Fill! That! Well!
Agust-d and creative rest
If you have hung out with me anytime in the last few years (since the pandemic, basically) you know that I am a huge fan of the Korean boy band BTS. Getting into them was almost a cliché—I have some close friends who are superfans, and at first I just wanted to know what these seven fancy boys’ names were. One moment you’re googling “who is BTS,” and in the next you’re boring the members of your immediate family with information about the Korean military enlistment system.
In advance of said enlistment, the seven members of BTS have been on a creative tear. Four of the seven have released solo work in the last year, from j-hope’s Jack in the Box and subsequent Coachella performance last summer to most recently, with Min Yoongi’s release of his new album D-Day (as agust d.) As part of the promo for the album, there is a new documentary available on Disney +, which I watched last week, and came away with a lot of thoughts on creativity and filling the well.
In the documentary, a tired-looking Yoongi visits Red Rock Canyon, and says that this is his first time traveling overseas for something other than work since he was in middle school. That statement feels a little strange to the viewer— after all, BTS does world tours every other year, visiting countless countries. They built their fandom early on with a series of documentary-style shows, in which their management filmed them trying to make their way around unfamiliar countries, making their budgets last and trying (mostly failing) not to lose their passports. Surely that counts as travel? It’s clear Yoongi doesn’t think so, because he looks out at Red Rock Canton with awe, and wonders why he doesn’t travel for himself more.
It’s easy to conflate work and pleasure if you’re in a creative field. Something fun to someone else feels like work when you’re in it. I was thinking about that this week while reading, as I found myself trying to deconstruct something I’ve read a million times before (The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, if you’re curious.) Suddenly the enjoyable act of reread g felt briefly like a chore, as I found myself deconstructing the plot and characterization choices more than just enjoying the read. Obviously, rereading a book and going on a body-breaking world tour that requires you to get your shoulder rebuilt are two different things, but you get my drift.
In the documentary, Yoongi is struggling with writer’s block. How do you chase a dream, he asks, when so many of your dreams have already come true? He’s dissatisfied with the work he’s making and at several points jokingly (not so jokingly) says he’ll quit.
The dissatisfaction is key, however. Later in the documentary he meets with legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (who appears on one track of the album, “Snooze.”) Sakamoto, who died earlier this year, tells him that creativity is like a staircase that never ends— there will always be more steps above you.
I find myself at the bottom of what I hope is a very long staircase and struggling to fill the well for myself. Especially the last few weeks, with work and book promo taking up most of my time, I’m feeling less inspired and having a hard time sitting down and doing the work. Yesterday was the first day off I’ve had in two and a half weeks, and it was because I had a cold. When I do sit down and work, I’m dissatisfied which what I’m doing. Like Yoongi I am going over the same passage hundreds of times rather than moving on and working on the next.
Earlier in the month I went to the Brooklyn Museum with my friend Bridget Smith, where we saw some amazing exhibit, including one on French fashion designer Thierry Mugler and a gallery of scrimshaw art made from plastic trash harvested from the Atlantic Ocean. It was a lovely afternoon, and seeing a lot of new-to-me art ended up boosting my spirits more than anything else from the past few weeks. It was a nice reminder that sometimes, making time for something that seems frivolous—a museum visit, or a trip to Red Rock Canyon alone (with a documentary crew) can introduce a new way of looking at things. Or at least a respite from the grind.
Whatever you do to fill the well, make sure to make time for it. Even if it doesn’t result in unlocking writers’ block or inspiring you to make new art, it’s still good for the soul.
WHAT I’M READING
I am reaping the whirlwind of a Libby hold binge from a couple weeks back, which means I’m alternating between two books there (The Hare with the Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal, about his family’s collection of netsuke, and a biography of Barbara Pym) and two IRL books: a reread of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh, which I started last night.
Marrying In is available for purchase on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, and is coming soon to iBooks. If you’ve read it, consider leaving a review—that helps me and the book in the long run! Thank you so much to those of you who have bought and reviewed it so far—you make my heart happy!
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. Is there something you’d like me to talk about? Leave it in the comments or reply to the email! You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.