Introduction: Museum Piece

I haven’t written anything much since the pandemic began. I haven’t read much, either. Even before that thick blanket of anxiety muffled my creative impulses, though, I could feel my desire to make things waning. It’s pathetic, but true: I peaked in college. In the years after graduation I’ve noticed a steady decline in anything I could call artistic, skills atrophying as I focused on moving, cobbling a career together, getting married. Sinking into the suburbs, comfortable, quiet.

It pisses me off.

This year I have goal: visit every museum in Austin, and write about the experience through a series of personal essays I’m calling “Museum Piece.” The title is a play on words: there’s the obvious connotation, and the idea that this is about me in my 30’s, irrelevant, looking backward and trying to understand a former identity. My old self and myself but older; both of us relics in different ways.

I still love words, the beautiful puzzle of their layered meanings, the rhythm of language when it’s assembled with skill. That’s what got me into writing in the first place. I’m good at words, or I used to be, before I got more focused on my day job than my writing. Before I got sick, and the robust vocabulary I’d lovingly cultivated since I started to speak began to erode, leaving me reaching for a word mid-sentence and finding nothing, a gray, fuzzy silence where a word should be.

Take “essay,” for example: the roots of the word mean “to try.” And trying, as I constantly forget, is worthy in itself, even if I don’t meet my goals. I’ll try to visit all of these museums. I’ll try to share how it makes me feel. I’ll flail my hands at my husband during a conversation, pushing past a litany of unrelated words until I grasp the one I’m looking for, furious and elated all at once.

If you want to follow this project, you can use the Museum Piece tag to see the posts grouped together. I may also put together an RSS feed or attempt a newsletter for these pieces, depending on how ambitious I get.

I’ve also created a spreadsheet and a map of the museums I plan to visit, if you’re curious. I’ll be tracking my excursions in the sheet as I go.