Inspiration for August 20th: James Baldwin

“The occurrence of an event is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one has lived through. Most people had not lived — nor could it, for that matter, be said that they had died– through any of their terrible events. They had simply been stunned by the hammer. They passed their lives thereafter in a kind of limbo of denied and unexamined pain. The great question that faced him this morning was whether or not had had ever, really, been present at his life.”
James Baldwin, Another Country

Hey writers and book lovers, if you want to be inspired, just go take a look at the best-seller list from August 19th 1962. William Faulkner, JD Salinger, Phillip Roth, Katherine Ann Porter, Irving Stone and this guy, James Baldwin, all populated the New York Times list. Nary a 50 Shades of whatever or trashy novel from a reality star in sight. Oh the good old days. Except 1962 wouldn’t be considered the good old days, I suppose. That year race riots continued across the country, Marilyn Monroe died and the Cuban missile crisis was in full swing.

So thank God for poetic troublemakers like James Baldwin. His book Another Country was a bestseller 50 years ago and for a black gay author in the early 1960’s that was groundbreaking indeed.  Another Country, like most of Baldwin’s work grappled with tough issues like sexuality, equality and suicide. Baldwin spent most of his life in Europe after feeling disenchanted by the racism and homophobia in the US. But continued to champion other writers and artists and collaborated with the likes of genius photographer Richard Avedon, cultural anthropologist Margret Mead and poet Nikki Giovanni. 

There’s a lot to take away from Baldwin, his works and his life. His legacy and artistry are a never-ending source of inspiration.  So the quote from Another Country seems like a good thing to meditate on today. As a recovering addict, being present for my own life is an ongoing challenge and a good thing to strive for on a Monday. Also, I want to embrace Baldwin’s collaborative spirit today. Adding to a creative project rather than dominating it is another great ideal to work towards today.

That’s enough out of me, kids. Enjoy your Monday. May it be an inspiring and collaborative one!

Inspiration for August 17th: Mae West

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” – Mae West

Happy Friday! I slammed ye ole laptop shut, grabbed my husband’s hand and ran off to the zoo for a little hooky so I apologize for not posting yesterday. So Elvis died on August 16th and Madonna was born on the 16th yet these bold icons surely owe a debt of gratitude to one Mary Jane West born on August 17th, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York.  Mae West, as she was later known, was scandalizing audiences and ticking off censors long before Madonna and Elvis were even born. Every bombshell blonde since West has ripped off her look or act in one way or another for decades. And get this- Mae didn’t even become a major movie star until she was 39. Yet what inspires me about Mae West is that she was a playwright, a joke writer and a careful crafter of the iconic image the world knows and loves today. West wasn’t just in touch with her sexuality but acutely aware of her platform as a creative person. She also tried to infuse her work with her opinions about feminism, gender roles and even gay rights.

So I’m inspired by the notion of using your craft, whatever that may be, to not just entertain, but to talk about the things you’re passionate about. And Mae’s quote about doing life ‘right’ is something to think about too.As I develop three big projects for the next year, these are excellent thing to keep in mind.

But you tell me, lovely readers, who or what inspires you and get’s your juices flowing on this fine Friday?