A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...

Posts tagged "writing"

Jul 31, 2014
I was going on a train from Manchester to London and I was looking out of the window at some cows, I believe, and I just thought: “Boy doesn’t know he’s a wizard - goes off to wizard school.” I have no idea where it came from. I think the idea was floating along the train and looking for someone and my mind was vacant enough so it decided to zoom in there.

Jul 29, 2014

Cory Arcangel’s, Working On My Novel


“It’s the story of what it means to live in a cultural climate that stifles almost every creative impulse, and why it so often seems we should stop trying.”

Dan Piepenbring on Cory Arcangel’s new book, Working on My Novel, a compilation of tweets from people who are putatively at work on novels.

I heard about this idea on Twitter and thought it was stupid, but then I saw images of the book and sort of loved it. (Kind of amazing that Penguin actually published something so minimal and artsy fartsy?) Also this Saul Bellow quote in the post:

I wonder whether there will ever be enough tranquility under modern circumstances to allow our contemporary Wordsworth to recollect anything. I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness that characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction. —Saul Bellow, the Art of Fiction No. 37, 1966

Any book has behind it all the other books that have been written.

Jul 19, 2014
Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.

Jul 18, 2014
It seems like many people think that if you drive yourself crazy, then you can write. I’m absolutely not interested in that. It made sense to me to be as whole and well as I could be, and as happy. I wanted to see what a fortunate life would produce. What writing would come out of a mind that didn’t try to torment itself? What did I have to know? What did I have to do rather than what can I torment and bend myself into doing? What was the fruit on that tree?

Everything has already been said and done. But, then, if this is so, why do we need more poems in the world? I once read a Jane Hirshfield interview where she said something quite wonderful. She essentially said we have to keep writing because it’s every generation’s job to put in the present vernacular poems that are called upon for rites of passage, such as poems read at weddings or funerals. I hadn’t thought of this before. Your ordinary citizen should be able to go to the library and find a poem written in the current vernacular, and the responsibility for every generation of writers is to make this possible. We must, then, rewrite everything that has ever been written in the current vernacular, which is really what the evolution of literature is all about. Nothing new gets said but the vernacular keeps changing.

Jul 10, 2014

Photographs of writers at work.

Note how many standing desks! See also a great book on the subject, The Writer’s Desk.

Filed under: work spaces

Jul 02, 2014

Nick Cave’s office

From John Wray’s NYTimes profile:

Cave now lives in Brighton, England, with his wife and twin 14-year-old sons, in a residence that would have seemed, for a number of reasons, inconceivable to the scarecrow-haired punk he was back in Berlin. When I met him this winter, he was renting a modest office a short walk from his house, keeping regular office hours like a bona fide salaryman. (“I used to go six days a week, till I couldn’t stand it anymore,” Cave said with a grin. “Now I go Sundays as well.”)

Apart from a small upright piano off to one side, a microphone stand and a haphazard-looking collection of photos and pages torn from magazines pinned to the wall, the room itself could have passed for the office of a determinedly anachronistic clerk: a good-size desk, a manual typewriter and a well-used bottle of whiteout. His work ethic has long been legendary. While writing one of his best-known songs, “Red Right Hand,” from the 1994 album “Let Love In,” Cave filled an entire notebook with descriptions of the imaginary town the song was set in, including maps and sketches of prominent buildings, virtually none of which made it into the lyrics. “It’s good to have a place to go and just write,” Cave told me in Brighton. “I haven’t always had that luxury.”

Emphasis mine. Photo is a still from Cave’s new documentary, 20,000 Days On Earth.

Filed under: Nick Cave

Jun 30, 2014

10 things I didn’t know about Richard Linklater

There’s a really terrific profile of filmmaker Richard Linklater in this week’s New Yorker. (Here’s a podcast of the writer, Nathan Heller (@nathanheller), talking about Linklater’s work—the drawing above is something I doodled at SXSW in 2009.)

10 interesting things I discovered while reading the piece:

1. He started as a playwright, but watching movies helped him discover he could think in terms of images.

He was still writing short stories, and, as an exercise, tried adapting one into a screenplay. “I could see the whole movie in my head—all the shots and angles. I thought, Oh, I’ve got this visual thing.”

2. He went to college on a baseball scholarship

He recalls daydreaming in the outfield about how he wished he had more time to read. He then contracted an infection in his heart, and all the sudden, he was forbidden to play baseball. He spent the rest of his sophomore year staying up late in the college library, writing.

3. He quit college to work on an oil rig

If he wasn’t playing baseball, he’d have to make up the time in work-study employment, and he didn’t want to do that. A friend helped him get a summer job working on an oil rig. It paid well, and gave him many free hours to read and write, so Linklater asked if he could stay on that fall. He never returned to school.

4. In his early twenties, he watched 600 films a year

whenever he came back to the mainland, in Houston, he would watch movies: first two a day, then three, then four… “I felt I’d discovered something, like this whole world had opened up,“ he says. “I was greedy for it.”

5. He moved to Austin in 1983 with $18,000 in savings

He bought some film equipment and would “write, shoot, edit, and watch film eighteen hours a day.”

6. Slacker was filmed for $23,000

It got picked up for national distribution and eventually “made back more than fifty times its tiny budget.”

7. He re-writes his screenplays during rehearsal

He schedules a lot of rehearsal time—two solid weeks or so before production starts—and goes through each scene in an open-ended way, talking about character motivations and getting actors to riff. Most of the rehearsal time is spent rewriting the screenplay, line by line, drawing out and molding his work against performers’ strengths and styles.

8. He offers his stars percentage points instead of Hollywood fees

He calls this “betting on myself,” and if the bet is good, which it almost always is, it makes the director as free and self-sovereign as a novelist.

9. He lost most of his archives in the 2011 Bastrop wildfires

One of the few structures untouched by the fire was the library, a small two-story building clad with multicolored tile, where Linklater likes to write. The preservation of his work space was striking to him. By 2011, he had reached a phase of comfortable accomplishment… “I felt done,” he said… The blaze, in some peculiar way, demotivated him. “The fire came, and it was like, Oh, O.K. You don’t want me to be done.”

10. He’s working on a movie about the American Transcendentalists

Emerson, Thoreau, and the gang. He’s been working on it for 15 years, but “hasn’t found a way to make something that isn’t a ‘bonnet movie’ period piece.”

Jun 26, 2014

How to open a story

Steve Almond on why many of his favorite opening paragraphs don’t open in media res:

More recently, in medias res has come to signify the idea that a writer is best to open a story—or novel or essay or memoir—with dramatic action rather then exposition. As a teacher of writing I see this constantly, and ninety percent of the time I’m hopelessly lost by the third paragraph…

…a strong opening doesn’t have to grab the reader by the throat and throw them into the middle of the action. In fact, all things considered, most readers would rather not be grabbed at all. Instead, we are often most drawn in by those authors who can calmly promise us a compelling story and invite us along for the ride.

Reminds me of what Vonnegut said:

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Emphasis mine.

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