Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, Making Art, and Other Tuesday Thoughts

I'm not the only one mulling over the terrible sadness of Robin Williams' death yesterday, seemingly from suicide, most likely from depression/addiction. None of which, I would imagine, even begins to touch on all the true causes of this tragedy. We weren't in his head. Not even his family was, I suppose, or if they were, even they-- the people who loved him most-- were able to stop it from occurring.

Making something out of nothing--making art, be it comedy or drama or music or paintings or sculpture or poetry or novels or whatever--is enormously gratifying. It is also often difficult (even when the work itself comes easily) and painful and draining. The muse doesn't always arrive on schedule. Or the muse arrives too often and can't be turned off and all you can think is some version of 'why am I sitting here making small talk when I should be working.' I won't even begin to know what it is like to be so hugely gifted and so enormously talented and keep up with what you presume and in fact know is everyone's expectations. 

Even I, on the barely anyone knows who I am or what I write end of the spectrum, understand that the expectations can be burdensome. You got a huge book deal and now the book better perform. Your book deal was barely enough to buy everyone a Happy Meal and now you better write a bigger, better book to follow it. Your book was high concept and everyone loved it. Better make the next one even higher concept. Anyone who says they never think about these things is either lying or more well-grounded than the rest of us.

When you make art, you dig into the deepest places of yourself and they're not always the pretty places. The fears and dark stuff and the things about the world that make you cringe. You go to the good stuff as well -- what it means to be loved and to love in return, what it means to be a human being in all its messy craziness. But the best art comes from a place of honesty. And that itself can be daunting. Because to write honestly is to see yourself honestly and often it's not a pretty picture in there. 

I was lucky enough to see Robin Williams perform live (from the 1st row!) when he was still doing stand up tours. He sweat buckets and was amazing. I still remember how hard I laughed. And the movies! Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet's Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook,  Good Will Hunting, and so many more. Such a huge and varied career! It is a huge loss and a huge shame and I am infinitely sorry to hear such sad news.

In other Tuesday musings, I would like the Middle East to calm down. I would like everyone to hold hands and eat cookies and milk and just stop it, okay?

And on this front, I just turned in my dedication and acknowledgement pages for FINDING PARIS (coming April 21, 2015 from Balzer and Bray) In keeping with this post, let me say that this book is darker than some of what I've written before. I'll be talking about it very soon. For now I shall just say that I am both honored and excited to have you read Leo and Paris and Max's story.

And speaking of stories, watched the first episode of STARZ 's new Outlander mini series and I give it just about 2 thumbs up. I think I will always like the books best (I'm in number 6 of 8 right now), but Jamie and Claire are well-cast and I'm excited to see what comes next! Okay, I'll be fully honest. We had an issue with the cable company not coming out for their appt with us cause the cable wasn't working and when they finally got things all working again, they said, "Hey, would you like free Showtime for awhile?" and I was like "NO! Give me Starz." And they were like, "But that isn't as nice of an upgrade and we want to make you feel better." And I was like, "Give me freaking Starz so I can watch Outlander." And so they did. Okay, I didn't say that at all; I just asked. And said please and thank you. And then did the dance of joy because now I could watch Jamie and Claire. At least for a few weeks.

If you want an amazing and different read by one of the most brilliant authors I know, THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE is out today, written by Adele Griffin and published by Soho Teen. Adele Griffn's writing has alway simply blown me away. There is just something in her style and word choice and tone that makes me want to hug the pages, that thrills and chills me and consistently makes me aware that I am reading something masterfully constructed. Her command of place and small detail and her exploration of characters who are on the edge, the fringe, the emotional tight wire -- well, yeah. She's freaking brilliant. Truly. And I don't say this lightly. ADDISON STONE is also, like where this post began today, about fragile mental health and art.

More soon, dear readers.

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