When Performer Magazine prompted me to write about being a Black female music writer, I was apprehensive at first. But when that essay was published, I realized how inherently political my writing is—and how important it was for it to stay that way.
What It Is is expressionistic and difficult. Before the techniques are imparted (and they are, eventually) Lynda Barry spends more than one hundred pages blending comic panels, short passages of autobiography, and gorgeous, bizarre full page collages that explore the fundamentals of craft and creativity.
There is something about pressure that fascinates me. I never could stand to stick a pin into a balloon, but I would rub one against my head to make my hair stand on end and, in the slow, painstaking process, break the sack of air against my skull.
In 1941, in Paris’s Prison de la Santé, Jean Genet was given three days’ solitary confinement for writing. On sheets of paper he’d been given to make into bags, Genet had begun his first novel: Our Lady of the Flowers.
Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve been aware of my inability to maintain a daily journal. Upon the birth of my child, when my life was instantly transformed and everyone around urged me to savor it, this shortcoming became ever more pernicious.
Most writers I know have amazing verbal skills. They became writers because they fell in love with reading books. But as Joseph Conrad suggests, writers are equal parts visual artists. We paint pictures with words.
In literature, a return to a previously inhabited place or state often becomes a means of measuring. Here we are, back in the same place, yet not quite the same. What has changed, and what hasn’t, and what does that balance of sameness and difference do to us?
When you start selling perfumes, you are in the business of selling stories. You must learn to be adept in all the tools a writer needs to do their work well. Scent is the most primal sense, the surest trigger of memory, of instinct.
There are a couple of things I try to emphasize when I teach writing workshops. One: writing is not an innate talent that some people are born with and others are not. Two: writing is not a thing to be won.
Because there is language. Humanoids happened, then Homo sapiens happened, and somewhere down the line, we started to talk. Why? Because pictures weren’t enough. Because pictures, dazzling as they were (and still are), are a little less portable, less mutable to the nuances of our shifting perceptions.