below.
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) January 17, 2022
Here are some pages from my diary earlier this year after my friend Alan Jacobs sent me an advance copy of his just-published book, Breaking Bread With The Dead.
The title comes from W.H. Auden’s “Some Reflections on the Arts,” which begins:
Every genuine work of art exhibits two qualities, Nowness—an art-historian can assign at least an approximate date to its making—and Permanence—it remains on hand in the world long after its maker and his society have ceased to exist.
* * *
This means that, in the history of Art, unlike the history of Science, though there are periods of flowering and sterility, there is no such thing as Progress, only Change. Shakespeare does not supersede Aeschylus or Mozart Moteverdi, in the way that the Copernican picture of the Cosmos, for example, superseded the Ptolemaic.
* * *
Consequently, one of the greatest blessings conferred on our lives by the Arts is that they are our chief means of breaking bread with the dead, and I think that, without communication with the dead, a fully human life is not possible.
I remember being at lunch with Alan and encouraging him to write this book, not for his own good, but for mine, as really I wanted to read it. (Alan’s ideas and writing had a big impact on my last book, Keep Going. See my previous posts on reading old books and stealing old stuff.)
In my blurb, I called the book “a beautiful case for reading old books as a way to cultivate personal depth in shallow times.” Breaking Bread With The Dead winds up the wonderful trilogy of his books which began with The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction and continued with How To Think.
Happy pub day, Alan!
I don’t know why, exactly — laziness, perhaps? — but I was moved this morning to just take photos of my diary with my Quickscan app and post them here without further comment, just links:
A week-long road trip with the kiddos means this is the first minute I’ve taken all week to write in my diary. My wife’s at the wheel and I could be sleeping or gazing out the window, but here I am, writing, and blogging about writing. (On my phone, no less.) It never ends… but soon this tour will.
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