To Be Wrong
I’m writing to you, dear reader, from a residency program in Santa Fe where I am spending two weeks in glorious solitude working on a book proposal. If we know each other in “real life,” you might already know that I cherish my alone time because it helps me recharge, refocus, and recommit. Receiving this gift of time and space, however, compelled me to reconnect with you.
Confession: Editing is not easy, and it is not fun. It can be a painstaking process, one that is riddled with anxiety and tough decisions, with mistakes lurking on each line and with every word. But it is also exhilarating to see someone's writing truly come to life.
On most days, I consider editing to be the stuff of dreams. I love nothing more than knowing the rules and figuring out ways to bend them in service to artists. But today, after several months of sneaky commas and pesky hyphens getting the better of me, I was feeling defeated. Then I joined a training webinar and, without going into too much detail (which, trust me, would bore the life out of you), I was reminded that these challenges actually pointed to my skills as an editor and to my humanity. I watched as many, MANY of my colleagues admitted to facing similar hurdles. We supported each other in pursuing, and doing, our best work.
The lesson here? Seek help.
With that, I leave you and return to my residency. But know that you have an editor in your corner, ready and willing to help shape your writing into the best it can be.
Image: A favorite print of mine. Liliana Porter, "To Be Wrong," 2013 (13-321), three-color lithograph, 22 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches on Arches 88, Collaborating Printer: Kellie Hames, edition of 25, published by Tamarind Institute.
After reading this New York Times Magazine piece on Prune, a restaurant in the East Village of New York City, I’m thinking about correction. In it, the writer and Prune owner Gabrielle Hamilton reflects on her original dreams for the beloved restaurant and how those dreams were forced to shift over the past 20 years. Today, Prune is closed due to COVID-19, and she wonders if the New York of the future will want or need it anymore.
A certain passage from the article stuck with me:
“...perhaps it will be a chance for a correction...What delusional mind-set am I in that I just do not feel that this is the end, that I find myself convinced that this is only a pause, if I want it to be?”
I found myself agreeing with her line of questioning. Does this pause—the forced, frightening hitch in our daily lives—offer us the chance to reconsider our dreams for what we want our work to be, to do? What do we want the “new normal” to include? What old ways are we happy to shed? From environmental protections to health care and self-care to employment practices—can we course correct?
And I kept mentally replacing the word “restaurant” with “art.”
"So I’m going to let the (art) sleep, like the beauty she is, shallow breathing, dormant. Bills unpaid. And see what she looks like when she wakes up — so well rested, young all over again, in a city that may no longer recognize her, want her or need her.”
Image: "I wanted a place you could go after work or on your day off if you had only a line cook’s paycheck but also a line cook’s palate." Credit: Philip Montgomery for the New York Times
As Hamilton ends her magazine piece, she dreams of round tables, not square; lingering lunches instead of hyper-hip brunches; early suppers that honor precious time at home. In short, she looks forward to new ways of working that make room for life-affirming pauses.
Editors are often correcting mistakes. And so I’m taking a cue from this visionary chef, using this moment to recognize the beauty that lies in the “wrong” word placed here, the “incorrect” grammar used there. Maybe, in the close read of what each of us is trying to say, what we are trying to express, we’ll learn more about what art can be and do.
It's time for a reboot. Time for change.
Avant-garde artist Vladimir Tatlin, who was central to the birth of Russian Constructivism, has been credited with saying, "Not the old, not the new, but the necessary." He challenged the traditional ideas and ideals of art, believing instead in materials and their inherent possibilities. He was of the opinion that art could and should be tasked with the goals of revolution.
I came across this quote at some point during my undergraduate studies in painting and drawing, and it has stayed with me ever since. It is the basis of my business, The Necessarian, LLC, and it is an essential—or, necessary—perspective as I move through life.
Today, I believe in art as a gateway to learning. It is a way for us to make visible, tangible, what we want the world to be, and to compel others to consider the same. My artist-centered editing services are in fulfillment of my mission: working towards equitable representation in the arts. But what the hell does that mean? It means talking with and listening to you—artists from all walks of life—so I can advocate for how and where you want you voices to be heard and your words to be read.
Below are images of Tatlin's drawings for Monument to the Third International (1919–20), his most recognized sculpture. This rotating iron, steel, and glass structure embodied his beliefs. In this time of uncertainty and upheaval, may you be inspired, provoked, and driven to create your necessary way of being.