C.E. Shue on The Terror of Not Having Something to Do
An interview with C.E. Shue, from The Write Stuff series:
C.E. Shue is a poet and prose writer who is currently working on her chapbook, “The Beauty of Sleeping.” She holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Southern California and an MFA from the University of San Francisco. She has received grants from Kundiman, the Provincetown Fine Arts Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Center. C.E. photographs her wanderings on Instagram, and in her free time, serves on the Board of Directors for Bay Area Generations. You can find her on the streets of the City, at her website, or on Instagram.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I tell them I’m a Poet. When they look confused, I laugh and say, “Just kidding!” (But am I?)
What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?
My biggest struggle is feeling like a fake. I was with some writers in Vermont recently and every one of them said that it doesn’t matter how many poems, essays, or stories you’ve written, it always feels like Square One when you start a new project. Any time I start something new, I am filled with equal parts excitement (a new project!), relief (I’m always afraid the last piece I’ve written is literally the last thing I will ever write), and anxiety (I have no idea where this is going).
If someone said I want to do what do you do, what advice would you have for them?
Put yourself in the way of creativity—whatever that looks like for you—as often as you can. Take a class, go to readings and events, join a writing or painting group, take walks in nature and other inspiring places, go to museums or churches or bars. Find out what sparks you—cooking, dancing, reading, singing, reading, making perfume, sewing, knitting, swimming, being alone, whatever it is—and do it as often as you can. Hang out with people who cheer you on, no matter what. A good therapist can do wonders too, by helping remove the psychological and cultural barriers that get in the way of creativity. Give yourself permission to do it all and share that energy with others.
Do you consider yourself successful?Why?
It depends on how you define success, I suppose. I’m looking for a publisher for two chapbooks (“Self-Help for Robots” and “The Beauty of Sleeping”), so from that standpoint, there’s always room for improvement. On the other hand, I just finished a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and I have several readings coming up. I’m happy when I’m in community with other artists, musicians, composers, and healers; I love collaborating with them. Any time I’m making new work, I feel like that’s a success.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Pandas playing in the snow. I can’t stay grumpy after watching this panda sliding down a snowy hill.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
If I had an ancestor who was a panda playing in the snow, she would be my favorite.
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
I did a reading at Beast Crawl a few years ago, involving a Buddha Box and several layers of clothing, including Batman t-shirt, among other things. I don’t think any videos were taken, but maybe. . .
What’s wrong with society today?
We think the world is a realistic landscape painting, when it’s really a fractal. Wait, I take that back. It’s really a Magic Eye picture, but we insist on thinking that our perception is the correct one, when it’s really so much more amazing.
Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?
I wish I could have tried the Green Fairy—I would have been a fan. It must have been like a psychedelic Good and Plenty.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
Every time I see a cute dog, I fall in love. So in this town, you know, at least 100 times a day.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
I think everyone has the creative impulse, so even if we can’t make art in our waking life, our dreams are a sign of our auto-creative world. It has been said that if we couldn’t dream, we would die.
What are you working on right now?
I always have several projects in the works because I have a terror of not having something to do. So if I hit a wall with the essay I’m working on, I can switch over to my poetry chapbook. Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on a collaged essay about learning to paint, the secret language of flowers, and the connections between the painter Georgia O’Keeffe and the Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei. I’m also working on a personal essay that combines meditation, poetry, and their relationship to mental and emotional wellness.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
If I could be the literary love child of Aimee Bender and David Shields, that would be great. Or Italo Calvino + Joan Didion.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
To make it more affordable for people to live here, and to recognize and value the contributions of everyone who makes the Bay Area the artistic, cultural and innovative place we all want it to be.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
The world’s largest earthworm. It was at a roadside museum in Australia. We were driving by and saw this handmade sign, so we had to stop. And it was true. The worm was as thick as my arm, and about 15 feet long. I was completely grossed out. There are so many weird (and deadly) animals in Australia.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Alas, I’m not very good at identifying smells. My father can’t smell anything either, but that’s because he broke his nose in a boxing match when he was young. I don’t think there is a connection. But I was toasting spices recently—turmeric, chile, sesame seeds, coriander, fenugreek, black peppercorns, mustard seeds—and it smelled so lovely, it would have made a fantastic perfume.