Last weekend I spent 15 hours on a piece of writing, and every single minute hurt. The thesis was murky, the words weren’t coming, and by the end nearly every sentence had been moved, rewritten, and deleted several times. I knew I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write it, but I pushed hard until I was, or thought I was, and the result was—I can see now—the editorial embodiment of a wince. I sent it to the editor for fear of missing my deadline.
I also didn't click with Fetch the Bolt Cutters but found Rina Sawayama the same week — so happy about that!
Absolutely we should be listening to new music but if it just doesn't work after multiple attempts, who cares? Maybe I'll 180 on the Bolt Cutters in some time as I did with Charli recently, most likely it's just not my cup of tea though. I still appreciate what it is to other people, it sounds like what Sawayama is to me right now — which is some cosmic level sync with my brain.
I believe there's an artist like Fiona for everybody but it can't literally be Fiona for everybody. Discovering new music takes patience and nobody likes 100% of the music they find, tuning in to something unfamiliar 100% broadens perspectives.
The fact that I am the 32nd person loving this newsletter, makes me really happy because when it will explode and be standard curriculum in colleges around the world I will be able to say I WAS HERE FIRST
Thank you! I really loved these two blurbs, they make me happy in the most human being way.
“I always think of moods like this when I’m feeling down—like they’re something separate from me that I simply have to deal with rather than the only way to experience life as a human being.”
“Because I experience the same variation in my ability to do anything, like be funny or act boldly or open my mail. The problem is, what I want from myself, or maybe what I ask of myself, is consistency”
This made me want to cry! Especially the part about consistency. What I've realised over time is that the standard I set is always based on those five hours of good work. On a normal day, I can do this well in five hours, so why did I just spend fifteen hours writing three sentences one of which is 'WHY WHY WHY'? But sometimes those fifteen hours are needed. And maybe the real standard is 'I got somewhere I was happy with after 15 hours of pain, seven days of ruminating and 5 hours of catharsis.' In other words, maybe the standard should actually be a week, and those days where the writing flows because you've already worked it all out in your head are the exception. Or at any rate if you set the bar lower, it might hurt a bit less.
Very relatable - those days can be such torture. I recently read the Woman Code by Alisa Vitti, where she writes about how our different hormones peaking and dipping at certain throughout the month can have considerable influence over our productivity/focus, energy, physical strength etc as well as your emotions. If reading it gave me anything, it made me realise that days of not getting everything right or done were not entirely down to laziness or some shortcoming, rather a physical force that should perhaps be listened to. Working with, not against your body and all that! :)
I often think that the pressure to "perform" is what stands in the way of expression (and, if your livelihood depends on it, is absolutely normal). I hope you don't feel this pressure and you are not being too hard on yourself. I also hope that you feel free to exist without answers to questions others raise, and questions you raise yourself. To me you are one of the most openly self-reflective writers I've ever read but I think sometimes we don't need to self-investigate all our thoughts and emotions, as their purpose is just to exist (like ours atm). This is just a way of thinking about it without going crazy, not about your content :) Seriously loved all the letters so far and -without any expectations- looking forward to read literally anything that comes from your brain.
Thank you for writing this. It was so cathartic to read something that I didn’t know I needed to hear: “The problem is, what I want from myself, or maybe what I ask of myself, is consistency. And that keeps running up against the fact of my humanity, and I keep having to reckon with the idea that my feelings aren’t math equations for my thoughts to solve.”....... I feel like quarantine has exposed how inconsistent I am because all the external variety is gone and yet my emotions run wild. I find it nearly impossible to accept. Hugs
Loved this one. And you tripped over a bit of real science when you talked about the gut seeming to be the part of our mind that knows best. Our mind has three systems: the brain, the nervous system, and a separate nervous system just for our gut. It’s all connected (and together makes up ‘our minds) and it’s why we feel our ‘feelings’ (messages from our mind) in our gut. I’m not a scientist, just love mind science, but there’s a wiki for that: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nervous_system
Kim Soko Schaefer
“ And that keeps running up against the fact of my humanity, and I keep having to reckon with the idea that my feelings aren’t math equations for my thoughts to solve.” THANK YOU! Accepting the feelings and not punishing ourselves for having them!
It's almost eerie how much this reflects my own trains of thought. As a very in-my-head person I've been recently trying to learn how to listen to my gut. It was helpful for me to read The Body Keeps the Score, which helped convince me to really, actually believe that my body knows things I don't.
I also read Blood Bone and Butter and I loved the book but felt mediocre about her restaurant when I visited. It’s interesting to feel understood by someone’s narrative and yet not feel inspired by their main product. There’s definitely something about capitalism there
Thank you for being HONEST about the writing process! Sometimes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Haley, if you're feeling up to a new book please check out "Writer's Block and How to Use it" by Victoria Nelson (also called "On Writer's Block"). It's a bit old-school psychoanalytic-y and I've never seen it discussed anywhere, but I borrowed my mom's copy from the 80s and it's one of the most useful books on writing and creativity I've found. She's definitely not a productivity fetishist either, I promise (quite the opposite!). If I could sum up her advice in one phrase--and based on your newsletter it seems you're trying to parse out this impulse--it's: Lean into your writer's block. Listen to it, and give yourself permission to stop writing without feeling guilty. If it sounds intriguing I hope you'll check it out, because I need to hear someone else talk about it to know I'm not crazy lol.
Hi from Paris Haley! I recently watched a conversation about creativity that really echoed with your recent block : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0-Us9licvc
HALEY!! I needed to hear this. Thank you.
Loved this so much