Hello! Popping my head out of the endless merry-go-round of novel editing to 👋🏼. It’s always a weird part of the process, and a lot of it feels weirdly funereal, since I’m deleting some scenes that defined my first draft but won’t fit in the final. My punchlist is shifting from “Fix x relationship” and “Cut y character” to “Find and delete most uses of really, usually, etc.” At this point in the process I usually wonder if I’ll ever be able to start anything again, so I’ve been poking at some short and flash fiction, to remind myself that there will be more after this marathon is over.
In this issue we have on offer:
Art chronicles obsession. It is staying awake to pet the same harrowed sheep over and over again, and then making sweaters out of the shed wool.
So many become artists and writers to connect with that one other freak out there, across space and time. As Björk said, “There are certain emotions in your body that not even your best friend can sympathize with, but you will find the right film or the right book, and it will understand you.”
But like a middle schooler wondering if they, too, need that pink Northface fleece, we aren’t always authentic about our obsessions. We keep them close to the chest like a shameful secret, or filter them down to acceptable, zeitgeisty things.
Some of my obsessions might be called tacky. But I am also obsessed with things that are uncool because they are scary or raw, such as an unbecoming endless rage, my fear of dying, or the loneliness of existing in between hundreds of fractured worlds.
We fear obsession for its literal danger—in a macho-white-nationalist-mainstream America, obsessions seem to end in one miserable cul-de-sac: someone dead, or at the very least, bankrupt. On the other hand, we fear the vulnerability. We fear the fantasy of our gentler obsessions, of an uncool and joyful enthusiasm that doesn’t hurt, because we can’t afford to waste the time on frivolous things.
It does and it doesn’t take courage to make art. The simple act of moving a brush or clacky-clack-typing some words in an empty document isn’t perilous, even though we call Just! Even! Starting! a particularly courageous act.
If we are scared to walk out a door, it’s not because the door is daunting. We are frightened to face what’s on the other side, and the doorway is a convenient membrane between Home and Out There. Our obsessions are the potential ugly disaster, the taxi that will jump up the curb while we’re trying to walk to work. It is also the meet-cute with our dream stranger that inevitably ends up in us saying something totally moronic, and the crowd in earshot live-Tweeting it.
Canvases and empty text documents are easier obsession-doors than explicitly owning anything. We can walk them with a jaunt only seen through a certain trick of light. We can turn nightmares and trivial fantasies into something meaningful, even if a hundred rejections await us.
It isn’t fair to say ‘we are what we do,’ an idea borne of privilege, with an assumption of limitless resources. For most of us, especially marginalized folks, it isn’t easy to do what we like, or even say what we mean without literal death threats or thwarted livelihoods.
It is better to say, ‘we are our obsessions’, even if it parts us from some mainstream. Our thoughts and creations remain ours, even if they are worn or quiet, or disorganized by stress, and we remain, too.
I was selected for the Periplus Fellowship for BIPoC writers! 🎉 For the next year, I’ll be working with the amazing Mimi Lok (buy her short stories, they are a striking and wide-ranging peep into the lives of memorable characters and histories).
‘How Do I Write About My Identity Authentically?’ from The Reading, by Yanyi: This tab has been open on my browser for weeks, and both the letter and Yanyi’s advice capture a big rift in my own practice.
If you like horror, scary decaying houses and chilling family dynasties, grab Mexican Gothic. The main character, Noemí, is a refreshing heroine: she is a flirtatious, outspoken socialite trying to save her cousin from the super haunted High Place. I particularly recommend this if you enjoyed The Southern Reach Trilogy or Lost. It’s an awesome spin on the genre.
I’ve been channeling some of my malaise and anxiety into knitting. My buddy Jessa described it as meditating with your hands, and I agree. It’s self-care to mAkE yOuR oWn hUG, right??
I just finished a hat that I started before my child was born, and now I’m following a very cute sweater pattern by My Favourite Things. If you are a sweater newbie, I recommend this pattern, it is clear and doesn’t have a ton of techniques to learn. It also knits up quick. Also, gotta love those balloon sleeves!
(Mine in progress on the right)
Are you a knitter? I’d love to see what you’re making to soothe your anxiety, even if it’s not in the fiber arts family.
Until next time, xo Ash