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Posts tagged "writing"

Jul 19, 2014
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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
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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?

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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

Jun 19, 2014
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9 good bits from Adam Phillips’ Paris Review interview

1) “I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.”

2) “One thing you discover in psychoanalytic treatment is the limits of what you can change about yourself or your life. We are children for a very long time.”

3) “Fortunately, I never recovered from my education, I’ve just carried on with it. If you happen to like reading, it can have a very powerful effect on you, an evocative effect, at least on me. It’s not as though when I read I’m gathering information, or indeed can remember much of what I read. I know the books that grip me, as everybody does, but their effect is indiscernible. I don’t quite know what it is. The Leavisite position, more or less, is that reading certain sentences makes you more alive and a morally better person, and that those two things go together. It seems to me that that isn’t necessarily so, but what is clear is that there are powerful unconscious evocative effects in reading books that one loves. There’s something about these books that we want to go on thinking about, that matters to us. They’re not just fetishes that we use to fill gaps. They are like recurring dreams we can’t help thinking about.”

4) “You can only recover your appetite, and appetites, if you can allow yourself to be unknown to yourself.”

5) “That’s what a life is, it’s the lives you don’t have.”

6) “I hope you read one of my books because it gives you pleasure or because you hate it—you read it for those sorts of reasons—and then you discover what you find yourself thinking, feeling, in the reading of it.”

7) “You can’t write differently, even if you want to. You just have to be able to notice when you are boring yourself.”

8) “Anybody who writes knows you don’t simply write what you believe. You write to find out what you believe, or what you can afford to believe.”

9) “[I]f you live in a culture which is fascinated by the myth of the artist, and the idea that the vocational artistic life is one of the best lives available, then there’s always going to be a temptation for people who are suffering to believe that to become an artist would be the solution when, in fact, it may be more of the problem. There are a number of people whom you might think of as casualties of the myth of the artist. They really should have done something else. Of course some people get lucky and find that art works for them, but for so many people it doesn’t. I think that needs to be included in the picture. Often one hears or reads accounts in which people will say, Well, he may have treated his children, wives, friends terribly, but look at the novels, the poems, the paintings. I think it’s a terrible equation. Obviously one can’t choose to be, as it were, a good parent or a good artist, but if the art legitimates cruelty, I think the art is not worth having. People should be doing everything they can to be as kind as possible and to enjoy each other’s company. Any art, any anything, that helps us do that is worth having. But if it doesn’t, it isn’t.’

Such a good read.

(Update: my friend Mark Larson has a great AdamPhillips tag.)

Jun 17, 2014
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I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.

Jun 09, 2014
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this-is-dedicated:

John Steinbeck’s dedication to his editor, Pascal Covici, in East of Eden

While writing East of Eden, Steinbeck warmed up by writing a letter to his friend and editor in his notebook. These letters are collected in Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. You can read the last letter in the batch over at Letters of Note.

As for the dedication, here’s some info from Oprah.com (of all places, I know):


  [Steinbeck] often mentioned the things he was tinkering with or building around the house. At one point, Pat asked Steinbeck to make him a box; Steinbeck joked that the only specification was that Pat shouldn’t be able to fit inside it.
  
  When Steinbeck finished East of Eden, he placed his 250,000 word manuscript into a mahogany box he had carved and sent it to Pat. The note he placed on top became the dedication page of the novel.


There’s a book about the friendship called Steinbeck and Covici.

Related: Excerpts from John Steinbeck’s diary while writing The Grapes of Wrath

this-is-dedicated:

John Steinbeck’s dedication to his editor, Pascal Covici, in East of Eden

While writing East of Eden, Steinbeck warmed up by writing a letter to his friend and editor in his notebook. These letters are collected in Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. You can read the last letter in the batch over at Letters of Note.

As for the dedication, here’s some info from Oprah.com (of all places, I know):

[Steinbeck] often mentioned the things he was tinkering with or building around the house. At one point, Pat asked Steinbeck to make him a box; Steinbeck joked that the only specification was that Pat shouldn’t be able to fit inside it.

When Steinbeck finished East of Eden, he placed his 250,000 word manuscript into a mahogany box he had carved and sent it to Pat. The note he placed on top became the dedication page of the novel.

There’s a book about the friendship called Steinbeck and Covici.

Related: Excerpts from John Steinbeck’s diary while writing The Grapes of Wrath

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