It's so nice to be writing to you again! It's been a minute. Well, seven months of minutes. You're all so much taller and wiser and possess so many more interesting books than you did in December! I'm proud of you.
The last time I wrote I'd just arrived back in my hometown of Ojai, California for Christmas, so it seems fitting that I'm here again for a month of care-taking and home-minding while my mother takes her first solo vacation in...I don't even know how long. She didn't go quietly, but I'm proud to say that I finally convinced her that it would not only be a good idea, but also that the house wouldn't burn down while she was away. (Mama if you're reading this STOP CHECKING YOUR EMAIL AND GO EAT SOME NICE FRENCH CHEESES.)
ANYWAY: it's a month of milestones around here. My father will be turning 80 on July 24th, and just a few days later I'll make it to 30. I'm having a lot of feelings about it all, but I think I'll save that particular ramble for a later date. Suffice it to say that thresholds are being crossed.
You know that thing people say about relationships, that it takes about half the time you were together to recover from the impact of exiting the relationship? I think it applies to creative projects as well. After the colossal effort of last year's tour (263 days away from home over the course of 2018—yikes), I became allergic to keeping the internet updated on my whereabouts every second of every day. Cumulatively, 100 Demon Dialogues took two straight years to produce, publish, and promote. I feel like I've been telling people I'm hitting the brakes since I returned to Portland in early January, and yet I've still not come to a complete stop.
Thinking about that piece of emotional arithmetic, I started wondering if I shouldn't just expect it to take a year before I'm ready for something new. I've been carrying the weight of an unwritten long-form project for the last three years, but attempting to put pen to paper too soon after finishing 100 Demon Dialogues kept ending in frustration—a pervasive sense of wrongness. Date too soon after the breakup and it all seems like too much. There's an erroneous expectation that any new person will also magically carry the lessons and familiarities of the one before. Of course, you carry those lessons in your own bearing, so yes: perhaps the going will be easier this time. But, taken in a creative context, you're still going from touring a finished product to staring down the barrel of the starting gun, wondering (once again) if you're cut out for this after all.
I've found a lot of solace in Nick Cave's insistence about writing songs:
They are not inside you, unable to get out; rather, they are outside of you, unable to get in.
And how he's almost singing harmony with Martha Graham:
It is not your business to determine how good [your expression] is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
During a time when I'm starting something new and belief in myself can be thin on the ground, this is music to my ears. It's not my job to be good at this. It's my job to show up and do the work.
Stymied by drafting blog posts a couple weeks ago, I recorded a freewheeling twenty-minute monologue while walking through one of my favorite parks. It's unedited and goofy and deeply imperfect, but also the most accurate stab I could make at capturing the state of play in my creative life right now. (I'm also very proud to have cultivated a community on Patreon that makes me want to say "Be sure to read the comments!" because everyone chimed in with such gems.) I think I'll be doing more of them in the future, especially at a time when so much feels like it's changing into something rich and strange.
Some things I've done in the first half of this year that you might want to point your eyes and ears at:
And while my as-yet-untitled book project is still under wraps, I just got news that the brief comic I made about Jeanne Baret (a pioneering botanist and the first woman to sail around the globe) is going to be published in an anthology from Knopf Books for Young Readers! You can pre-order Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World right here
. (And if you're a Patron you can read the comic in its entirety over here
I'll leave you with this lovely radio piece about Bertolt Brecht and simple pleasures
Till next time,
If you feel moved to do so, would you write and tell me about either a) a decision you've made this year that's changed you, could be big or small—anything will do, or b) how or why you ended up subscribing to this newsletter? It's just nice to know who else is out there in this fractious internet age.