I’m not someone who experiences something, then forgets it. Especially when it comes to whatever is entertaining, moving, or influencing me. This includes the music that I listen to, the books that I read, the concepts or ideas that inhabit my mind, anything. I think it’s partly why I’m a writer– because everything has meaning to me, or is somehow connected to a greater and larger narrative. I see these connections like threads running through all things.
So, needless to say, I have these obsessions. These thoughts or movements or artistic acts that occupy the realty of my brainspace for an embarrasing amount of time. And for the first time here on this blog I’m sharing the what and the why behind these things that captivated me in 2014. [Buckle up, this is longer than normal.]
WHAT: Listened to Jason Isbell
WHY: This is country/Americana music as it is meant to be. The song writing cuts deep, rolling you over a body of emotions and experiences some of us may be too scared to visit. His album is named Southeastern and it is exactly and perfectly that: a record that feels like the Southeast– either in the midst of a storm or the calm just after it. He wrote it as he was entering sobriety and about to marry his lovely musician wife. The weight of so much is palpable through his chords. Listen to this record, talk about what it makes you feel. See him live, cry, share with loved ones how it connected you to some beautiful sacredness.
WHAT: Watched Chef
WHY: As someone who’s being more and more inspired by cooking, this movie is a gem. The cinematography is stunning (especially around the food prep), but it’s the Chef’s journey that gets me. He’s out to find his love and voice again in cooking after he’s sent adrift from leaving his restaurant. Making meaning after being lost is perhaps my favorite storyline (plus there’s food). Along the way, his relationships with his ex-wife, his son, and his sous chef are so real and dynamic and hopeful. I’ve seen this movie twice and hear it’s coming to Netflix. I’ll be watching it over and over and over and over.
WHAT: Contemplate Integrity
WHY: This year has challenged me in the sense of what I’m doing, how I’m writing, and who I’m writing for. Honestly, I didn’t think about integrity as a writer/artist much before this year, but after this year, it’s all I know. As an artist, you have to make constant choices about your craft (what will you reflect? who is your audience? how will you carry your content?). It’s easy to go along with it all, bending yourself to the demands of the voices around you. But what if…What if, we could really listen to that still small voice that leads you where you should be? What if that is in opposition to what’s comfortable and easy? Hello, integrity. This year, I (think I) made the choice to be a writer who writes for what’s inside me, not what others hope for my writing. To be honest, this is hard and lonely. It’s confusing only because it goes against our innate desires to be liked and appreciated. But it’s not confusing in the way that it clarifies your purpose and your gift.
WHAT: Read more Wendell Berry
WHY: Because I always do! But really, why am I so captivated by Wendell Berry? Good question with hardly an easy response. Here’s the best I can do: Wendell’s writing makes me feel two things. First, that I am not alone. That these things that I hope for or desire, and the things that weigh on me and I wrestle with are things that are common to every thinking human ever. And he writes about them with wisdom unparalleled. Secondly, his writing– sincere, sometimes sentimental, bucolic– has given my writing a place in this world. It’s as if he charted the path before me. No, I am not comparing myself to him. I’m only saying my greatest hope is to write about similar topics and content as him, and he has made way for these conversations. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on where to start reading Wendell Berry!)
WHAT: the Thoughtful Life
WHY: Summarized in this post here. I routinely think about how much I love my life. This doesn’t mean that life is easy or without struggle and loneliness, but it means we’ve built something good. And it’s not because we’re lucky, it’s because we’ve been very involved in choosing what this life looks like. And for this, I can feel gratitude and joy.
WHY: Because they are so gosh darn delightful. Why else? Everyone needs more delight in their lives.
I love the idea of reflecting on your obsessions. And I love seeing in “print” what you said in person (yay!!) about Wendell Berry giving your writing a place in the world. From the outside, it’s so easy to see how someone else’s writing fits in, but from the inside, those touchpoints can be the most critical thing for finding that same perspective on your own writing. Here’s to a 2015 filled with more wonderful obsessions!