write about love

by s.

i. Towards the very very end of 2011, I almost threw an entire writing project in the garbage on the basis of its “having gone all wrong,” as I told someone who was kind (or unfortunate?) enough to ask about it a few weeks prior. I had three chapters written and I couldn’t see its future. Worse, its history felt a lot like a pack of uninteresting lies.

A couple of days ago I ate a bunch of donuts and forced myself to work through that project and start typing up notes on where it will go next. It turns out that, in a bare-bones “will need a number of revisions” sense, the damn thing is pretty good and the only thing that went all wrong was my brain.

ii. The ever-elegant New Yorker has a feature on the ever-elegant Carrie Brownstein this week. In it, Brownstein talks a bit about her relationship to relationships, particularly with regards to why her friendship with Fred Armisen works. Margaret Talbot does a beautiful job of giving that friendship a robust and healthy gloss, even as she notes that Brownstein is a woman “more defined by her work than her relationships.

“I never think of sexuality as an identifier,” Brownstein wrote in an e-mail. “What seems to have defined me more is that I’m pretty horrible at relationships and haven’t been in many long-term ones. Leaving and moving on—returning to a familiar sense of self-reliance and autonomy—is what I know; feeling is as comfortable and comforting as it might be for a different kind of person to stay.”

It is the first time that I’d seen anyone I really respect articulate a feeling that I have in a way that made that feeling not seem like a fault. It’s also the first time I’ve seen this kind of male-female platonic friendship profiled without being seen as suspect. Somehow it felt like progress, and it made me want to punch the air. It is strange how much better it feels to live in your skin after someone else has described that skin in words.

iii. At some point this afternoon, I remembered that Stars is a band that writes near-perfect songs, and I spent the better part of the day revisiting their back catalog and thinking about how an oft-overlooked but essential criterium for a good pop song is that it should make you want to fall in love with everything around you. Listening, for example, to the Stars song “My Favorite Book,” I fell in love with Brooklyn in the dark at 5PM on a Monday evening while running in 35-degree weather. It made me want to keep falling in love, and it made me remember that I’ve made more than one mix CD out of love containing that song.

It’s not enough, you see, to write songs about love. It’s not even enough to fall in love. You have to write songs that make people want to fall in love with the world, and you have to fall in love enough yourself to make everyone around you do the same. I don’t think it matters whether you write songs or stories or even if you’re an artist at all.

I think it is your job to make other people feel feelings. Your only choice there is to figure out what those feelings should be.