Yours is quickly becoming one of my favorite newsletters. 😍

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How I savor you. I'm reading this essay in the corner of a millennial nightmare of a cafe that, to my displeasure, has the comfiest leather couch around. I surround myself with brilliant and critical people, but not artists. But I desire to partake in the artistic communion you recall in this essay. (This may derive, in part, from my reluctance to consider myself a creative.) To be opened and read by other people. Pulled by envy toward greater art. To have artistic orgies and such over coffee at lunch. Furthermore, I can see how creative relationships and experiences like you describe inform your work. Such richness, such breath, in that kind of surrender, worship, and vulnerability. Such a gift. I agree with you: I think art is worth it, and even if it is not, it is worth it all the same.

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Thanks so much for referencing my Simon & Garfunkel essay in your latest which is, as always, profoundly well written.

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On types of non romantic intimacy:

I love the power and depth of connection that I have recently found in ‘Woman’s Circles’. I belong to 3 loosely connected online groups of women. One with about 300 members on Facebook where our connection is only through comments and images shared in the group, and two subsections of that group, one with 12 women, where we have two circle meetings hosted by a facilitator, monthly, on Zoom. There is a third subsection, that for 3 months each winter, meet weekly on Zoom to discuss the work of published poets, and write, share and read our own. My third membership of the poetry circle starts in November. Membership varies slightly, but the trust and, there’s no other word for it, love, that has grown for me between us is like no other relationship I have ever known. I am sure, as you, Michelle, have highlighted here, it’s about the sharing of the passion of creativity. I have not physically met any of any of the group members, but I feel closer to some of them than any friends I have had in my physical life. Much of the credit goes to the woman A who started the large ‘mother’ group and facilitates the smaller groups which are by paid subscription. The free Facebook group is called ‘Womens School of Metamorphosis’ and A makes her ‘offerings’ of the sub groups through that platform.

I would never have started my Substack without the experiences of these Womens Circles

Thanks for your great illuminating and enquiring post Michelle and thanks for the thread Elle 💙

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Oct 30, 2022Liked by Michelle Jia

(Proud paid subscriber here, just want to flaunt that I'm helping support this level of work before I become just one of thousands! ;)

Michelle, thank you for doing yet again what you do so well: expanding our sense of what's possible, pointing out life-shaping forces that we usually don't even see.

The default framework I often inherit is like: "I had a friend, we created, then X happened."

But reading your essay I reflect on how precious & deep these sorts of creative partnerships are in my life. In ways I didn't realize I could think about at all!

I think first & most obviously of being with you in a rap/musical improv space. Although I think there's many other spaces we create in (most obviously video), what makes that one special is the ability for a character or emotion to come out almost by surprise, & be met so quickly with a place to live. The putting out & the finding a home to expand into is so seamless I don't notice that what we're exploring might be unusual or surprising. There's a sort of enrapturing immediacy to it: that what is being created is both unexpected & also the most natural thing possible.

I remember you pointing out specific strands of darkness that came out in rap that I didn't project otherwise, & me being almost surprised to realize you were right.

It's such a gift to create creative spaces for each other, Michelle.

This essay also brought to light surprising relationships, most notably my friend Shadi. Shadi is a anthropological improviser: you can bring up any character -- a Vietnam vet, a judgy white suburban mother, an angsty Menlo Park teen, an Idahoan grocery store manager bitter at the influx of Californians -- & without skipping a beat Shadi will take on that character & make their world feel real (and you can interact in whatever way you like).

What makes it so powerful (& terrifying at times), is that it's rarely done in outright mockery, but rather with intimate detail & commitment. You can't tell when or how the game should end. Or even that it *is* a game any more than your own world view is a game.

To your metaphor of wrestling & competitiveness, I now recognize that there's a sort of frightened fascination in it for me: Shadi is both so much more skilled and so much more unflinchingly committed to the character, it seems. It makes me want to push deeper into the character, to expand the collection of cultural trinkets & treasures I can draw upon.

Thank you, Michelle. Your writing really makes a difference in my life.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Michelle Jia

“If one could say this about a state of mind and not the person who occasioned it, I was in love.”

“The problem with illegible forms of intimacy is that when they end, one’s grief is rarely recognized. To lose a friend is one thing, to lose an artistic collaborator is another thing entirely still — but in a culture that prizes consumption over creation, and monogamous romantic love over almost every other form of closeness, it is difficult to properly mourn the loss of such a person.”

“If our superego, our “filter” is what makes us acceptable in most spheres of life, the collaboration between two artists requires the putting away of such fusty inner instruments. It requires its own nakedness, however invisible.”

“no one, not even the artistic genius, is freed from the agony of closeness.”

“One wants to know that being required is not the same as being trapped. One wants one’s freedom to be beautiful, one’s integrity to be sacred.”

I like to think that we each did our best work in that period — aimed not at ourselves but at each other, absorbed not merely in the craft but also in the game. The image that came to my mind then, that I still think of every once in a while, is of Jacob wrestling the angel: of an opposition so evenly matched it can only be divine.

And all of this is is completely breathtaking, so relevant and personal but also potentially applicable in so many other ways, for so many people. Didn’t ever anticipate crying about a substack article, but I thank you and hope to never forget these quotes

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