The Beijing winter was one that ground me along: the piles of indistinguishable black and brown winter coats, the exhausted-blackened snow heaps, the barrels of smoke, the smell of sickly, roasted sweet potatoes and cumin-seasoned lamb meat blending with the fumaroles coming out of the public toilets, and holding my breath falling out the door of a subway or bus, windows rolled up, of course, wondering which lung infection I just caught having bucketed about the bus crammed with exceedingly worn out humans. The only thing worse than a protracted Beijing winter, was the pollen-ridden, wind chaos of Spring, and the thick, polluted, humid summer, made dark by the winds trolling sand off the Gobi desert. Fall was lovely, and it lasted a week.

Here is an almost perfect Beijing mess. A beloved odd-eyed cat, loved you can tell by the way it’s leashed with a rope to the bike rack, but not so much loved that the eggshell is removed.

When you fall in love with an artist, and by that I mean, any kind of creator, you need to know this: The person who takes the closest look at what they’re making will win their heart. If you’re not prepared to read what they write, listen their song, analyze their strokes, guess at their intent, question their metaphor, breakdown the parts, get into lengthy conversations about the work and the vision, this is not the person for you. 

I’ve taken no poll, but if you’re a creator, tell me I’m wrong.

Know that to fall in love with a creative person it is to collaborate in the complexity of their process. It should be exhilarating to you, and not draining, because hopefully, you are a creator too, and they are loving you by reciprocating that close look.

You’ll need to become attuned to their insecurity on those days when they feel like they’re not making the work they want to, or conversely on those days when they feel like people aren’t getting the full impact of their vision.

Squint, make their edges and incompleteness soft, and see what they’re trying to make, and be the one true fan, possibly the only one in the world that believes in them. Look right at them.

That’s how to love an artist. Look close.


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