August 6, 2017

8/2/2017 – Mutual Admiration Society with Lynn Crawford

Artist: Lynn Crawford

Location: Commonwealth, Birmingham


LC – Coffee (milk), Mediterranean Salad

SRS – Coffee (black), Chorizo Hash

It was very important to me that this BWTA with Lynn did not simply devolve into an outpouring of gushing devotion, because usually when Lynn and I get together, we just compliment each other a lot. Lynn has been a major supportive force for my work since the beginning – in fact, she was the first person to identify me as rsharp, the anonymous Knight Arts blogger that had begun writing about the scene, back in 2011 or so. I cannot say where I would be without her, and I owe a great deal to her quiet example and generosity of spirit. You would think it’s nice when someone who you esteem so highly also has truly nice things to say about you, but I find it mortifying. LET ME PUT YOU ON A PEDESTAL, LYNN. STAY UP THERE. GEEZ.

Lynn is a writer, of course – you don’t need me to tell you that – and her work in arts writing is less rooted in the particulars of the art she’s dealing with, and more an expression of the fantasy worlds that it opens within her. Art objects are, ultimately, open for interpretation, and Lynn’s approach to that is very free, in terms of taking the art, or sometimes the artist, as a jumping-off point, rather than the focus of her writing. I can see ways in which this might drive people absolutely nuts, but I find it to be really playful, engaged, and conversant. It centralizes the writer’s experience, rather than that of the maker, but it would be hard to know Lynn and think of her as a particularly self-centered individual. She is constantly polishing other people’s stars, and there’s almost a way in which she seems guilty about her need to take time for her own health and creative practice.

Good news for Lynn: I am having a Summer of Self, so I had lots of things to say about taking time, about how “No” is a complete sentence, about how meeting people’s expectations is only satisfying until it becomes suddenly fucking infuriating. Writers are the spleen of society – we are engaged in the constant process of filtering and interpreting life, to build greater immunity to despair. We get tired sometimes. We can’t always take on your output, because it is prone to sit inside us. We try to make up for it by being sweet and extremely present, when we can. Love it or leave it.

I just watched all of “I Love Dick” on Amazon, in three big gulps. A thousand times yes. Female desire, female need, is never the central issue of any narrative. I had a similar revelation reading Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying” – women want and need and desire things, and everyone has a big problem with that. How unladylike to be hungry. How gross to be blind with desire. How stupid you look, asserting your need for something. Demanding it.

Or, how terrifyingly sexy.

Sometimes I think about whether I am cursed to grapple with the continued normalization of rape culture in society, or if I’m blessed to live in a tiny pocket of humanity’s near-history where it is not considered 100% acceptable. I think about the energy I spend every day deciding how much of myself to allow into the world – what to wear, how to talk, selfie/no selfie, tell someone I care or don’t, talk loud, look stupid because I’m trying something new. I think about the energy I have spent, throughout my life, trying not to be a victim of circumstances beyond my control. Lynn and I talked a lot about control – she is a practitioner of an incredibly stringent morning ritual, which enables all other functional aspects of her life. I am a practitioner of sleeping in until I’m ready to be awake, and increasingly, doing whatever I feel like as much as possible. It doesn’t mean I do nothing – I think most people even passing familiar with my life would assure you, I do a lot of things – I just do them when I feel like it, no sooner or later. I’ve noticed the result is that I’m a lot more present in my life these days, instead of working my to-do list.

But Lynn and I are different – she is much quieter, much more diplomatic, much sweeter, more equivocating. “I feel like there’s no right way to look at anything,” she says, during our conversation. I agree that art is a perfect mechanism for open interpretation, but I also think there is power in choosing a perspective and working from it. Lynn says she admires my ability to form a strong opinion… I am sure there are others who do not, so much, appreciate that quality in me. But opinions are free, and you can change them anytime, as long as you maintain a sense of humility. So go ahead and try one, it won’t kill you. Because I think that art is the perfect mechanism for critical thinking, and the fastest way to find out if your opinion holds water is to hold it up where other people can try to shoot it full of holes.

We finished our afternoon with a walk back to Lynn’s house, and a visit to her bookshelf. I needed some recommendations, because I’m about to embark on a new project, something I need. Something I’m terrified to tackle. Something that’s been stuck forever. Luckily, Lynn reminds me that I’m not in this alone – there are so many brave little spleens that have come before me, and I can take inspiration from them. And, of course, from Lynn, who I’ve never seen more opinionated than when she’s scrying her alphabetized library for points of reference. It looks really good on her.

You can catch Lynn’s most recent novel, Shankus & Kitto, over at DittoDitto, and keep your ears open for the release of a forthcoming detective novel! I have one BWTA spot open in August, for some brave taker…ask me to breakfast!

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