this post comes from california -- hello from california! i'm here for the week on holiday, spending time with family and friends and eating way too much good food and filling the in-between spaces with reading -- and i suppose i'd like to say something about these books here, at least the ones i'm currently reading because i'm savoring them both, taking them slowly, piece by piece, which works because one's a collection of essays and the other's a collection of columns: alex ross' listen to this (FSG, 2010) and cheryl strayed's tiny beautiful things: advice on love and life from dear sugar (vintage, 2012).
i'm loving listen to this, which is a collection of pieces ross has written for the new yorker. i'm not reading the essays in order but skipping around and reading the ones that catch my fancy (usually the ones about composers and musicians i know and like), and there's nothing fancy or particular about alex ross' writing -- he simply writes well, and he writes about music without getting lost in terminology or being overly technical or, even, too sentimental -- and i thoroughly enjoy reading him because he genuinely loves and appreciates music, and that comes off the page.
(you know, i have to say that i love the new yorker's non-fiction. this isn't to say that i dislike its fiction but that i have a particular soft spot for its non-fiction because fiction allows for more leeway in style and voice [as it should], but its non-fiction takes different writers and their voices and brings them under the overall tone and voice of the new yorker. which, yes, all magazines [should] do, but i really enjoy the new yorker's voice because it's smart without being too intellectual, intelligent without being academic or dull, proud of its identity without being full of itself. i can't confess to reading every single piece in every single issue [or even to reading every issue every week because i tend to amass issues then sit down with a pile of them for a lovely evening of marathon reading], but i love having the new yorker and think its worth every penny of my subscription.)
and cheryl strayed -- oh, strayed as dear sugar is abso-fucking-lutely brilliant. she's blunt and honest but generous and kind and sympathetic, and she makes me laugh and cry and nod my head in vehement agreement. i was introduced to her from a link to her column on envy, which is wonderfully paired with her column on writing like a motherfucker, and i'm happy that they made this into a book to have and to hold. i only wish there were a hardcover of this (i believe it was only published in paperback? please correct me if i'm wrong).
there's more i actually want to say in regards to those two columns linked above, though, and specifically about craft and querying and writing, but i shall save that for another week. i've been having these wonderful meandering conversations with my illustrator buddy about all those things, so there are lots of thoughts bubbling around in my head, which i shall endeavor to get down into articulate words, but i suppose i shall leave y'all with this: write because you love it. create because you can't help it. pursue the art because not to pursue the art is simply not an option. and, if you decide to make something of it, to pursue publication or production or whatever it is your art deems "professional" and "a career," then go into it knowing that it's going to hurt like hell and your heart is going to be broken over and over and over again and that you're going to have to pick up the pieces over and over and over again. do it because it's worth the pain (and it will be pain), because you want it so bad it fucking hurts, and it's the trying that makes it worthwhile, the attempts that make you a better writer, a better artist, a better creator that truly count. do it because the work itself brings you joy, not the desire for recognition or fame or a huge advance. do it because you must.