Guest: Cris Gray
I spoke with my North Avenue Lounge co-host about his plans to start a podcast and why he has a particular desire to talk about death.
This entry was sent in my September 10th TinyLetter.
I have done a poor job of maintaining a creative outlet in my midlife. I produce all kinds of audio projects, certainly, but they serve multiple masters: documenting my professional work, fulfilling my collaborators’ needs, hopes of exposure, even chasing the elusive high of meeting your heroes. What I have lost is the straight-up artistic expression of my internal life.
I used to write novels and short stories, in my more lubricated days (that’s a drinking joke), and while most of them were incomplete, I did finish a single novel and three short stories that I felt were worth showing to other people. My rejection slip collection is not big but it’s too thick to slip between the pages of a notebook.
But I don’t write fiction anymore. Until recently, the idea of starting to write again felt huge and ungainly; writing seemed like an unending, unsatisfying endeavor that I should be glad to be rid of.
Working on Supercontext with Chris, however, has helped me find my way back to the desire to write and even to the sources of that desire, most notably in the episode on Nick Cave that we produced in anticipation of the release of Skeleton Tree and the accompanying film One More Time With Feeling. We discussed Nick Cave’s notebooks and I connected that discussion to my vague memory of Nick Cave’s interview on Marc Maron’s WTF and to “Assumptions,” a chapter in Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town, which contains the line “Whenever I see a town that triggers whatever it is inside me that wants to write a poem, I assume at least one of the following:” which introduces 78 contradictory and deceptively simple qualities to these potential triggering towns.
So dumping all that stuff into my brain barrel — Nick Cave, notebooks, artistic assumptions, Richard Hugo, triggering towns, fantasy life, Skeleton Tree, death, life, children, collaboration, and music — and shaking it around brought me to an artistic decision.
Trying to write a book, or a story, or even, God help me, a poem feels like taking on an undue burden. But trying to fill notebooks with notations and aphorisms about an alternate artistic universe (that any potential Charlie-Bennett-composed fiction might describe) feels like a romp, like therapy, like a puzzle, like drawing a map, like useful work.
So I’m going to start filling notebooks. The first assumption that struck me and stuck is this one: “Houses burn down when someone decides to change who they are.”