Bridges or moats
Connection v. isolation, plus my weekly shareables: A football mourning, Lucinda returns, and Picasso's secret dog
The old joke goes that there are two types of people in this world: the people who divide everybody into two types of people, and …
Still, I’ve been thinking lately about a division that explains a lot to me: Some people build bridges, and others build moats.
I’ll admit that our political climate got me thinking about this. I try not to talk much about politics here at the Writing Shed—this place is a bit of an escape valve for me, and maybe for you. (I talk plenty of politics in my weekly On My Mind commentaries for WFAE.) I’ll just say, for now, that so much of our current politics feels like a battle of those who want to bring people closer together against those who want to pull us further apart. Bridges versus moats.
But it’s not just politics. We had dinner the other night with an old work colleague and his wife, and along the way we talked about folks we’d enjoyed working with … and others we didn’t. I realized later that the colleagues we liked the least were the ones who didn’t want to collaborate. It wasn’t that they wanted to hog credit, although I guess sometimes that was the case. It was more a lack of trust, or a lack of collective spirit.
Creative work can be lonely and isolating. It’s so hard to do something great that I understand the impulse to protect your gifts and methods. But to me those things are always better when they’re shared.
Hundreds of people over the years have built bridges that I could walk across to get where I needed to go as a writer. Whatever I write, at an atomic level, is made up of all those people who helped me. So I like to build bridges, too. The whole purpose of this Substack is to share great stuff I find along the way, along with tips and ideas and advice about how to do this work. And it works both ways: I hear feedback from you Shedheads that makes me better all the time.
I believe in, and count on, all of us learning from one another and lifting ourselves up together. Don’t build a moat. It doesn’t keep other people from getting in as much as it keeps you from getting out. Build a bridge instead.
10 things I wanted to share this week:
My weekly for WFAE was on night critters.
My friend Bronwen Dickey wrote a gorgeous profile of Lucinda Williams, creator of so much powerful music, and survivor of so much—including, most recently, a stroke. I keep going back to her track “Essence,” which might be the sexiest song ever recorded.
Davidson College set out to support free expression … and it took a lot of hard conversations to agree on what that really means. Issac Bailey, a thoughtful and nuanced teacher and writer, tells the story.
Kent Babb, one of the current contenders for heavyweight sportswriting champ of the world, has another brilliant piece: the Harvard football teammates who mourned one of their own, even as they argue over what killed him.
This Oliver Burkeman column, on the weight of obligations, hit me really hard.
I loved hearing comedian Steven Wright talk about ideas on Conan O’Brien’s podcast. I especially enjoyed him discuss drawing as a way of noticing, and his brain as a soup pot of ideas.
Dying to read this upcoming Michael Lewis book on FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried.
YouTube find of the week: Norah Jones and Robert Glasper doing a live-in-studio version of their “Let It Ride” from her podcast NORAH JONES IS PLAYING ALONG. Perfect Sunday morning music.
See y’all next week, everybody.
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