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Posts tagged "office hours"
This answer got long. Skip to the last paragraph if you want the good stuff.
I’m assuming you’re talking about short fiction and literary journals.
Personally, there was a point when I was starting out when I realized I didn’t read any of the literary journals I was supposed to submit stories to and nobody I knew read them, either. What I did read, and what other people read, was the internet. So I decided posting my work online in my own space was more important to me.
But that was me. Basically, you have to decide what world you want to be in. If you want to be in the literary world, or the art world, or whatever world, you have to play by that world’s rules. If you want to build your own world, then you can make up your own rules, and do your own thing, and build your own audience.
But IF you decide to go your own way, DO NOT automatically expect that world you turned your back on to come around to you later. In other words, if you jump the gatekeepers, don’t expect them to kiss your ass after you’ve showed everybody you can jump them. (For example, nobody in the lit’ry world really gives that much of a shit about my work, mostly because I didn’t give much of a shit about the lit world when I was coming up.)
Luckily, there is, however, a happy medium: share your process, not your products. Share scraps, drafts, research, reading, etc. (Think of it as sharing the DVD extras while you’re making the movie.) Talk about books you love. Talk about writing. Build a little place for yourself where you’re sharing what you do. Then save the finished pieces for submitting to publishers.
Forget about that shit. Show your work.
What you do online should be in the middle of a venn diagram between what’s helpful and/or interesting to you and what’s helpful and/or interesting to others.
For example: I use this Tumblr as a way to keep track of stuff I’m interested in, and research I’m doing. But I SHARE it in a way that might be interesting to other people. So what I get then is basically a public file folder that benefits both me and the people who follow the Tumblr.
As far as balancing working and sharing, it goes in this order:
You do your work, then every day you find a little bit of your process that you can share with others. Depending on where you are in the process, sometimes it’s in-progress work, sometimes it’s research or something you’re reading, sometimes it’s a finished work, and sometimes it’s a story about what something you’ve made is doing out in the world.
But again, sorry for the hard sell, but I wrote my whole next book about this. You should pre-order it!
Oh, I suppose. But it’s never been a problem with anyone I’VE met. (Unless you’re spending 2 hours sharpening your pencils and cleaning your studio before you get to work?) If it IS a problem, then throw yourself into chaos. Go for a walk in a neighborhood you don’t know. Work with tools you don’t know how to use. Or have a kid! That’ll reverse that whole “too regimented and organized” trend really goddamned fast…
A fairy visits you in your dreams and tells you.
There is no “it.” You either make stuff because you like to make stuff and you keep making that stuff or you don’t.
I kept a day job until I made more money off art than I did at my day job. And even then, it was scary for me to leave it. Everybody always tosses out that tired “do what you love, and the rest will follow” shit, and I don’t buy it. (I usually say, “Do what you love and the debt will follow.”)
You have to pay the bills and feed the mouths, and you do it however you can. I got married when I was 23—I’ve had a family to support for a while now. I guess in my attitude, I’m a lot like Philip Larkin:
I was brought up to think you had to have a job, and write in your spare time, like Trollope. Then, when you started earning enough money by writing, you phase the job out. But in fact I was over fifty before I could have “lived by my writing”—and then only because I had edited a big anthology—and by that time you think, Well, I might as well get my pension, since I’ve gone so far….All I can say is, having a job hasn’t been a hard price to pay for economic security.
And my experience has been that economic security has always helped my art along more than any kind of “spiritual” freedom or whatever.
“The trick is,” film executive Tom Rothman says, “from the business side, to try to be fiscally responsible so you can be creatively reckless.”
One thing I would recommend to you is to see the day job as a positive, not a negative:
A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Freedom from financial stress also means freedom in your art. As photographer Bill Cunningham says, “If you don’t take money, they cant tell you what to do.”
Because the real truth is, once you start making money doing what you love, it BECOMES A JOB. And with it comes all the hassle of a job. Here’s Larkin again:
You can live by “being a writer,” or “being a poet,” if you’re prepared to join the cultural entertainment industry, and take handouts from the Arts Council (not that there are as many of them as there used to be) and be a “poet in residence” and all that. I suppose I could have said—it’s a bit late now—I could have had an agent, and said, Look, I will do anything for six months of the year as long as I can be free to write for the other six months. Some people do this, and I suppose it works for them.
In other words: you always have a day job. (My friend Hugh calls this “The Sex & Cash Theory.”) Right now my day job is going around giving talks and writing and selling books. It’s a good day job, but “doing what I love” would actually mean sitting around all day reading and drawing and making these goofy poems. Guess how much that pays? Not much. And guess how much time I actually get to do that stuff? Not much.
Anyways, this is supposed to encourage you. Every artist without a sugar mama or a trust fund or extreme luck has had to deal with this.
Just hang in there.
This is what I recommend: get up early. Get up early and work for two hours on the thing you really care about. Then, when you’re done, go to your job. When you get there, your boss can’t take the thing you really care about away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today.
The “meaning” in your job is: it pays the bills. Get as good at it as you can, because it’ll make the job more interesting to you, and it will provide you exits to another one. Then find the rest of your meaning elsewhere.
For more inspiration from people better and smarter than me, click this tag: “Keep your day job.”
Work on lengthening your attention span.
My advice: Buy a non-digital timer. Then, set aside 30 minutes, grab a pen and a legal pad, find a quiet, comfortable spot, turn off your phone, set the timer, and make yourself sit and write longhand. Write really slow in big letters to fill the page. Do this every day for a month at least. Then work your way up to 90 minutes. Do this every day for the rest of your life. You will get writing done.
Also: look into meditation.
I would be delighted. Here is a by-no-means-complete list of Tumblrs I enjoy that are regularly updated and function the way you describe (I’ve left out great Tumblrs like SlaughterHouse 90210, Fresh Air, and The Paris Review, etc.):
More of What I Like - by my-brother-from-another-mother Mark Larson
more than 95 theses - Alan Jacobs’ commonplace book.
The Near-Sighted Monkey - Lynda Barry’s tumblr that she keeps for the course she teaches.
Blake Gopnik - Every day Blake posts a piece of art and writes about it.
New Speedway Boogie - Andy Weissman posts music he likes and what he likes about it
I want to also add: what you’re describing is what I’d call Old School Blogging, much of which happens OUTSIDE of the little Tumblr kingdom. Check out:
Again, this is an incomplete list, but it’ll get you started.
Basically pattern recognition—the same themes keep popping up over and over. For this one, people kept asking me about self-promotion. “How do I get discovered?” Etc. When people ask you the same question over and over, you write a book…