Episode 01: Paragons of Nothing!
Posted September 12, 2019
Suzie Sherman 0:00
This is And The Next Thing You Know. It’s a podcast about how our lives go exactly not as we planned them. I’m Suzie Sherman, I want to welcome you to this first episode of the podcast, I’m really excited to share these stories with you about how our missteps and mistakes and disappointments and serendipity lead us not away from our life plans, but in fact, become the plan. It’s slipping on the proverbial banana peel, as we glide into a beautiful surrender to the flow of our lives. Sometimes it’s graceful. Most times, it’s really fucking messy. Today, I’m talking with my guest, Becca, about creative actualization, how our drives for self expression and creativity get derailed, whether by internal narratives or structural oppression, or the demands of making our work marketable. And yes, marketable was just said in air quotes. And this conversation is about how we keep on creating, even if that looks like playing the piano for no one but ourselves. I wanted to start with this episode, because while my conversation with Becca isn’t about a precise moment, when everything suddenly changed for her, it is illustrative of how our lives are an ongoing creative process. And that’s inspiring for me, and I think it’ll be inspiring for you. And it touches in on the Zeitgeist of this podcast. This is my conversation with Becca.
And then I had a press pass for another show that last year that I was actually really, really excited about. And it turned out to be like, white guys being kind of, like, casually racist, like, you know, not like, profoundly disappointing because the work that I had seen online was so smart, but off the cuff when they weren’t like editing and didn’t have a peer review, I guess, you know, before they put stuff online, they didn’t probably have people look at it. It was just, it was kind of a hot mess.
Suzie Sherman 2:18
Yeah, that sounds really shitty.
And that was that was sooo like I was kind of devastated by that.
Suzie Sherman 2:26
And there’s a lot of rude awakenings being around.
Suzie Sherman 2:31
industry, kind of the way industry, runs in that way.
Yeah. And the thing is, like, I kind of expect this from most stand up comedians, you know, like on some metric unless they have like, every metric of oppression, on their personal, you know, docket of experience. Right?
Suzie Sherman 2:53
And comedy is often the realm of like, you know, folks can hide racism, sexism, everything, you know,
Right, right, right.
Suzie Sherman 3:03
Homophobia, etc. Like, against that sort of backdrop of like, well, I’m just, I’m making commentary on it, or that’s my job as a comedian to point things out. And it’s like, well, actually, you have to think you have to think through the implications of this and, and actually evaluate whether what you’re saying is even fuckin’ funny. Yeah, you’re saying a racist fucked-up thing. It’s not funny.
I mean, yeah yeah yeah, and the thing is, like, like, the thing about humor is it always has a target, there’s a punch, humor, a joke is a punch.
Suzie Sherman 3:33
And you can only punch in so many directions, right? You can punch in, you can punch up, you can punch down, you can punch out. And you can punch at a universally reviled group, right? Like, there’s always …like, you’re a joke is based on a set of shared assumptions. So like, if somebody makes joke, and the target is gay people or like gayness, they’re punching, probably, at, you know, they’re punching at the gay community, which is still a very vulnerable community, and especially for, you know, young people who are coming out. And if you’re a famous person making that joke, a young person is gonna hear that. And I think it’s incumbent on all of us to think about our splash effects.
Suzie Sherman 4:27
And so, you know, like, that’s, that’s the thing where, who is your joke punching at? Where’s it okay to punch? It’s always okay to punch up, right, we can punch up. But like we have, even then we have to be careful. Because if you’re, you know, if your target to say, you know, Hillary Clinton, there are a lot of jokes you can make about Hillary Clinton that don’t target her femaleness. Right, or her age.
Suzie Sherman 4:58
So you can you can make fun of Hillary Clinton, I think, with impunity for, say, her level of of insular privilege that she’s had for decades, right. Like, that’s
Suzie Sherman 5:14
Totally fair game. Absolutely. And you can make fun of her whiteness, also, fair game, but you can’t make fun of her age, not fair game, because that’s punching down.
Suzie Sherman 5:26
Especially with the intersection of
Suzie Sherman 5:28
…being a woman, right?
If you’re 90, you can make fun of her age.
But I think like, I mean, I think you just have to look at where you sit.
And like, like, how do you sound like, can you you know, if you’re 90 years old, you can go up to somebody who’s seven…what, she’s 70 something right? And you can you can make fun of them for being 70. If you are 70, you can go to someone who is your age and make fun of them for being 70. I can do that. Because I sound like a jerk. Right? So it’s just like, like, when you punch down, like punching down. It’s just, it’s it’s just, it’s a very low form of humor. It’s, it’s…
Suzie Sherman 6:16
It’s easy. It’s, it’s very lazy.
It lacks imagination.
Suzie Sherman 6:20
And you get a, you get a laugh, because, you know, like, like, gay jokes. They read is funny to a lot of people because a lot of people are very uncomfortable around about homosexuality at the same time that they want to be good liberals and support gay marriage. You know, that’s not enough of a position you have to be pro- like, you know, if you’re not…
Suzie Sherman 6:47
You have to be full-on pro-messy, butt sex.
Messy butt sex with hundreds of people in a week if that’s what somebody wants
Suzie Sherman 6:57
This is about body autonomy, how can you be pro-choice and not be in favor of somebody’s right to fuck as many people in whatever way they want?
Suzie Sherman 7:07
It’s like…It’s the same philosophy. Right? And but people are duplicitous. We talked about that before.
Right. Well, let’s back up from butt sex and,
Suzie Sherman 7:20
Suzie Sherman 7:21
We haven’t even said hi on mic yet.
Suzie Sherman 7:24
It’s nice to see you. I’m so glad you’re here.
Nice to see you, too.
Suzie Sherman 7:29
I like talking about messy butt sex. And this is a fitting introduction. Right now.
Fits like a glove.
Suzie Sherman 7:36
Yeah. It really does. A well-lubed glove.
Suzie Sherman 7:39
And it’s funny, because, to roll it back a little bit. The thing that we were sort of supposed to talk about before we got on that track was creative engagement in our lives.
Suzie Sherman 7:53
Right, and so one of the things that came up at the top of this conversation here was your work, doing writing. But I want to back up even a little further and ask you: how the fuck did you start professionally writing?
I don’t think…
Suzie Sherman 8:07
How’d that even happen?
I don’t think I professionally write. I’ve never made a dollar at writing. Let’s get that on the table real quick.
Suzie Sherman 8:13
Suzie Sherman 8:15
You’ve been published.
I am trying to make a dollar at writing and I don’t even know how to start that hustle. So, I’m told that the first thing I need is a website. But no, I mean, I really I like writing I love music. I write. I write to clarify my thoughts. You know, I I think calling me a professional writer is a severe misnomer, and that’s not about imposter syndrome. I really think that…
Suzie Sherman 8:44
That’s not about self-effacement?
No, I’m a solid writer, you know, I’m not an excellent writer…
Suzie Sherman 8:52
You have writing skills.
I have writing skills. I have a command of the English language, I have a lot of complicated opinions, and I have the ability to express them. And I practice at that. But um, yeah, I mean, a professional writer, I think of as somebody who does a lot more marketing than I’ve ever done. And that’s a really, really scary thing to do.
Suzie Sherman 9:19
Right. Well, and it’s a different skill set.
Yeah, it is absolutely I have, I was self-employed. And I marketed the hell out of my services and made a living at that for a good number of years. And it was awful. And it wasn’t even a creative endeavor. It was just like a, you know, I was working with learning disabled children. And I was very good at remediating the specific problems, because I had 1,000 hours of training in these particular methods. So of course, I was good at it, I’d been taught to hell how to do it. And but, you know, pitching and being rejected it is, and like this whole morass of how to do that, it’s just something I like, I don’t know how to enter that fray. And it’s not about imposter syndrome. It’s just about a sense of overwhelm.
Suzie Sherman 10:11
Like being able, being able to manage all the technical things that you need to do, or like all the tasks that you need to do to prepare manuscripts or, or market yourself or…
I think, honestly, it’s just like, like, it’s like getting started on any open ended task. It’s just, you look at the pile, and you’re like, is this the pile that I want to enter right now?
Suzie Sherman 10:36
And you go, “no.” (Laughs.) Until you say “yes.”
Suzie Sherman 10:42
I love that idea. So like, looking at this looming thing, that might mean, this huge, might symbolize this huge change in your life, which would be like, my career is now being a writer, or,
Right. I mean, like, so my, I mean, of course…
Suzie Sherman 11:04
I’m not gonna nail you down to like, whatever your fantasy is about what, where your career path goes next, or something like that. I know, you’re in…
Suzie Sherman 11:12
…a bit of a transitional moment in your life right now. I’m not trying to nail you down to being a professional writer, I’m just that I love that image of like, this means this pile, this massive pile of tasks that I need to do, is this, like amorphous pile. It’s not really specific steps that I need to do. And then beyond that, even even if I were to, like, disambiguate the massive pile into these specific steps, do I want to go in the direction that those steps take me or not?
Yeah, I mean, these are, these are hard questions. And, you know, there’s, um, have you read Bird By Bird?
Suzie Sherman 11:49
It’s such a great book. It’s by Anne Lamott.
Suzie Sherman 11:53
And it’s all about writing. And it’s a beautifully written book about writing, which is what you would hope that you don’t always get that, right?
Suzie Sherman 12:02
There’s so many books about writing, and I’ve read a few.
This one is really beautiful. The title comes from a story from her childhood where her brother was struggling to write a report that he’d procrastinated on, and it was about birds. And he’d had weeks to do it. And it was the day before it was due. And he hadn’t started. And her dad’s sitting there with her brother, and her dad says, “Just bird by bird, little buddy, just bird by bird.”
Suzie Sherman 12:31
And that was just a spontaneous…use of language. That’s so sweet.
It’s really sweet.
Suzie Sherman 12:36
But I don’t know, you know, for me, you know, because I grew up in this really difficult family system, I had to really work on the idea that my creative endeavors were, like, important enough to do. Um, you know, I my dad certainly isn’t one to sit there and like, take an interest in somebody’s art…you know, creative pursuit, unless they’re already at expert level. And, you know, like, all these things that I didn’t learn in childhood, like, oh, if you want to be good at something, you have to be bad at it for a long time.
Suzie Sherman 13:18
Right? And, and, like, also, the idea that you can just do something because you love it and not and have no professional aspirations whatsoever. And that is still valid, right? Capitalism ruins everything.
Suzie Sherman 13:33
Suzie Sherman 13:34
That’s right. And our culture, so set up in that way where we have this expectation that like, if we’re going to bother putting time and sweat equity and resources into developing a craft, that it should be profitable on the other side.
Suzie Sherman 13:48
And obviously, there’s, there’s also tremendous privilege and being able to do something to free up time in your life to do something at a hobby level and not expect to get income. So there’s sort of a tension there as well. Right. But I absolutely, I agree. I mean,
Yeah, I mean, it really bothers me so much, that that’s become a privilege, because it didn’t used to be a privilege, right? We used to have time, because we used it like, like, and I am concerned that people don’t think about this more, it used to be that, you know, you could say, say there was like, a couple, you know, a domestic couple, any gender.
Suzie Sherman 14:28
Yeah, and, you know, one could sling coffee at a diner, and one could be a plumber, and they could live a nice, comfortable life with no, you know, no panic when rent was due. And they could even raise a child and go on the occasional vacation at that income level.
Cost of living was not nearly what it is.
Right, right, right. And like, you know, they could have a car and everything would be like, you know, not, they wouldn’t be rich, but they certainly wouldn’t be working 70 hours a week, and they would have time for their kid and they would have time to maybe you know, play a musical instrument. And the idea that having the time to do these things is now a privilege is like heartbreaking.
Suzie Sherman 15:19
It always was, to some extent, developing skills or interest in the arts or something that’s not going to be lucrative in and of itself, I think, always was to some degree, a luxury. But the scale that we’re talking about has really changed. Right. And that I agree with you that probably working class folks had more of kind of a cultural and economic access to, to doing, you know, developing skills to do stuff, but like that, you know, but I think I think privilege already always was a factor. I think the scale of things is really changed. The cost of living is grossly disproportionately harder than it used to be.
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, we can like…
Suzie Sherman 16:08
There were patrons of the arts, for example, if we’re going back a couple of hundred years. Right.
Sure. And, I mean, we can we can get into a lot of different directions on this, but I feel like that’s a transgression. But…
Suzie Sherman 16:23
I mean, we can go anywhere we want!
Suzie Sherman 16:26
I am more curious about your process, though, right.
My process? Um, yeah, I mean, like I said, to like, I really don’t, don’t think that I’m paragon of much of anything. Um, but…
Suzie Sherman 16:41
Suzie Sherman 16:41
Welcome to my podcast, Becca, where none of us is a paragon of
Suzie Sherman 16:46
And that’s fine. That’s okay.
Like none of us are…
Suzie Sherman 16:49
We’re real humans, trying to get some creative meaning in our lives.
Right. Um, so I don’t do anything professionally, as a creative, right, I like to write, so I write and I write for this blog that’s run by, you know, people I know, who I met through other people I know. And I just said, I would like to do this. And they, they, you know, they said, Sure. And, I have a really hard time making the leap from, you know, private space to public exposure. And, I’m sure that has a lot to do with my own like, like, y’know, you can call it a confidence gap, or you can call it imposter syndrome, or doesn’t matter what you call it. But, um, I get a lot of analysis paralysis in whatever it is I’m working on. And, and have to take steps to circumvent it, and keep it from weighing me down. So putting routines in place. Like every morning, I take one of my dogs out for a walk, and then I go sit right for 20 minutes in the cafe. And that kind of gets me started and like, Sundays, I’m so focused on all of the tasks that I have to do that, nothing, there’s no ink in the creative well, so to speak. And other days, it’s great.
Suzie Sherman 18:25
But like, you have to show up.
Suzie Sherman 18:29
Are you really disciplined about doing that 20 minutes of writing every morning, even if you’re not feeling…
Suzie Sherman 18:35
…feeling it? No. Um-hm.
No. But I still show up. And I have my pen and I have my notebook. And…
Suzie Sherman 18:41
You sit down with the intention to write and sometimes you write, and sometimes you don’t.
Suzie Sherman 18:46
Yeah. And I’m sure there are people who say that I’m doing it wrong.
Suzie Sherman 18:51
Fuck Julia Cameron. No, she…
Suzie Sherman 18:53
She’s very, she’s very inspiring to a lot of people. She’s very famous for The Artist’s Way. So it’s another book about writing.
Oh, yeah, yeah.
Suzie Sherman 19:00
So she does morning pages. And that’s super helpful for everyone. Julia, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to tell you to fuck off. That was. You know, it was a cultural moment that, you know, I took advantage of that’s fine.
She’s listening, right now.
Suzie Sherman 19:13
Yeah, I’m sure. (Laughs.) But yeah, I mean, some people really obviously, like really are committed to doing that block of time every single day, and developing that discipline. And I’m, I’ve had a lot of jealousy, you know, that people can develop that kind of discipline. I feel like there’s a way in which I’ve held myself back in my creative aspirations because I’ve, um, rigorously avoided rigor.
Suzie Sherman 19:46
Um, and so I’ve had some, yeah, some maybe even some envy
Suzie Sherman 19:52
toward people who can do that. It’s amazing. I don’t think it’s the only way to do it. And I’m definitely loosening up on myself and giving myself some more spaciousness
Suzie Sherman 20:03
…to create at a snail’s pace. And that’s okay. That’s how it’s played out. In my own life.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think what it like the time aspect is really difficult, right? It’s very hard to say to like, take the time out of we’re all supposed to be, you know, our narrative is we’re all supposed to be overachieving all the time, right. And there’s supposed to be some kind of opportunistic upside to everything that we do.
Suzie Sherman 20:31
And it took me like, the more you think about that, the more you realize the extent to which it is true, right? Like, you’re supposed to go out. So you can meet people and network to get “opportunities,” like this is the capitalism narrative, right?
Suzie Sherman 20:51
Um, listening audience, you didn’t see that Becca was using air quotes, just then. “Opportunities,” for example, “networking.”
Right. Right. And like, I, I really like this idea, and I don’t remember the name of the artist who came up with the idea of decolonizing, your time and your life and your brain and like, we can only decolonized to, like so much, right? Unless you’re a subsistence farmer, and even then you have to own the land that you’re farming on, right. So there’s always a limit to how much you can disengage from
Suzie Sherman 21:29
The met…from whatever metric of oppression. And so if you can decolonize a part of your day, every day just to pursue things that bring you joy, or the space for joy, or, or, you know, like, like, make your imagination spark or whatever it is, and it’s just yours, and doesn’t ride anyone else’s approval. That’s, that’s pretty magical.
Suzie Sherman 21:59
And it’s really freeing. And it can, the ripple effect of is that it can liberate other parts of you that are being held back. So I find it to be incredibly transformative.
Suzie Sherman 22:16
That’s a beautiful concept, that’s a really important concept,
I don’t perform, you know, I’ve been playing piano now, for five years, I have never had a public performance, I don’t know how to do that. That’s a different skill than playing piano, I don’t know how to sit there and have an audience while I play because I freeze…
Suzie Sherman 22:37
…and I haven’t worked on that. And I may not, because this is a thing that I do, because I love. I love music, and I love having the capacity to create these sounds and to interact with this instrument in a way. And, and so I’m trying, I’m starting to write songs, I don’t know, if I’ll ever perform them, I’d like to think that eventually I will. But I also want that to not be the driving point. Right? Like, it’s…
Suzie Sherman 23:09
It’s not a goal oriented process, it’s a process oriented process,
Right. Each little song, it’s like, like, when you start getting into these weeds, it’s like it already kind of exists inside of you, and you’re just taking this part of you, and putting it into the shape of music.
Suzie Sherman 23:28
That’s so beautiful.
And, but you have like, there’s this trust that you have to find to do it. And I personally struggle a lot with that. Because it’s um, you know, I’m, I’m literally a music critic for fun.
Suzie Sherman 23:44
Right. You know the evils that are out there awaiting your public performance. (Laughs.)
Well, it’s not even that but it’s like, I know it good music is so when I when I make these little songs, they’re not good and I know, they’re not good. And that’s really that’s, that’s hard. But becoming a good songwriter means getting, you know, figuring out what to leave out. And like how to assemble it. And it’s just this messy process for a long time. You have to give yourself permission to suck at something. And that’s part of like the, you know, decolonizing your brain a little bit is like letting the ineptitude just sort of stand there on its own without being bad.
Suzie Sherman 24:33
That’s beautiful. That’s so wonderful. I remember, there’s, this takes me back to a memory from my college days. And, there was a student art show that I was a part of, and, you know, I didn’t do visual art, really, I did other stuff. I like played guitar and whatever. Some people were doing different media, and someone had made a painting. And I was looking at the painting, that was, you know, hanging up in this art show. And I looked at this painting, and I was like, “That’s such a shitty fucking painting.” I didn’t say it out loud. But I thought to myself, “God, like what, why? Why put that up for people to see, it’s awful.” And then the next beat, I said to myself, “Oh, my God, actually, it’s amazing that this person is willing to put their shitty art out there because they’re doing their art for themselves. And it’s a meaningful process for them. And it doesn’t matter that I think it’s shitty. And it was a rea– it was a revolutionary moment for me. And I think it took me really decades to come back to that idea for myself to allow myself to lose that jaded critic positioning. Um, and say, wow, like, I actually am really impressed with people who put out their work, whatever their work is, and whatever quality their work is, because it’s brave, it’s fucking badass and brave, just put your shit out there into the world, especially if it’s not totally polished, and totally professional and totally beautiful and universally agreed that it’s beautiful. And that, that, in itself is so inspiring. When people are just willing to put themselves out there, warts and all because we are so trained, um, to have to be perfect and to, you know, not bother if you’re not good enough. And we think, I’m going back to what you were saying earlier, like, like, hardly any of us gets that training that you have to suck for a really long time until you’re good. And maybe you won’t ever be good. That’s okay, because actually the process of creating is in and of itself, what’s most important?
Yeah, and the risk that it takes to put that out there is like, you know, it’s, I don’t do that. (Laughs.) Because it’s terrifying, and you know, we do karaoke…
Suzie Sherman 27:02
Right. And karaoke has this great culture of it’s like, it’s about music fandom, essentially, right? We go up there, and we sing the songs because we love them. And it’s great if you can sing. And if you can’t sing, you still belong there.
Suzie Sherman 27:21
There isn’t anyone who’s too bad at singing for karaoke. And that’s one of the things that I really love about karaoke is it’s this permission to just celebrate in how much you love music.
Suzie Sherman 27:35
Right. And that’s not every karaoke community. I mean, I’ve been to karaoke bars where people get really nasty and catty about people who don’t sing well. And I stay away from those places. I really like the community that you and I are in, you know, where I think there is that permission and that openness and that open-heartedness to people just expressing themselves.
Yeah (x5) Yeah, I went to a different karaoke night, and the people who could sing definitely got extra strokes from the KJ and I’m like, (whispers) “that’s kinda negative, you know,” y’know, like, I’m thinking to myself, like, like, hey…
Suzie Sherman 28:13
like the KJ sort of publicly noticed people who were good singers?
Suzie Sherman 28:17
…more than mediocre singers or whatever. Okay.
Yeah. And, and, you know, like, I feel like the whole world is stacked in favor of people who have some kind of skill, right, whatever it is, whatever the special skill is, the people who have those are going to get noticed more. And, that’s, you know, that’s neither here nor there. But like, I so love spaces where you don’t get more attention for because you happen to have some kind of aptitude, right? Because you would score higher on some tests…
Suzie Sherman 28:57
..than the mean, and I think we’re really short on those kinds of spaces. Right, we need more places where we can just kind of like be clumsy for each other, you know, like we’re amat…where everyone’s at amateur hour together.
Suzie Sherman 29:15
If that makes sense.
Suzie Sherman 29:16
Absolutely. Do you know…the name of this podcast is And The Next Thing You Know,
And the next thing you know…
Suzie Sherman 29:22
Right. And, kind of the overriding premise of it is, you know, was there a moment, was there an experience, whether it was subtle, you know, almost not noteworthy. But it was noteworthy to you, internally, it rearranged things internally. Was there a moment that subtle, or even a moment that was grandiose that sort of made you you know, that made you accept your flawed, your flawedness, your imperfection, more than you did before?
Oh, my God, um…
Suzie Sherman 29:59
Were there, or I’m assuming a set of experiences, but anything coming to mind around how that kind of tripped over to the other side for you, where you were able to give yourself permission to be flawed.
Oh, my God, this is a massive question. And I feel like I’ve been talking to my therapist about this all my life.
Suzie Sherman 30:22
You know, um…
Suzie Sherman 30:24
This is a lifelong process for us.
Oh my god, it’s so…
Suzie Sherman 30:26
This isn’t something that probably ever resolves.
It’s so big…and y’know…
Suzie Sherman 30:30
From where you’re talking now, obviously, you have more care toward yourself and more comfort with your imperfection than you used to. Right?
I don’t see them as imperfections. Just because the idea of perfection is…
Suzie Sherman 30:43
You can use, yeah.
…is so absurd.
Suzie Sherman 30:45
Yeah, I mean, use the language you want.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, like, it’s not that I’m any closer to perfect than anybody else. I’m also not a narcissist, which I’m like, I’m weirdly proud of not being a narcissist.
Suzie Sherman 31:00
Yay! Clapping for you!
Um, you know, but like, I think we are in this weird…this, like, America is a very weird place. Humans are very strange creatures. And we, we like Americans like things to be very pat, and very tidy in a sense. You know, it’s like, and so I’m very Jewish. And as you know, my husband is very WASPy. Hi Andy. And, you know, we talk about like, there’s a very large culture gap between the two of us.
Suzie Sherman 31:39
You know, and so, and when I met my father-in-law for the first time, you know, it was there was a little bit of like, Oh, well, you’re different…
Suzie Sherman 31:50
I’m so obviously. I mean, I don’t I don’t mean to name drop Woody Allen, but you have to think of the split screen in Annie Hall…
All the time, all the time.
Suzie Sherman 32:01
(Laughing) At dinner where it’s the goyim and the Jews at dinner, like, encountering each other
All the time, all the time.
Suzie Sherman 32:07
Yep, yeah. That whole thing with Woody Allen just broke my heart, ’cause I’m like, who do I get to identify with anymore, and then Rachel Bloom came along, and I’m like, all good.
Suzie Sherman 32:16
Okay. You’ve got your neurotic Jew to empathize with.
Have you seen Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?
Suzie Sherman 32:22
I’ve only I’ve only seen a couple episodes.
I’m surprised, it seems like something you’d like.
Suzie Sherman 32:26
Probably. I’m just working on Supernatural right now. So like, I’m just all about, you know, fuckin’ 14 seasons of very hot guys killing monsters.
Suzie Sherman 32:38
That’s where I’m at right now.
Yeah, so like, you know, there, there is a certain thing in this WASPy culture that I observe in, with fascination. And it’s sort of like, okay, is everything under control? Okay, Everything’s under control. We’re good. I’m like, what does this mean to you?
Nothing, literally, nothing is under anyone’s control.
Suzie Sherman 33:10
No control, let it go. Let it go. And, you know, so, I don’t know, like we’ve talked about a lot, I grew up in a very chaotic place. And so there was this big gap between like the story I was told about my upbringing by my parents, and what actually, actually happened, you know, I was, and, like, I had to sit there and reconcile. I’m like, “Why are all of my very smart classmates who are not smarter than me, in fact, all doing so much better in school than I am?”
Suzie Sherman 33:47
And I went through the phase of believing Well, I must be because I am inherently bad.
Suzie Sherman 33:54
And this is the thing I believed for a really long time, I’m like, okay, there must be something very, very wrong with me, because, you know, their parents feed them dinner, and my parents don’t feed me dinner. So that must be me. So queue ahead to after many years of therapy, and I’m like, Oh, my God, that had nothing to do with me at all.
Suzie Sherman 34:12
And that was a really, really big thing to learn.
Suzie Sherman 34:18
Well, and it’s very much developmentally appropriate, when when you’re very young to not understand, to kind of not have an awareness outside your outside yourself enough to be able to say this, actually, the adults are responsible for me. I’m not, you know, this isn’t my fault. And that’s something that for sure, I have in my history around completely different things.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I’m just gonna like…
Suzie Sherman 34:42
So it’s a developmentally appropriate task for you later in life as an adult to be able to work. Work that through. And of course, it’s hard to get over the concept of it.
I don’t even think it’s just developmentally, though, I think when you don’t have agency at any age, right, and a lot of people do don’t have agency for a very long time for a variety of reasons. I mean, agency isn’t something that you just sort of one day you have it…
Suzie Sherman 35:08
…because, you know, because you turn 18.
Suzie Sherman 35:10
Right? You have to believe that you have agency,
Suzie Sherman 35:14
And women in particular, are told all their lives, “Well, sweetheart, you’re not really capable, or you know, any of it, like, thousands of other ways of framing that.
Suzie Sherman 35:26
So discovering that you have the agency to do the things for yourself that no one did for you that they were supposed to do like meeting your base needs, is really tough. And if you don’t have your basic needs, yeah. You’re not gonna learn how to play piano. (Laughs.)
Suzie Sherman 35:48
(Laughs.) That’s right.
So, you know, I mean, I don’t want to, I don’t wanna like, like, sit here and say that I was like sleeping out on the street, but like you need to… like, it’s more than just having a home, you need to have nurturing, right, in order to grow.
Suzie Sherman 36:08
Attunement, people who are actually listening to you, present for you.
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Suzie Sherman 36:13
Tending to you. Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So like, yeah, I mean, I definitely had to kind of get over this idea that I had, um developed inside of me that like, and this is, thankfully, long ago, now, that I had to…that I was worthy of love. And there wasn’t anything intrinsically wrong with me, that made all of that happen. Right? You know, and I spent years and years and years and trying to get my parents to tell me why they got a divorce. And they would say, you know, it’s actually none of your business. And I would say, you are incorrect.
By, like, galaxies. They still won’t tell me,
Suzie Sherman 37:06
But, um, you know, it doesn’t matter why they got a divorce, what matt…like, it just took me a long time to figure out that my creative voice was like, was important. And I, you know, like, I belong in this mix of people who are expressing their points of view in ways that aren’t somehow profitable.
Suzie Sherman 37:31
Um-hm. That you can belong in that tradition of…
Suzie Sherman 37:37
…of creativity, with regardless of whether there’s a goal or whether…
Suzie Sherman 37:41
…it’s lucrative, right? Yeah.
Oh, you know, Becca, you’re too old to ever get a record deal. Whatever, like, hardly anybody gets a record deal, like, what is this malarkey?
We’re writing about, you know, I don’t know, it’s like, the world is pretty rough. For everyone, right now. It’s a real, it’s a, it’s a pretty dark timeline we’re on, and like, we need things that give us joy, and make us feel alive. And I don’t just mean like, feelings of happiness, that are associated with like, dopamine. And, like, I mean, like, these things that make us feel fully human and in touch with different parts of ourselves. And, and connected in ways that are non-trivial, you know, like, the internet gives us a lot of pretty shallow connections, but we need to find ways to be present and…less brittle.
Suzie Sherman 37:50
Absolutely, yeah, to fortify ourselves with life force, you know,
Suzie Sherman 38:48
with libidinal energy in a sense, with life force!
This is getting very, very granola for me, and I’m feeling uncomfortable.
Suzie Sherman 38:54
Oh, God, oh no!
But you’re totally making it happen, which is wonderful. I feel…
Suzie Sherman 39:00
I feel so warm and fuzzy, that you’re acknowledging that, first of all, I mean, we can, you know, we can get more real, if you if you want to, in terms of the macro, you know, reasons that we’re all depleted, you know, in this way, but I do like staying personal. I’m sorry, it’s getting too touchy feely for you.
No, it’s fine, it’s fine.
Suzie Sherman 39:19
But it’s beautiful, because it’s real. And and the thing that I’m thinking about, the thing I’m thinking about is, and we can get back to the evils of capitalism, or whatever, but like, like, yes, there are more and more ways for us to spend our time and distract our minds and passively consume entertaining things. And we get joy from those things. But, but, but arguably, a deeper joy is to be able to create, rather than to just passively consume, if you are moved to, if you’re moved to create, it’s important to tap into that, and to create because otherwise, we are starving ourselves. Well, neglecting ourselves…
Suzie Sherman 39:29
…when we don’t create.
I am a big fan of…so, you know, there’s this there’s this concept of tikkun olam in Judaism. And I’m, I really big fan of that particular working metaphor, where, you know, we’re all we’re all cracked, and a little bit broken. And it’s our job to keep repairing ourselves. This is the world, is cracked and broken. And it is also our job to keep repairing the world.
Suzie Sherman 40:35
Suzie Sherman 40:38
That both of these things are in concert. It’s not it’s not one or the other. It’s a it’s a harmony between repairing the world and repairing ourselves.
Always, Yeah. Yeah, yeah yeah, this is fundamental, like, fundamental Judaism. And so I like I think, you know, these these creative things, and, like the other like, it doesn’t have to be visual arts or music. I mean, it can be something different for everybody. For some people, it’s just the practice of like, of healing, and that’s their way of being creatively present for other people. And, you know, reading is, is a creative pursuit. You’re creating worlds,
Suzie Sherman 41:23
you’re engaging your mind. Yeah, absolutely. True, true.
You know, I think, I think, you know, and I think a preoccupation with the arts is, is a sufficiently creative life, there’s so much great work out there that you can immerse yourself in, maybe you don’t need to make your own. And, and that’s okay, I don’t think it can get judgmental, very dangerously.
Suzie Sherman 41:49
But you know, my father in law…
Suzie Sherman 41:50
Taken. Point taken! Yeah.
…my father in law, who wants everything under control. And once told me, he doesn’t like modern art.
Suzie Sherman 42:01
Surprising (laughs) surprising that abstract splatters on the canvas would be upsetting to his sense of order.
I still don’t understand what he means
Yeah, yeah. And, like modern art is such a vast…
Suzie Sherman 42:21
Uh, yes. Yeah.
Vast concept. And, you know, I’m like…I don’t know off the cuff when modern art starts. And, ends, but like, I find this to be very problematic.
Suzie Sherman 42:39
Uh-huh. Well, yeah. And it’s a generalization that he probably couldn’t even substantiate. Because if you pointed out some modern art to him, he probably would say, Oh, yeah, I kind of like that.
You know, so. So what was he really was really saying there, but also, I agree with you, and I want to just sort of reflect back on that idea that Yeah, I do don’t want to create a false dichotomy between passive and active or consuming and creating…
Suzie Sherman 43:07
…because, like, like, you were saying about tikkun olam, it’s sort of like, you know, there’s, there’s a synergy there. And, and anything that we do can be generative and creative, like I like we were talking about this earlier, a tiny bit, like, the art of cooking, you know, you know, like any, anything that you do in your life, so I’m obsessed with creative pursuit in my life, it doesn’t necessarily have to look like…
Suzie Sherman 43:38
…visual art, it doesn’t necessarily have to look like playing an instrument, it doesn’t necessarily have to look like, you know, sculpture, or whatever. It can look like living my life creatively, for example, and that’s where I have put a lot of my energy and time into and my life, I’ve spent a lot of time now I’m in my mid 40s, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking that I haven’t done much with my life. And I’ve been, you know, what’s the word I’ve failed to launch. You know, because I haven’t really deeply pursued a career that feels sort of inherently meaningful to me, I have the shrapnel of a lot of dead careers and in, you know, in my, in my wake, that just sort of never got off the ground, etc. But in reality, I actually have lived my life very creatively, in my engagements with people in my interaction with people like the way I do my relationship structures, the way that I can be present for people in my life. So there’s, there’s, there’s so much to that, you know, being a creative person with a capital C does not have to look like, you know, you’re, you’re gaining expertise in one of the traditional arts.
Right. Yeah, and I think that’s really, I think that’s a really important point, too like, we there is a kind of shaming that happens, starting very early on, where, you know, peoples’, you know, interests and preoccupations are placed in a hierarchy. Right? So, like, at the top of the hierarchy is mathematics. (Laughs.)
Suzie Sherman 45:29
Um-hm. Right. I see where you’re going…
And then, and, and this is, you know, and then we have, like, what would come after mathematics, probably sciences, right. And among the hard sciences is probably the, the lowest would be biology, right?
Suzie Sherman 45:51
And then, and then we get into the soft sciences, right? Like, like,
Suzie Sherman 45:58
yeah, anthropology, history, history is probably at the top of the heap there. And then in history, you even have a hierarchy. And then the arts come like, like, you know, pretty far down. So, I think, when, you know, this is not healthy. (Laughs.) It’s not healthy, to when you’re like…
Suzie Sherman 46:24
The idea of, like, valuing, right, in that way. Valuing people’s interests.
Right, and when, you know, when you’re putting together creative, and not our creative pursuit, what is the word that I’m looking for? when you, when you decide that what you care about, what you want to spend time on is this creative thing, whether it’s, whether it’s caregiving, or, or music, or, you know, crocheting, or whatever. And
Suzie Sherman 47:01
well, and by the same token, we can’t look at technical skills like computing and things like that stuff that happens to be at the top of the hierarchy in terms of the valuation, you know, the monetary valuation and the sort of respect, culturally that we confer on it. We can’t necessarily we can’t look at that as not creative. Right? That’s actually a creative process, as well.
Yeah.Yeah, yeah yeah. I mean, I think and I think what it what it comes down to, in my mind, and I don’t pretend to be an authority in anything, is sort of like the intention. Right? Like, like, is this being done with the intention to make money? Or is this being done out of a sense of fulfillment? And, and a desire to be present? And, you know, real like that, that, like, is it engaging with capitalism? Or is it engaging in humanism? And like, that’s, that’s the difference for me, right? There’s a very big difference between a pop star, you know, as much as I love, like shitty pop music, and I really, really love shitty pop music.
Suzie Sherman 48:20
But I think there’s a big difference between Taylor Swift the pop star, and then, you know, someone like, like, I don’t know, the Butchies, right, who are not doing anything to pursue commercial success, except sort of putting their music out there. And, you know, they’re a small indie band, and they don’t have a slick marketing team. And so like, they’re just different kinds of musical experiences. Taylor Swift is a marketing machine. (Laughs)
Suzie Sherman 48:56
And then there’s these other people, and you know, pick your indie band, like, there’s a ton of them. And they don’t have the slick packaging, and they’re just making music and they may not be good looking. And they that’s not relevant one way or the other.
Suzie Sherman 49:13
So I think it’s a it’s a, it’s, you can take that same model for just about anything, right? It’s hard for me to look at, say, Jeff Koons, who’s an artist I particularly despise.
Suzie Sherman 49:29
I don’t know him.
Jeff Koons, I’ll pull up, pull up a picture on my phone.
Suzie Sherman 49:35
Just don’t play a clip because I don’t have you know, licensing. (Laughs.)
And, you know, like, it’s hard, it’s hard for me to look at Jeff Koons. who’s considered art. And not think of it as just sort of like, it’s a product. It’s just, it’s just a shitty product, but designed to be a status symbol here (shows Suzie some photos on her phone) Jeff Koons, he makes these giant metal…
Suzie Sherman 50:04
Oh, yeah. crosses art before. Yeah,
I don’t think it’s art. (Laughs.)
Suzie Sherman 50:07
Right. That’s what you’re saying. I mean, that’s how its defined. Technically.
Suzie Sherman 50:14
Yeah. It’s technically art. But I don’t think it’s coming from a place of…
Suzie Sherman 50:18
It’s very literally shiny and polished.
Suzie Sherman 50:21
And it’s a state. It’s a status symbol. And it’s meant to be a status symbol. And it’s been it has, it has a marketing machine.
Suzie Sherman 50:30
So, like, I can’t remember who said this, you know, you can, you know, art it like someone said, “Art is controversial, or else it’s propaganda.”
Suzie Sherman 50:44
Oh, I wonder who said that? That’s a great…
I’m sure we can find it on the internet.
Suzie Sherman 50:48
That’s a great quote. Yeah,
It is a click away.
Suzie Sherman 50:49
Uh, huh. Should we do it? Should I look something up?
You should look it up!
Suzie Sherman 50:53
Um, what was it?
Art is controversial, or it’s propaganda.
Suzie Sherman 51:03
Dead air, dead air.
And I don’t know if that’s if I 100% agree with that. But I think that part of that is making space for art. That is not quote unquote…
Suzie Sherman 51:15
I’m not finding it right now. But maybe I’ll put it in the show notes.
I think part of that, is it. You know, it reminds me to make space for things that are not quote unquote, “good.” In the sense that, you know, they will not be…
Suzie Sherman 51:30
They’re not marketable. Right.
Suzie Sherman 51:32
Yeah. And they’re not necessarily relatable, you know, if I write it if, if I were to write a song about how I’m lonely and always surrounded by gay men…
Suzie Sherman 51:50
That’s not a terribly relatable situation, but it’s real.
Suzie Sherman 51:56
Actually, that’s a…major at least subcultural trope. I don’t know if it’s an overarching cultural trope.
Is it? (Laughs.)
Suzie Sherman 52:02
Suzie Sherman 52:05
I think that’s great. I love it. I think you should fucking do it.
I would worry about making them feel bad.
Suzie Sherman 52:14
The gay mean are fine. They’ll be fine.
Likely true. But like, like, I would not expect that to be a hit. And that would be coming from my heart. And if I, whereas if I were to
Suzie Sherman 52:31
I love that example.
(Laughs.) This is why this is why I’m starting that conference. And I’m also starting, like, like, like a social group for for bi and pan folks. I feel like a little island. A little little tiny bisexual Island floating in the Big Gay Sea. (Laughs.)
Suzie Sherman 52:51
Well, in the even bigger heterosexual sea, as well. But yeah.
Yeah. I don’t know that many of them.
Suzie Sherman 53:01
I’ve heard that there are heterosexual people.
(Laughs.) Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there. I mean, they are. They’re they’re kind of everywhere. But they kind of like I…they don’t really register.
Suzie Sherman 53:18
I think, I think we’ve I think we’ve, we’ve talked, we’ve had a conversation.
We had a conversation. Any other…
Suzie Sherman 53:25
Good, good. Is there anything else that you can, that you can think of? I feel like my, my life is not terribly exciting.
Suzie Sherman 53:34
No apologies for whether your life is exciting or not, polished or not.
I am not polished.
Suzie Sherman 53:43
So great. Now, I thank you so much for coming out here and spending time talking to me about the creative process. And thanks for going deep.
Sure. I don’t think…
Suzie Sherman 53:55
And I know we scratched this just scratched the surface. But we also…
Yeah, I don’t think I went that deep, though, like I was saying before, you know, I think it’s important, I think we have these universal experiences. And I think it’s really important that we can talk about the feeling insecure, or vulnerable or fragile sometimes, because everybody does now and then. And if we’re constantly trying to block that and show a good face, even among our friends, then we’re just sort of perpetuating this culture of gaslighting where and we never get to feel whole. So even if you can’t talk about it, at least you can sort of create about it and have that, have it validated so that you can, it’s like it’s like Kondoing your experiences, right? You have to like acknowledge it and thank it before you can leave it.
Suzie Sherman 55:01
Right. And that and that may or may not have to do with showing it to an audience, airing it for an audience.
Oh, yeah. I mean, performing is a whole different thing.
Suzie Sherman 55:12
Suzie Sherman 55:14
Actually exercising it in the sense of like, getting it out of you getting it onto paper or putting it into notes or…
Right, right, right.
Suzie Sherman 55:21
Whatever form it takes, but, yeah, and then, you know, and and that validation actually can come from that sense of having exorcised with the thing…
Suzie Sherman 55:32
regardless of whether any other human hears, it sees it.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Just be a showing up for you.
Suzie Sherman 55:41
Thanks for listening to my conversation with Becca. She’s a writer, chronic over analyzer and community organizer who is doing her best. She’s obsessed with The Good Place and stans for Elizabeth Warren. Also, Becca taught me the word “stan,” which means to be an overzealous or obsessive fan, so thanks, Becca, for teaching me a new word.
We are and the next thing you know. Find us at nextthingpodcast.com or subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google Play, or wherever you do that thing. If you’re liking the show so far, leave us a rating or review at iTunes. It really helps us spread the word about the show. And if you want to support the show financially, find us at patreon.com/nextthingpod and throw us a few bucks a month. Join the conversation at nextthingpod on Facebook, and find me at soozenextthing on Instagram and Twitter. That’s s o o z e nextthing. Send us your own And The Next Thing You Know story even if it’s a tiny subtle thing that shifted your life in a different direction. It’s really easy to do, just record a voice memo on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We might use your story on a future episode. You can also just shoot me an email and say hi. Our beloved banana peel image is by Max Ronnersjö. Our theme song and interstitial music is by Jon Schwartz. Thanks everybody. We’ll talk soon…unless I’ve been so successful decolonizing my time, that time becomes meaningless abstraction.
Transcriptions by https://otter.ai