Year End: On rituals
A lot of the advice you can gather from The Creative Independent is practical. I find these nuts-and-bolts tips most useful when I’m first sitting down to work on something—when I’m getting situated and started, before my brain moves inward and I forget everything outside of me.
Then there are the moments on TCI from this past year that felt more mystical, even magical. Often, the things that have meant the most to me over the years have that kind of resonance—an exploded view from the bend in a path, a sound in a song you don’t remember being there before (and that seems like a possession), the way certain foods taste exactly like childhood, the smell of cut grass that hit me sharply after my mother died.
These kinds of things return to me when I’m walking, hanging out with family, reading, listening to music, or seeing friends. They’ll surface when I think I’ve shut out the rest of the world—that moment between open eyes and sleep, or when you wake up and a dream’s still hanging around.
They’re tiny bits of a hidden language whispered into my ear when I don’t expect it. Sometimes you can explain them, but sometimes—especially nowadays, when everybody wants to explain away everything—they’re best left protected and undeciphered.
Here are some thoughts from other people that I think about often.
I spent a lot of childhood talking to ghosts by inviting them to move my body a certain way or make me walk somewhere, use a pen I was holding to send me messages; working at made-up methods of telepathy. I needed friends. I think it’s ok to laugh at this, and I believe in what happened. Some of it was truly demonic. Mostly it was magical.
Rooms and houses have this haunted energy to them. I guess that’s what you’re doing as a writer—you’re trying to be the ghost of yourself.
Everyone is constantly trying to articulate the secret languages in their head to the outside world. If your language is too secret, then no one can understand; if your language is completely public, then there’s no mystery. There’s no longer the pleasure of decoding.
Artists can help things not be stuck, and not be like mud. When things are in that nonmoving sort of space, the artist needs to come in and shake it up. Especially when people think they have the truth, but it’s not. When people are so certain about one version of things—that’s when we need the other perspective to move the discussion forward. And so, artists play a great role in that. Whether we are provoking new perspectives or new feelings, or leading the way to new processes, or conceptualizing new imaginary worlds. It’s about dreaming things into action.
I don’t necessarily do daily rituals in terms of actions or something, but I think that the brain is the most magical thing.“Magic” is a word that has this stigma where when we say it, we feel like we’re being silly. But for me, something that I engage in, whether I want to or not, is obsession. Obsession to me is a really important ritual. It’s like the kind of thing where I don’t actually feel like my … I don’t want to use the word “healthy” or whatever, but I don’t feel like myself unless I’m truly obsessed with something or someone or just in some sort of enthusiastic zone.
Obsession is something that is really hard to create, obviously. But I think that daily, I try to go and search some things to be obsessed about. When you’re truly obsessed with something, you don’t have any ego and you would do anything for it, and you are of course devoted enough to it to want to write about it or think about, and turn it over and think of all the possibilities around it. I think that’s the thing that’s part of my practice.
I wonder if fulfillment is something we get to subjectively shape and approach and hold? And it could mean something differently each time we approach the craving of being fulfilled? I’ve come to feel that fulfillment is letting myself be known to myself in an honest way, and that the process of writing could get me close to that feeling, but maybe the feelings are also retrospective, too? Maybe I won’t always know in the moment that I’m fulfilled? My poems have come to grow in this space with me. I have let me be as honest as I can.
Thoughts that fail, thoughts that don’t go anywhere, thoughts that crumble—there are all these interesting new models that come out of that.
I work a lot with unknown persons, nameless figures, ensembles, collectives, multitudes, the chorus. That’s where my imagination of practice resides. That’s where my heart resides.
There’s something about the brain though, how when you take a break from something and you process it and come back to it and it’s better… Muscle memory. Psychosomatic muscle memory.
Words are the foundation of magic.
Write while blindfolded.
The ability to sacrifice with no bad feelings as to the loss of the important things, often very important things…
…I’ll investigate what herbs I can plant for the bees outside of my window.
I want to always try and remember the idea of active participation and not reduction.
Sometimes I feel like I just go through the blues to get to the brights. Playing in a dark mode will eventually let me flow out into a greater lightness.
Time-hopping your neighborhood back to 2007 in Google Maps Street View.
I sent dried leaves to all my friends. I stuffed a package with dried leaves and sent them to people in California and in the desert. It was this taste of fall. Even though it was costing my whole paycheck, I was kind of like, “You know what? It’s a present in the middle of October.
Brandon Stosuy is the co-founder and Editor in Chief of The Creative Independent and a Music Curator at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. He co-founded and co-curates the annual Basilica Soundscape festival in Hudson, NY. As Zone 6, he manages the musicians Zola Jesus, Emel Mathlouthi, Hether Fortune, and Circuit Des Yeux, in partnership with his friend, Caleb Braaten. For the past several years he and the visual artist Matthew Barney have collaborated on a series of live events, objects, and print publications related to their performance space, REMAINS. His anthology, Up is Up, But So Is Down: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992, was published by NYU Press in 2006. He’s published two children’s books, Music Is (2016) and We Are Music (2018), both on Simon & Schuster. He is currently at work on a how-to book/memoir about curating your life and a collaborative book, with the artist Rose Lazar, about crying.
He took the tree/moon “author photo” from his cot while watching and listening to a performance of Max Richter’s Sleep at the Music Center in Los Angeles. (It reminded him of the cover of a Grouper album.) He fell asleep on that cot, woke up two hours later, and wandered back to his hotel with a free bottle of water.