Glorious Messes

It’s been several weeks since I sent my manuscript in to my editor and in those weeks I’ve been doing some self-care with great results. I’m continuing to eat a plant-based whole food diet, which pleases my body and eases my mind. Yeah, I know. Weird that what you eat can affect your mental state, but that’s exactly what’s happened here.

As happy as I am with this turn my life has taken, I’m also conscious of deliberately filling the well. Reading books about and watching documentaries on the lives of other creative people, whether film, biography or memoir, is one way I recharge after writing a difficult book. Every book I’ve written has had its problems, but this last one almost broke my brain.

Yes, now that it’s over (until the edits come in) it was worth it.

One reason I’m so attracted to the lives of poets, musicians and authors is because I love getting glimpses into their creative processes. As I listen, watch, and read about these other creative types, I search for inspiration and insight into my own way of writing. Maybe I’ll pick up a trick or two, maybe I’ll uncover a danger zone from which I need to steer clear. Probably both.

I’ve delved into the lives of creative folks for decades. The sparks I’ve come away with have been like somebody up the ladder taking my hand and giving me a tug along the path. Looking into other artist’s lives is the most refreshing and invigorating thing I can do when my own work has emptied me out. Sometimes I find inspiration in unexpected places.

In the last few days I’ve been reading Charles Baxter’s The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot along with a strange book on David Bowie’s life. It’s strange because it’s a compilation of long quotes, snippets of interviews, and the author’s own inserts, so there are like a zillion authors. This pastiche is not particularly elegant, but it’s interesting. You get all these views on who Bowie was and how his personas and processes evolved through several decades.

Then I saw documentaries on the Stooges and Bowie mixed in with the reading. I’m not a huge fan of Bowie’s music or even his various incarnations, but I’ve always found him interesting. He was somebody who obviously cared deeply about crafting those personas and the music that went with each of his many stages as a performer. I was a fan of the Stooges. In my teenage delusion, I thought I Wanna Be Your Dog was romantic.

If I’d thought more deeply about it then, I would have realized what I really liked was the guitar shred in the opening bars, the dissonance of the cowbell beat, and the way Iggy did a kind of spoken word singing. He was a poet. That’s what attracted me, not the idea of being anybody’s dog.

In the Stooges doc, elder statesman Iggy came across as just so smart and not at all like someone who stage dived and rubbed peanut butter on his belly in concert. Just by coincidence, reading David Bowie: A Life, I found out that the only reason Iggy is still relevant is because David literally gave him a hand up–more like grabbed him with both arms and hoisted him into writing Lust for Life. Bowie used his money and influence and artistry to usher Iggy into his next act.

What I’ve learned this time in my deep dive is that creative lives are not smooth and shiny, but more like glorious messes. And this, above all else, is somehow a strange comfort to me.