Day 36/Don’t finish, just habit.

Is there a time in your life you could have used a Nola studiola? (alone, in New Orleans, semi off-the-grid, unemployed) What’s one thing you’d be sure to do if you were ensconced in my Nola studiola?

I love that you’re finding a place to focus on your writing life. That’s wonderful. I could use that all the time, personally. If you haven’t read Alice Munro’s “The Office,” please do; it’s about so many things, including the need for a place to write. It also includes what may be (with apologies to “The Dead”) the best opening line of any short story ever written in English: “The solution to my life occurred to me one evening while I was ironing a shirt.” That there’s a “solution” indicates that there’s a problem, and that it’s the solution to her entire life raises the stakes even higher, but the flight of the imagination is also grounded by the mundane domestic chore. It’s a stunning sentence and story.

Were I in a studio like yours for the summer, with the calendar counting down to my eviction, I would attempt to forget about the idea of completing anything and work on starting good habits and finding voices to work with over the coming years. To dig a new and deeper well to draw from. The freedom to see the world from new perspectives is something to relish.

AB: You (I’m speaking as if to Ervin) passed along this article, “Necessary Daemons,” in Granta by Madison Smartt Bell. It really, really speaks to me and comforts me, and helps me get more comfortable with what you are encouraging about taking my project “off the clock” because what he speaks about is the sort of process/state that I guess I am gaining more comfort with this summer, and, as my friend Britton says, helping to “re-establish a relationship to creativity.” And this isn’t measured in page numbers.

I think I used cheap ballpoint pens until recently because I didn’t like the permanence and the stridency of deep, bold expensive pens. It felt like too much of a commitment. And borrowing Tyler’s bold pen (and stealing a second) to start out helped me feel okay about making a dark, gash like statement in order to get comfortable enough to buy my own dark line-making pens.

Maybe the work of starting to listen to new voices and planting seeds for new work has to do with getting comfortable with what happens when you are in others’ spaces. My friends Katie and Jay lent me their awesome house off of Main Street in Santa Monica a few years ago, and I still look back to that month (or was it less?) and I can vividly remember the sensations of waking up in the particular type of light that the windows there let in, and the particular smell of the ocean breeze that came in with me from the beach. Their space, wherever they live, carries with it the very powerful peace that both of them have about them. It’s really crazy but true. If I could bottle it… This article helps me think about how “work” of a retreat–something I won’t get again for a long time–is not about page numbers and about maybe growing more comfortable in my skin–like, how once you start telling the truth (supposedly) as with all habits, you grow less willing to lie.

Strangely enough lwas or loas have been a fascination of mine for a while now. Really comforting and instructive read for me.

I am trying to drown out the failure voices. I write, more or less, 5 pages a day, though sometimes my writing around and about the project are more, and sometimes they make up the 5 pages. I am trying not to worry about that–linear thinking, fighting possession– is what got me into this mess in the first place. However, I don’t feel completely free to listen to all the new voices. I have a notebook I’ve started of new things that will follow me for a while, but I haven’t been putting all of my attention on these new things, and I certainly haven’t been in a space to send small things out. Perhaps the inattention to the large project is what refills the well and helps at least start the seeds of these new voices and new projects you talk about which will be crucial to keep me company in the coming months, years, as I try not to repeat mistakes I made with my last project, in which I never once refilled my well for a year and it was a huge mistake.

About alison barker