Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.
What is the thing you like doing most in the world?
Evening swims at the community pool at the top of the hill in Sunset Park Brooklyn when the light is soft, and the water is warm, and I’m swimming slow, methodic laps alongside other anonymous bodies.
What is the first memory you have of being creative?
This is my mother’s memory, but I’m maybe three years old, and I walk into the kitchen and hold out both of my hands to her and say, “these hands will do wonderful things.”
What is your biggest regret?
Doubting myself when I knew.
How have you gotten over heartbreak?
We live within a culture that optimizes for “getting over.” I’ve been taught to forget, to ghost, to dispose, to eat with plastic forks, to forget the dead. I’ve found that the only way that I really learn to let go of heartbreak is to hold onto it. I mourn slowly. I linger. I sift through old photos and their memories. I know now that heartbreak inhabits me for as long as it needs to. It has its own wobbly timeline. It comes and goes. I don’t believe in a finite point of “getting over.” Heartbreak has shaped me, and I am grateful for it.
How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?
Mmm, if I’m lucky, it can last a while. Each year after producing On Air Fest, I make sure to write down a few moments— the emphatic words someone said, the chance encounter, or magical thing that happened on stage, so that I can remember the details later. That helps the joy live longer.
Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?
I know that there are people who have died who now live on inside of me. In that way, I do believe in an afterlife. There is also an afterlife of emotions as they pass between & among generations. Memory is itself an afterlife.
What do you hate most about yourself?
I don’t hate anything about myself. There are behaviors I am working on, like how I take on guilt and apologize for things that are completely outside of my control. But I don’t hate myself for it.
What do you love most about yourself?
I am a very loving person. I give big love. And I think my giving gives others permission to love big too. And I love that about myself!
What is your absolute favorite meal?
Whole fish grilled with salt, and lemon, and no utensils, and a big glass of cold wine.