march inputs & outputs
I’ve been thinking a lot about something Caitlin Kunkel told me in a 2019 Q&A about how to stay funny (or really, creative) amid the general day-to-day slog, and it only feels more helpful to be reminded of this ~ input versus output ~ formula when life — and current events — become even more chaotic:
A friend in my graduate program told me very simply that you need to input to output. So when I’m feeling depleted, I have a process I follow. I write down the things I’ve been watching and reading, and any events I’ve been to in the past few months. Pretty much 100% of the time I see that I’ve been staying in, working, rewatching things I’ve already seen, and reading comfort books (to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with any of those things!).
Then I make an active plan to input. I have a list of “hard” books (nonfiction topics I don’t know much about, older books like “Catch-22” I never read in school, things that are challenging) that I choose a title from, I watch older movies I’ve somehow never seen (“Network” being a recent one, wow, dark as hell, loved it) and I try to go see theater or comedy shows outside my normal sphere. I meet people for coffee to hear about their work. I read reviews of things and compare them to my own thoughts, or think about what I would do differently or which elements I admired and would like to do more in my own work.
After a few weeks of that, I start to have ideas again. I incubate them, start writing, stop taking in as much as I’m outputting, and then keep doing that until the cycle repeats itself. My life got a lot better a few years ago when I recognized this is as a cycle rather than feeling like I would never have ideas again and it was absolutely out of my control to ever coax them back. It also helps me take pressure off myself during times of ill physical or mental or emotional health to know that it’s just part of the cycle and I can let up for a bit and just input for a while without feeling guilty.
So great, right? I wanted to re-up Caitlin’s words of wisdom out into the world especially after it took me like four hours to figure out how to write a basic newsletter update again after a few months off…
The more I think about the last few months, the more I’m like, jesus christ what WAS that? I spent December through mid-January on book leave, which was glorious because getting up every day to work on a novel was of course the absolute dream, but it was also a little horrific because I ended up semi-accidentally vacuum-sealing myself in the cave of my own brain for about five weeks (omicron didn’t help). Dark shit followed. Like, “my TikTok timeline became 90% self help manifestation woo woo weirdness videos” kind of dark, but also like, “I got weirdly invested in the social life of my downstairs neighbor” dark. (I mean, if you read the previous edition of Deez Links, you probably already had a sense for this…)
Then earlier this week in New York, we got a peek into the end of winter via a few 60-degree days. I was in an Uber home on Sunday night, and it was dead silent for like the first ten minutes, and then my driver suddenly announced in a booming voice, SPRING IS HERE, DELIA! and I had to laugh because it felt like the universe was giving me an encouraging shake to look around a bit during all this reassembling.
Some ~inputs~ that have helped in the meanwhile:
After Yang — My friend JJ got me into an early screening for this, so I went in with zero context other than feeling kind of discomfited by all the usual issues that involve linking Asian identity to cyborgs, lol. It’s a very Black Mirror-y A24 treatment to the question “what does it mean to be Asian,” and I was moved by one of the final scenes that involves Malea Emma (who is such a star) speaking in Mandarin. I think it kind of changes the whole arc of the movie if you don’t get it (I’m told it’s purposefully left unsubtitled), but ELLE pretty much explains it here.
The Chinese Lady — I caught this at the Public last week and they just added some April dates! My usual idea of theater is going to see Wicked unironically, but I really loved this and was impressed by the endurance of the two-person cast (Daniel K. Isaac smiling at the audience through minutes-long scenes felt very Abramović-esque).
Foreverland, Heather Havrilesky’s new book on “the divine tedium of marriage” — Look, I’ve loved Heather’s columns for basically my whole internet life, but it still boggles the mind how batshit people (dudes) get about her work. You’ve probably read all the reductive headlines and dumb takes about the like… one chapter that’s just her venting about how annoying her husband is (which, to be clear, is still hilarious). But there is no one better suited for skewering the contradictions of modern domesticity than Heather, and turning it all into soul-searching meditations on love and desire and longing and “contentment.” Maybe if you’re actually in a marriage or whatever, all that material hits a little too close to home — investigating the seams of your life raft can be real uncomfortable, I’m sure — but as a spectacularly unattached person, I found this book to be honestly amazing. Like I think it bent my warped scared bird brain back into shape a little. Ninety-nine percent of people who write about “modern love” think they are doing what Heather is doing. This is the real stuff, the good stuff. Go get it!!
And some ~outputs~ that I’ve been working out:
High School Forever — I worked on this essay for a few weeks and am excited to be adding to the Euphoria discourse with some thoughts on the millennial online condition, per usual.
Simu Liu is the Superhero We Need Right Now — Got to interview Liu for VF’s Hollywood issue, and I’m pleased with the space we got to devote around the Asian-American hero worship conundrum! Let me know what you think.
Perfectly Imperfect and the Growing Currency of the Personal Recommendation — I’ve been enjoying the Perfectly Imperfect newsletter for a while now, and got to use it as a way to look in on the general state of personal recommendation culture.