Homework every night for the rest of your life
10 things worth sharing: the blessing and curse of being a writer, books about gardening and mothering, a newsletter about walking, and more...
If you love getting this newsletter, please consider keeping it going with a paid subscription. You get an extra letter from me on Tuesday and access to a brilliant community in the comments:
Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing this week:
Lawrence Kasdan said “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” I wrote about why that’s not such a bad thing.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I read and how I recommend books. On Tuesday I wrote about how I’m influenced by clusters of books more than individual books, and how you can map books to see connections between them that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
I used to love going to the college bookstore and browsing the shelves to see which courses might be worth taking based on their required reading. I’ve never taught a class, really, but I often think if I did I would start with a cluster of books that speak to each other and build the course around them. (For example: Start with Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? and Studs Terkel’s Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. [Did you know the Terkel book was directly inspired by the Scarry book?] Throw in David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs: A Theory and Ruth Cowan’s More Work For Mother, and we’d be on our way to an interesting syllabus.)
“Raising us may have wrecked her career, but my mom is thriving in her second act.” This great piece reminded me of Ursula K. Le Guin: “Babies eat books. But they spit out wads of them that can be taped back together; and they are only babies for a couple of years, while writers live for decades.” (Quoted in my post on parenting and art: “the best thing ever written about ‘work-life balance.’”) I’ve said it many times, but it is stories of artist mothers that have provided almost all the inspiration for me as a parent. (I just picked up another good-looking book on the subject: Julie Philips’ The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood, and the Mind-Baby Problem.)
I’m a sucker for all things walking, so I’m not sure how I missed Isaac Fitzgerald’s newsletter, Walk it Off, in which he goes for a walk with somebody and recounts their conversation. (The latest was with writer Emily Gould.)
200 years of great writers and artists on the creative and spiritual rewards of gardening. I recommend this roundup by Maria (I liked Braiding Sweetgrass a lot and Orwell’s Roses and Modern Nature are on my to-read shelf) with the caveat that I could not disagree more with her notion that “all creative work comes abloom first in the mind — the rest is mere transcription,” which seems to me the opposite of my experience with art and the things I’ve learned from gardening. (Here’s one from my wife Meghan: “A seed is only potential.”) To quote Anni Albers: “Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials.”
The strange afterlife of George Carlin. I found the framing of this piece a little bewildering — of course Carlin is still relevant! — but I was happy to discover there’s a new HBO documentary on the way: George Carlin’s American Dream. (Carlin is my all-time favorite comedian: my best friend and I used to fall asleep listening to his CDs during our sleepovers. My favorite special is Jammin’ in New York.)
I was browsing YouTube with my son and we came across musician Jacob Collier answering questions about music theory, which led to videos of him explaining harmony in 5 levels of complexity and playing the same song in 18 increasingly complex emotions. I love this kind of stuff, so if you have favorite videos or podcasts about music theory, send ‘em my way!
Thanks for reading. This newsletter is a reader-supported publication. The best way to support my work is to buy my books, hire me to speak, shop for some of my favorite gear (I get a cut), or become a paid subscriber and help keep Fridays free for everyone:
PS. Graduation season is coming up: I recommend stuffing some money in an envelope and sticking it in a copy of the new gift edition of Steal Like an Artist!