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Hear A New Song From Billy Porter, Plus His Quarantine Recommendations

To pass the time during the pandemic, Billy Porter has been reading, writing and working on music.
Santiago Felipe
Courtesy of the artist
To pass the time during the pandemic, Billy Porter has been reading, writing and working on music.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Billy Porter

Where:Long Island, N.Y.

Recommendation:Writing, reading and music

What's been getting me through is writing, reading and music. [My new cover of "For What It's Worth"] is a throwback to political music. I think in recent generations, artists have gotten afraid to speak for fear of alienating an audience; but we've got to talk, we've got to speak. It's the people who make the change, it's we the people who make the difference. That has been helping me a lot, knowing that I'm going to have my voice out during this time.

As a multi-hyphenate kind of person, I've never — except for going to a writer's retreat one time for three weeks a couple of years ago — had the luxury of just writing. I've always had to fit my writing in between stuff. I've been writing every day from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. It's really been life-changing for me.

I'm writing my memoir right now, so I'm working on that; I'm also working on a children's picture book and a pilot script I'm developing and I'm writing a musical. So there's a lot of stuff for me to do.

I found my way to writing to an artist workbook called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. She speaks of training yourself to wake up every morning and write three pages longhand of whatever comes to your mind. Being introduced to that book, over 20 years ago, really changed my life. I still do [the morning pages] every day; it gets everything out — right at the top of the day. All the anxiety, all the fear, all the mess – it comes out and then it cracks open and leads you to wherever it is that you're supposed to be inside your creativity. I never wrote until I started The Artist's Way, so I would say: Start there.

I've also been reading a lot of James Baldwin; he's a big one right now. Being black and queer, I stand on his shoulders; I have that space now to amplify what it means to be black and queer in the world today. I revisit The Fire Next Time, which is probably my favorite of his; I also have Nobody Knows My Name.

My life is my art, my soul is my art. It's been the only constant in my life for all of my life. Whenever I feel anything complicated, anything complex, could be good or bad, I go to my art. It's a gift because it helps me process things that are troubling; it helps me to remember to breathe. It keeps me sane, girl, 'cause this is some crazy s***. ­–as told to Emma Bowers

Billy Porter is a performer, singer and actor. His new song, "For What It's Worth," is out today.

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    Billy Porter