My fiction ranges from short stories to novels, recently I have found essays cathartic as well. Novels are always what’s cranking on the back of my mind because they feel like challenges big enough that they actually require me to change as a person and that’s really all I'm interested in.
When did you first identify yourself as an artist?
I don’t think I identified as an artist until this time in Ecuador where I was just lit by creative fire and produced this novella in a couple of weeks. That was the most personal thing I'd ever done. That was the key for me, it felt like I was no longer trying to do something clever to impress someone else.
The difference was feeling like I had transmuted my soul and someone else could see it. That felt like an achievement befitting an artist.
Prior to that you were attending to what you thought people wanted to read?
Prior to that I may have done things that were deep and from the soul but it hadn’t been conscious. With the realization of being conscious, going back to a performance would be hellish and self-mutilating.
Do you think that art has to be shared?
I would not be comfortable making a claim like that, but for me that’s the natural end of it. It feels like art is an intimate conversation between me and my own soul. So in some respect I'm both author and reader. And in order to make real the change that I undergo through the process of creating the art it seems like I have to share it with someone else. It seems like if I've tapped into something authentic enough in my own soul that will affect a change in them as well.
That’s kind of the purpose of art to me, is to get us in touch with deeper parts of ourselves that make us more conscious and more level. I've spent a long time hiding stuff that I've done and that no longer seems responsible to me.
What do you mean by responsible?
Well. It’s like a shitty form of Buddhism where the enlightened one has reached enlightenment and doesn’t bring anyone else along. It’s like if I experience a powerful shift in myself through the creation of art I feel like it becomes a duty to share that with the world.
There have been so many times where I've read a book and feel like that book changed me because the author was sharing their internal journey.
As you’re creating and then finished and putting it out into the world, what kind of relationship do you have with your ego?
My ego is very clever, it’s much smarter than the part of me that produces good art so I feel like I'm always trying to get out from under it , get it out of my way. When my writing is successful, I may have prepared myself for it through previous drafts but I'm not really doing a lot of thinking in the moment, it is like a flow experience.
I associate that with a loss of ego or getting ahead of the ego, it’s like the ego is a wave and I just manage to out-run it. Because my ego defeats the whole purpose of art as I've outlined it. The ego says I'm way better than every one else, I'm different from everyone else therefore they can’t understand me.
So it’s going to try to prove the whole time that I'm superior. Which justifiably makes the reader like fuck this guy. So it’s the enemy.
Do you have a practice?
Something that I struggle with is a lack of order or routine in my life. Typically here’s the process: I'm writing bullshit for a long time and very convinced that this is the project I want to push out into the world. Then up from beneath there’s something else that’s much stronger and it’s an idea for a project I haven’t been thinking of consciously.
I usually go into an unhealthy place in order to produce that thing. For instance in the time that I was writing the novella in Ecuador I had stomach parasites and didn’t take care of them for several weeks and was so dehydrated I had to go to the hospital. There’s this intense ego fortification followed by a reckless abandon which seems to produce stuff that’s real but it’s not healthy for me the physical body. The place that I'd like to get to is allowing myself to let go.
Letting go seems more essential to artistry that comes from the heart, and doing so per a ritual.
Honoring what can be created if you set aside time as opposed to having manic bursts of creative energy?
I think the problem with the manic, sporadic burst stuff is that I never feel like I can touch it afterward. It’s like the process of creating it is so intimate, that if any editor were to make a recommendation I would like want to yell at them, no it’s perfect!
I feel that’s a product of creating in an unconscious way. Whereas if I'm going more slowly, if I'm checking in with myself every day I'm going to be open to shifts not only during my process but afterward.
What gives you hope?
For the world? When I speak with myself honestly and clarify the change that I want to make and I do it invariably and rapidly that shows me that the human mind has a remarkable capacity to steer our lives and the heart has an insane capacity to heal us and to open us up to different forms of reality and diversity. I think our capacity for growth when we really set our minds to it is totally unparalleled.
But that’s something I see in myself and in close friends, it’s not something I see in the people ruling the world so that can be kind of frustrating.
What does beauty mean to you?
I mean I do believe that when you get to the highest level, virtues align and are really the same thing, beauty, truth, love. It’s just a way of being in tune and in touch with and rooted in what’s real. I think fantasy is destructive, I think longing in a certain form is destructive. When I'm aware of beauty I'm going to be satisfied with my immediate world and behave well within it.
What does strength mean to you?
Strength means looking on ugly parts of myself and not running away and in so doing finding that they’re not ugly.
And how do you define success?
Making a connection with myself deep enough that it resounds with another human being.
- Jackson Holzberg Buckley