The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
“Its just over six months since I got out of the hospital and I want to watch election coverage with my friends around me, but my house is too filthy to allow anyone in, so I rent a hotel room. I am still living in disarray; I am still spending money wildly (easier to rent a hotel suite than to tidy up); I still cannot understand why anyone thinks my cutting is problematic. Oh! Here’s something funny! When I got back from hospital, Bad Boyfriend and my English Flatmate had become a couple. So I’m in contact with neither. But I am not too upset, because there’s a boy - Mike - whose affection I am determined to hunt down and kill. It used to be material objects I felt I needed to be happy. At eleven, I knew “things would be better if only I had a floor-length floral skirt in autumn colors.” Grandma knuckled down and made the skirt of my imagination for me. I put it on. And then I cried, because things weren’t any better.
I have tried to find happiness through hair color. Election 2000, I have hair that is supposed to be blond but has turned out an ash-y orange. SB says it is the exact same shade as the toupee worn by a Sopranos villain called Ralph Cifaretto, who beat a teenage mistress to death. “That isn’t how I want to look,” I explain to my mother in our daily call.
“Oh!” she says, “but his hair’s nice!”
So, I look like Ralph Cifaretto, Florida is in the balance, and I’m determined that Mike, being corn-fed and Mid-western, would make me feel stable if I had him. If I had someone like him, it would prove that I’m stable, and then I wouldn’t have to do the work to get there. Mike is just a nice boy from Ohio. Ohio Mike. When I am sent to interview Brad Pitt for the cover of Esquire, the first words out of my mouth when he walks into the room are: “Oh. You aren’t as good-looking as Ohio Mike.”
“Who’s Ohio Mike?” asks Pitt, good-naturedly, for he is nothing if not good-natured.
I have long sleeves with special holes so I can hook them over my thumbs, not a smidge of skin viewable, so covered it is in cuts.
“This guy I like, who’s better-looking than you.”
There are two stories I remember (intertwined by the hypermania), one story of love and one of art, and both of a kind of revolution that I like very much. I dwell on the tale of Che Guevara picking up Aleida, who would become his wife, by telling her he was off to overthrow the Bolivian government and did she want to come with him?
The other I obsess over is Bob Dylan seeing the violinist Scarlet Rivera walking along the road with her violin case and spontaneously asing her to come to the studio with him. Desire comes out of it the year I am born. Violins at a revolution. Icons trying to get their wives to stay, others seducing them for the first time. Sometimes Bob Dylan is the one who, in my head, ends up dead and posed, Christ-like, at the hands of the CIA. Che, meanwhile, briefly converts to Chrstianity and writes an ill-received screenplay.
Maybe it’s because I’m manic, but I can conjure people. A week nonstop after listening to Desire, I see Bob Dylan on the streets of downtown New York. “
Emma Forrest in her memoir Your Voice In My Head. I am currently reading this book (nearly finished) and it so totally resonates. It’s too good not to quote.
Baby mammals, including humans, learn by playing, which is why “the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” Boys who’d spent years strategizing for fun gained instinctive skills to handle real-world situations. So play as you did in childhood, with all-out absorption. Watch for ways your childhood playing skills can solve a problem. Play, not work, is the key to success.