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Creativity and Vacation

Austin, TX is the gift that keeps on giving, even when I’m in its hipster-sister city of Portland, OR. After my amazing weekend in Austin a few weeks back, I have been keeping up with my new friend Tolly Moseley (of PR By the Book and her own blog, the Austin Eavesdropper). It is through Tolly from Austin that I learned about this really awesome artist named — what a coincidence — Austin Kleon. (Fun fact: the guy who did my tattoo in Austin is also named Austin. Another fun fact: the woman who colors my hair in San Francisco is named California.)

Austin Kleon gave a graduation speech a few weeks ago to a college class in upstate New York about creativity. Even though he’s a visual artist (with a book out), there’s a lot of rich material there for any writer, artist, or creative person. I’ve been writing recently about creativity, because it’s so important to nourish that part of yourself, whether writing or just living life.

You can read his speech here. I don’t just love it because he quotes Kurt Vonnegut a lot, by the way, though that certainly helps. (Fun fact: for the longest time, I wanted epitaph to be a Vonnegut quote from GOD BLESS YOU, DR. KEVORKIAN: “Everything was beautiful. Nothing hurt,” but this weekend I changed my mind. Why? Because, per my whole “being alive” philosophy, life does hurt sometimes, and that’s what makes it even more beautiful.) As Lady Gaga says in a really fascinating interview (which I’ve linked to once before), here, her favorite quote is, “If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not standing in the light.”

My new epitaph candidates are: “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot) or “Only connect!” from HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster. If I really wanted to do Vonnegut, perhaps “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center,” from PLAYER PIANO. Or, you know, I could always do the favorite from SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE: “So it goes.” Why the gravestone thoughts? I just read STIFF by Mary Roach. Good, chilling, mind-bending fun, and really well-written.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity, authenticity, and the publishing industry lately. I’ve also been trying to get back in touch with my own creative self. I minister to the creative selves of others for a living. I find that, in order to do that well, I need to refuel my own creative source.

This past (looong) weekend was just the thing the doctor ordered. And it’s not even over yet. I’m writing this from Portland, OR, where I’ve been staying with my inimitable friends, Nate and April, in a rented salmon-colored summer house. They were actually called away to Eugene halfway through my trip and I’ve ended up spending a fair amount of time alone and carless…just me, the sloping green backyard, and the sound of the (everpresent) rain. It has actually been perfect.

On Thursday, I ate perhaps one of the best croissants ever, bought really cute sky blue shoes, and ordered a pair of über-hipster glasses that I just pray are ready before BEA, where I will blow all the other publishing hipsters out of the publishing hipster water with my hipsterness. (Not that I care about being hipper than other hipsters, of course, since I’m a hipster and hipsters, by definition, don’t care.) We spent the night at the Kennedy School and I relaxed in the saltwater soaking pool for hours and hours and hours. My dear Suzanne Young showed up to take me out to dinner and drinks on Friday, stoking my perma-fire for good Cajun food and getting me even more excited for the week I’m spending in NOLA in June for ALA. (Fact: I go to New Orleans at least twice a year because it is one of my favorite US cities.)

On Saturday, Jeff Geiger (Grand Poobah of Radness) crammed into eight hours what would’ve otherwise taken eight days in Portland: a coffee tasting, three breweries, a beer festival, two meals, and even a little bit of Ben Folds goodness. Omakase is a Japanese phrase meaning “it’s up to you” or “I am in your hands.” If you want to make a sushi chef happy, say this and let them serve you whatever they want. That’s what I said to Jeff: I am in your hands. Give me the raddest, baddest, hippest tour of Portland. And he knocked it out of the park. And brought me the present of limited edition beer, to boot. (Bryan Bliss is decidedly unhip in that he did not show his face for these festivities. Boo. Hiss. Weak sauce. Martha Flynn and Melissa Manlove have hyperactive imaginations, but I would still like to invest in a limited print run of “What Wouldn’t Mary Do?” t-shirts. (Fun fact: ladies, you both like me more, so just admit it to yourselves and one another.))

I am so blessed to have these friends. I am so grateful for this time to recharge, listen to Ben Folds, read Kurt Vonnegut (BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, natch), think my thoughts, and methodically reread the New York Times Modern Love column archives (some of my favorite essays ever).

Speaking of cool things…I just found out (maybe I’m the last to know, I haven’t really been following the movie news) that my gorgeous, fierce, and talented friend from college, Tara Macken, is going to be a tribute in the HUNGER GAMES movie! Woo! Everybody go and “Like” her Facebook page, here.

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  1. Rachael Harrie’s avatar

    Sounds like you had an awesome refuel/recharge loooong weekend – very necessary! LOL, I’m amazed you crammed so much into your days, Your Hipsterness. Fun fact – we played Ben Folds at our wedding, so I’ll confess to a touch of envy *grins*

  2. EricJ’s avatar

    My new epitaph candidates are: “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot)

    Had one character who kept a poster of that quote in his locker (as a deliberate in-joke nod to “The Chocolate War”)–
    His response: “I don’t have to….It’s disturbed enough as it is.”

  3. KDuBayGillis’s avatar

    If you are still there. . . try to find the 24 Hour Church of Elvis. Ben Folds? In person? Jeeeeeaaallllouus!

    This blog is going to birth a new nickname for you: Hipster-Minister Mary, High Priestess of Creativity.

  4. Mary’s avatar

    Oh, I didn’t see Ben Folds in person…just listened to him. 🙂 The last time I saw Ben Folds was in the fall…too long ago!

  5. joshua’s avatar

    If you’re still in ptown and like bbq, check out Russell street bbq. Better than any I’ve had in tx.

  6. Franziska Green’s avatar

    All I can say is, it’s a good job I’ve eaten. Feeling peckish now.

  7. Lindsey Lane’s avatar

    I will probably thank you for the rest of my life (well, maybe the rest of 2011) for the link to Austin Kleon. Here’s my first thank you.
    Keep having a wonderful vacation. I’m living it vicariously.

  8. T.L. Bodine’s avatar

    A visit to Westminster Abbey inspired me to put some thought into my tombstone. There’s something really amazing about literally walking through rooms of the remains of great scientists, writers, world leaders, etc.

    My current bid for my epitaph is from Walt Whitman. “To die is different than anyone supposed — and luckier.”


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