NY Mag has a great piece on Patti Smith, who just published a book, Just Kids, about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

The book sounds amazing:

…a shockingly beautiful book about their relationship, in which the roles evolved like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s, or even the siblings of Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles. It’s a classic, a romance about becoming an artist in the city, written in a spare, simple style of boyhood memoirs like Frank Conroy’s Stop-Time….Smith worked in part from a stack of teenage journals with her astrological sign on the front. “I have a good memory once it’s triggered, so with my notebooks, I could sit back and see things like a little movie,” she says. The process still took ten years and two publishers.

Wow, of course.  But what really got me excited was reading what Smith, 63, has to say about creativity.

“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t create something,” says Smith. “Sometimes it’s a rough day and I’m about to go to sleep at eleven o’clock, but I’ll get my Polaroid and take pictures of a series of things. Then I go to bed really happy because I have something to look at, something I did.”

It’s true – I sleep better when I can point to something I accomplished/created that day.  It makes me feel I used the time I was given, and that I deserve it.  It also helps me enjoy the subsequent days a bit more.

“My goals were lofty,” she says. “I wanted to be a painter, or to write Pinocchio or Alice in Wonderland, the kind of book I read a hundred times when I was a kid. I wanted to be in the canon, because to me the rest was litter or jerking off.”

Wanting to be in the cannon is wanting a lot, but if that isn’t the goal, why bother doing what you’re doing at all?  What’s the point  (I’m still wrestling with this one, actually).  Anyway, “litter of jerking off” really sums “the rest” right up. (Also, because my cat runs my life I thought Smith was referring to kitty litter the first time I read this, and that actually works really well.)

Although Smith became famous first, she and Mapplethorpe continued to guard each other’s talent. “Robert believed in me as much as he believed in himself, and it was incredible how much he believed in himself,” says Smith. “He would not rest until he helped me dive down, down, down, and access my confident part. And I did access it, finally. It came out in a funny way, as a performer. But because he gave it to me so early in life, I don’t have to be given it again and again—I just have it. I might have to work to find it when my world gets shook. But I can always find it.”

So many of the relationships we hear about between artists, or artists and their adorning, shit upon partners, are destructive and inhibiting.  What a gift he gave her!  (Where can I buy some?)

Finally, when describing her studio…

In here, among her things, it’s clear that she works best in a hothouse of those who have influenced her. The portal Burroughs spoke about is open for such channeling, she thinks. On tour, when she has days off, she usually visits graves: Chekhov and Bulgakov in Russia, or Samuel Beckett, Baudelaire, and Brancusi in Paris’s Montparnasse cemetery. “It’s infinitely more interesting for me to have all these people hang around me,” she says. “I’m never bored. I can access them if I’m trying to figure something out, just like I can access my family, or Robert.” There’s another reason, too: “We’ve always had a little maxim, in our band, that the guardians of history are soon rewarded with history itself,” says Kaye.

I love how free and honest she is about her influences and inspiration.  It doesn’t seem easy to be like that anymore.  Either people make you feel bad for being obviously influenced by someone (or you feel guilty saying you are), or doing so is off-putting because of the incredibly fucking annoying people who go on and on about how if you’re not tatted up with quotes from Hemingway or Carver or Kerouac (kill me now) you don’t get it.