In 2010 author Zadie Smith offered these 10 tips for writing as part of a project for The Guardian inspired by a similar list Elmore Leonard provided The NY Times 10 years earlier. Other authors participated in this exercise, but Zadie’s was the one I found on Tumblr today, and it stopped me dead in my tracks with it’s leveling wisdom. Numbers four, nine, and ten can apply to absolutely anything in life, but number three gets down to the core of it: “You can either write good sentences or you can’t.”
Sometimes feeling hungry is satisfying it itself when you wake up after sleeping the right amount, toes tingling, calves aching from yesterday’s exercise. Anxiety has made leave from its perch in your spine.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. Many people are destined to experience some symptoms of major depressive disorder throughout their lifetime, usually in response to a major life change or loss. Sometimes, though, depression strikes for seemingly no reason. Is there really an evolutionary reason for crippling depression that makes you not even feel like a human being, that makes you into a person who can’t even hate anymore?
The Room’s auteur Tommy Wiseau is an American. That’s the first thing he’d probably want you to know about him. And he’s right, he is American, and like most Americans and their ancestors, Tommy is an immigrant, but he doesn’t like to talk about that. He’d prefer that fans of his magical film experience believe he’s from Louisiana, where he spent some time with his aunt and uncle before settling down in San Francisco in the 1970s, but his broken English and tangled accent are embarrassingly obvious tells. It’s been tracked down that Tommy was probably born in Poland and he has often said he spent a good part of his younger days in France, which accounts for his mixed accent. Most people would think nothing of mentioning their native country even if they want to keep some details private. For Tommy Wiseau, all details are private and the truth is something that you construct for yourself. Tommy isn’t interested in the wonderful mixing of cultures in the United States, instead he’s locked on with a vice-grip to an important American trope: The Self-Made Man. This dude is vampiric absurdist Don Draper who everyone knows is really Dick Whitman.
For Ushio Shinohara, one of the subjects of the 2013 documentary Cutie and The Boxer, art is more than a passion: it is a dire fight. Figuratively, yes. But also literally. He makes his signature pieces by strapping sponges to boxing gloves and aggressively attacking the canvas. The finished product is captivating and reflects the violence of its making, but watching Ushio making it is a visceral performance art in itself. The tiny self up against the vast and awful and sparkling world, fighting for a piece of it. Wanting to snatch the marrow out of it, wanting to eviscerate the disappointments of it. Wanting to be rewarded for the fight. Punching at the demon at his heels, making it stronger all the while. Ushio kind of likes his demons. We all do to an extent.
Several years ago a writing professor told me that Sylvia Plath was an awful person. It altered something within me, something that had been tearing at me since adolescence when I first read The Bell Jar. I did not rebel against his assertion. I accepted his flippant rejection of her because it resembled something healthy. It gave me an alternative. It told me that I could reject her if I wanted, and maybe I should. He spoke with the assuredness of someone who had been personally wronged by a person. Maybe he had been. Maybe Sylvia had done something terrible to him. Maybe she had done something terrible to me.
I just discovered the documentary 65_RedRoses through the wonder of Netflix, though for a while my health anxiety made me put it off. “WATCH THIS YOU NEUROTIC DUMMY!” Netflix screamed at me. “NO!” I protested. “I don’t want to be reminded of my own inevitable demise!” I live with a constant dull panic about death that I try not to process or confront, so it’s always buzzing in the back of my mind and does nothing but cause me to fear and avoid things.
I’m a quiet person, and have been since the beginning of me. But baby, it’s a loud world.
David Sutherland’s three part documentary Country Boys is one of my favorites. It lasts six hours, but I wish it went on for hundreds. The series follows two interesting young men growing up in Appalachian Kentucky: Cody Perkins and Chris Johnson. While Cody has a tragic back-story and is extremely open-minded, thoughtful, and articulate, Chris is the one who truly haunts me. I hope and I wish that Sutherland films an update about these two since it’s about a decade since he first embedded himself in their lives. Spoilers ahead.
The second I caught a glimpse of John William Keedy’s It’s Hardly Noticable series, my heart skipped. This is what anxiety looks like. Anxiety, as a mental disorder, is about our futile attempts to control the uncontrollable. It’s a human reaction to chaos. This fence looks like notebooks I kept in adolescence (thank god I’m over my counting shit.) The clocks piece one is not my favorite visually, but it resonates with me. We’re all helpless against time. “At its… Read more »