Inspiration + Muses

Amy Poehler Being Awesome, Offering Inadvertent Life Inspiration


This is from Elle‘s recent Women in TV issue:

Why not try to do as much as you can? More, more, more, more, more. That’s how I’m feeling right now — really lucky and blessed, and I just want to enjoy my appetite. To some people, not caring is supposed to be cool, commenting is more interesting than doing, and everything is judged and then disposed of in, like, five minutes. I’m not interested in those kind of people. I like the person who commits and goes all in and takes big swings and then maybe falls or looks stupid; who jumps and falls down, rather than the person who points at the person who fell, and laughs. But I do sometimes laugh when people fall down.

What I love about this, besides the kind of get-up-and-go energy, posi-core sentiment and emphasis on creating instead of just consuming and criticizing: the idea of enjoying your appetite. Women, of course, have a tortured relationship to the primal notion of appetite, and perhaps to wanting in general. So awesome to be told to enjoy it! To take pleasure in your ambitions, whatever they are! Someone put this on a t-shirt and sell it on Etsy!

Keeping these words close to my heart as I navigate some crazy life transitions, keep warm in the season of tundra and FREAKING FINISH MY NOVEL. In the meanwhile, I am drinking lots of coffee, making websites, writing words, listening to both Agnes Obel and Beyonce, and wending my way through “The Tudors” because I’m going through a big costume drama phase.

Those reading here, thanks for tuning in…I promise something new and substantial is coming soon. Life is unpredictable, but there are always opportunities to bring a little beauty, liberation and bon vivant energy into it. Some of which I hope make their way into this space!

Nick Cave on Writing + Routines

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Inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. I go into my office every day that I’m in Brighton and work. Whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.

– Nick Cave

I’ve always been fascinated by songwriters and how they work. Of all the writing crafts, making songs seems most like bottling lightning, requiring all kinds of courting of the muses. But it’s intriguing to know when musicians treat it like a trade or a daily routine, like some normal thing like brushing teeth or working out. I’m especially intrigued by rock stars as sort of everyday journeyman types, because the whole rock ‘n roll archetype is so Dionysian, so soaked in alcohol, sex and late nights. It’s antithetical to the everyday “get it done” stoicism of the working person, right?

And yet here is Nick Cave going to the office everyday to work like a regular 9-to-5 bloke! There’s something really humble and endearing about it, but beyond the up-ending of the whole rock-star inspiration model, it’s good to know that his longevity and growth as an artist have come with a very deliberate ethos of hard work and discipline. Which of course sounds so Puritan, and yet if it pays off, then how can you argue?

Of course, there’s something about his work that reflects a very deliberate, crafted quality, right down to his literary lyrics. His music hasn’t had that “Wow, we came up with this craaaaazzzzzy shit while banging around in a rehearsal room” quality since perhaps the Birthday Party or early Bad Seeds — or, okay, the Grinderman stuff, but I wasn’t super-fond of that so I kind of blocked it from my mind. You can argue whether or not his music’s the better or worse for it, but I love that he keeps going, making weird shit and being as dark and perverse as ever. I’ve sort of more and more interested now in how artists, and particularly musicians, retain their sense of artistry long after the energy of youth wears off, and so it’s weird and lovely to know that Nick treats it like a trade or craft that he kind of just does, like it’s no big deal, no black magic…just hard work and getting it done.

And I love the Cave approach because it’s a great lesson to learn as a productive artist: you can’t just sit around and wait for the muse to hit you with a shot of inspiration. You have to just sit down and do it, and even if nothing comes, maybe something will the next day, or the day after. I’m not really someone who is all “I MUST WRITE EVERYDAY” but I do try to do something to keep the wheels greased, whether it’s making notes, stabbing an attempt at a paragraph or outlining. I don’t have an office, but I do write something everyday, even if it’s not the things I feel I should be writing.

It’s a lot more humbling in a way to work this way, because I don’t just write when I feel all genius and inspired — I learn that I write shit and shit is a normal part of the process, and i don’t feel “blocked” when it happens. Shit happens to all writers. But you just go on and do something, and do something, and do something again…and then you pass through the shit phase into something that helps you remember why you love to write or create in the first place. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. And sticking to it. And sticking to it.

Sparks & Beauties: Salvador Dali Does Alice in Wonderland, Saudi Arabia’s First Female Film Director and Ponies That Strut

It’s been a quiet week on the homestead. After two weekends of city adventures, I’ve laid low, cleaned house and wrote and read like the Cancerian introvert that I am. There’s all sorts of astrological craziness happening: beautiful things like Grand Sextiles, but crazy oppositions between key planets happening in my house of partnerships. There’s definitely manifestations of it, so I’m kind of just hiding out till I can get through the rest of July. (Is anyone else in this phase of “let’s just hide until this damn month is over”?) But, y’know, I’m good, life is good and my book is meandering in the world, making friends, which I am so happy about. Lovely Keight Bergmann wrote it up in her booklog at Uncapitalized, and I was stoked beyond stoked when Grow author Eleanor Whitney in NYC! Excited to see my book back in its spiritual home, you know? Anyway, these are the beautiful things I’ve squirreled away to read in my little Midwestern refuge.

+ Haifaa al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first woman feature film director — a remarkable achievement in a country where cinemas are banned. “Wadjda” is about a rebellious 11-year-old girl who wants to buy a bike in a country where women aren’t even supposed to drive. Needless to say, her own country isn’t showing the movie, but it’s being screened at fests around the world, and is getting award attention. This one’s on my radar! The Economist has a great little Q&A with her.

+ File this under “ravishing visual beauty” — Open Culture did a post on Salvador Dali’s illustrations of “Alice in Wonderland.” You can see the full slate of Dali’s work over at Retronaut — they’re gorgeous and hallucinatory.

+ I’ve had my eye on adding the new novel to my list of summer must-reads; Sarah McCarry at superb blog The Rejectionist has a Q&A with the author Stephanie Kuehn, and it’s a great one. (I also can’t wait for Sarah’s own book as well!)

+ Writerly types, Esme Wang (a former nogoodforme.com intern!) did a great post on winning writing grants. I’m not a grant-applier myself (I just don’t see anyone wanting to give grants about nutty books about 19th-century perfume makers or teen skater werewolves, you know?) but I know a lot of people who read this blog write literary fiction, and this could be up your alley!

+ I always read big-picture touchy-feeling stuff and one of the pieces of advice is usually “MAKE A VISION BOARD!” whether it’s for money, career, love, whatever. But sometimes you’re just basically vision-boarded out, you know? They take a long time to assemble and put together, and sometimes, if you’re like me, you just end up with lots of pictures of clouds and shoes. Anyway, Smart Cookies did a post on making a targeted, focused vision board that does its job and gets down to business.

+ Finally, I have to shout out my own Tumblr, because, you guys:

Don’t want to click? Okay:

Sparks & Beauties: A Story About Perfume by Jeanette Winterson, Eleanor Whitney’s Book on DIY Business, and My Own Personal Feelings About Generational Limbo

Hello lovelies! I’m writing this in midst of a summer heat wave and it is basically round-the-clock “ugh” in my world right now. But there are wondrous things of beauty to note and fun to be had, and small victories to notch. Anabela at Fieldguided gave a shout-out to , and I’m excited that it’s making its slow, poky yet intrepid way around the world. I’ve been heading into Chicago these past few weekends, which has been inspiring (and I’ll probably write about it later.) I’m also putting finishing touches on a mini-zine and drafting a newsletter for early next week — this one’s about love-tumults, so if you’ve ever wanted to read my intimate thoughts on that subject, do sign up. Anyway, these are the lovely, fun sparks and beauties I’ve squirreled away recently…enjoy, and as they used to write in yearbooks, STAY COOL.

A Lovely Short Story by Jeanette Winterson Inspired by an Oscar de la Renta Perfume

If you were somehow able to slice open my spirit, you’d see that Jeanette Winterson books make up a good part of my spiritual DNA, and The Passion remains one of my most beloved books of all time. Truth be told, though, I haven’t read her latest novels. I am not exactly sure why; I’m sure they are wonderful in their way. So stumbling on this short story commissioned by Stylist magazine by her — and about perfume, one of my abiding favorite passions! — was a bit like running into an old friend on vacation in a gorgeous locale and having a zing of a little conversation, and it reminds you of why you loved them in the first place and maybe you should stay in better touch with them again. “Days Like This” feels like a beautiful meditation on scent, love and desire, with sunlit prose and translucently lovely imagery, and a kind of radiant, matter-of-fact sensuality that suffuses so much of Winterson’s early work. And it’s short. Read it!

If You’ve Ever Wanted to Be Your Own Boss or Just “Take It to the Next Level,” You Need to Read Eleanor’s Book

I’ve known Eleanor Whitney for some time; we are both zine folk and bloggers with a fondness for fashion, music and everyday life. Everytime I have a conversation with her, like I did last weekend when she was in Chicago on her book tour for Grow, I always get a million and one ideas in my head about things I want to do and how I want to do them — she must radiate some pheromone of inspiration and energy or something. I promise you’ll get that same spark of endeavor and purpose from reading her book, which of course you need to get right now, especially if you’ve ever harbored ambitions to start your own creative project or business but don’t know exactly where to start. The book is practical, energetic, lively — like the smart, lively, incredibly fun friend Eleanor is in real life. Get it, get it, get it! (Plus her book is carried by Urban Outfitters in their store: how wonderful is that?)

Generational Angst

It’s funny what resonates unexpectedly with you, like this “22 Signs You’re Stuck Between Gen X and Millenials” Buzzfeed post. Buzzfeed is such a weird place in general, because no one really reads a story at Buzzfeed; you just scroll through it, almost like a weird hieroglyphic or Rorschach test. It’s that feeling after you read something and you’re like “THIS IS SO TRUE” and then you feel a little silly that something so superficial resonated with you. I find really odd comfort in knowing I’m in this tiny sliver of generation that is between cynical Gen X and wide-eyed Gen Y; it’s like knowing you have two superpowers to draw upon, weirdly enough. Because my early 20s were like some weird echo of “Reality Bites” and I did get my first e-mail address in college and I did watch “You Can’t Do That on Television” and I had to sneak in to see Nirvana and SOLIDARITY!!! Despite the Internet’s promises of community and connection, I find it really lacking in genuine solidarity sometimes, but then I find it in strange places like this that lasso together the strange detritus of pop culture and fashions a raft of belonging from it. Or something like that. You know what I mean? Maybe?