D.T. Pennington

Writer – Photographer – Creative Coach

Notes on Disinspiration Pt. 1

Hey Oscar,

What is this going to look like? What if it doesn’t go anywhere?

The trouble with writing – you feel like you don’t exist without the reader. One of those “if a tree falls in the forest” sort of things. What is it to have written, if not to be read? Then again, as Patti Smith says: “Why do we write? Because we cannot simply live.” Simple. Heh. She’s won a few Grammy’s and a National Book Award plus a mess of honors that get you invited to the kind of dining rooms you’d never imagine.

The Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture (but they have a far more French way of saying it), yet was one of the instrumental voices in the NYC punk movement in the 70s. Yes, I’ve been on a kick lately. For all the reasons you can imagine, I’ve been hot with the idea of female fronted rock bands. Have you heard “Horses”? The album, it was a big deal way back when and has been reissued and remastered all sorts of ways. Worth a listen. She did also did a pretty solid of Everybody Wants To Rule The World which you know is one of my favorites (Karaoke go to?) for reasons I cannot begin to explain. She also did a bunch of strange ambient Eno-esque stuff in more recent years.

As Apolonia Sokol says, “It’s not about a creation, but a continuation.” Or, as one of my old meathead bosses used to say, “Sure, but what have you done for me lately?”

I don’t expect you to follow this, I know you’re at least good for a listen. Is the drive to write a gift? or a curse? What would it be to simply…live? To approach the day with little observation and analysis, to just let the current take you to wherever it decides you need to be?

The past few weeks have been a deep dive into the various hard drives and stacks of notebooks that have grown around me. My cloud drive is one of those spaces where I just sort of chuck things and save for later even though I may never look at it again. A million documents opened to hold a few paragraphs before they are weakly titled, closed, and left for dead. The notebooks are even more of a disaster, my handwriting is atrocious and the pages have no rhyme or reason – perfect for when you’re getting things done, but not when you are trying to rehash that one thought you had a few months back.

It’s a wreck. All of it. I want to sort through it all and index it because it is my life’s work. Thousands of hours and it’s just…everywhere. Starting anew isn’t going to get me anywhere – I’ll just have another problematic pile in a few months that will stress me even more.

I don’t always like what I write, but I love the feeling that goes with writing. The feeling of a pen on the page, the flow of ink, regardless of what comes of it – that’s the pleasure. Yes?

Sometimes, it seems, I have to go places to just look at stuff. You know there are no shortage of proclamations from writers and artists who say things like “get out into nature! Go for a walk! That’s where the ideas are!” Maybe this would be the case if I lived somewhere other than the low-grade city Asheville has made itself to be. There are lively, bustling sidewalks serving as the cross-section of a thousand and one fates like you might get in New York or Chicago. And while there may be a good deal of trees outside my window, it is hardly the remote forest that you think it to be – every road here is lacking in sidewalks and full of cars who need to get somewhere far quicker than you or I could ever fathom.

So, I go look at stuff. A few weeks ago, in Nashville of all places, we walked through the monthly flea market hosted at the fairgrounds. Endless halls and pavilions full of tables full of stuff. Everything smelled like musty cardboard and basement mildew. Some tables were finely curated antiques from the 50s and 60s – old HAM radio setups and cocktail sets. Others featured salvage plastics from the 80s and 90s – collector toys from Happy Meals and just so. much. Star Wars. merchandise. Among the tables was a guy who had no rhyme or reason to his setup – old computer manuals piled over baby clothes (washed? who knows) and a mess of camera equipment that felt like a crime.

I’m talking everything from old Kodak Brownies and Minolta polaroids to film SLR cameras and lenses and any sort of flash you can imagine. None of it was stored properly, everything was exposed – all of the sensors and lenses and glass – just open to the dust and gravity and grubby fingerprints of a thousand browsing hands. There was ten grand in cameras on that table, easy.

All of this stuff, this is stuff that we decided needed to be. It had to exist.

As you know, I’ve been stuck in a mire of disinspiration. I guess this is what happens when you find yourself trying to promote a business among the current state of social media. No one shares unless there is something to sell. Very little of what I see is inspiring me to do much of anything. Maybe that’s my fault, maybe I need to take a different approach to who I follow and what I share.

After all, it’s my screen, why shouldn’t I look at what I want to see?

But the disinspiration has been irksome. I’m trying to steer clear of the mindless browsing and spend more time writing offline (much like this letter) and pasting it into the right box and sending it off (almost like the old mail system?) I take a walk through the half-urban landscape I call home and end up at the Marquee. It’s retail, I know this – hundreds of little stalls and displays all curated by local artists and antiquitarians. A minimalist booth with four gallery-sized photographs hang in one booth, and in the next is a cabinet of curiosities featuring everything from broken mirrors, old books, and rodents eternally preserved in formaldehyde. I take it all in. I buy nothing. Sometimes, you just gotta go look at stuff.

I have to go; the dinner bell is ringing and the dog isn’t letting me forget what time it is. I’ll send along more, soon. There is a very big thing I’ve come across recently that has definitely changed up my perspective – can’t wait to share it with you.