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Posts tagged "writing"

Apr 16, 2014
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Jorge Luis Borges: The Task of Art

The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all these things into symbols, into music, into something which can last in man’s memory. That is our duty. If we don’t fulfill it, we feel unhappy. A writer or any artist has the sometimes joyful duty to transform all that into symbols. These symbols could be colors, forms or sounds. For a poet, the symbols are sounds and also words, fables, stories, poetry. The work of a poet never ends. It has nothing to do with working hours. Your are continuously receiving things from the external world. These must be transformed, and eventually will be transformed. This revelation can appear anytime. A poet never rests. He’s always working, even when he dreams. Besides, the life of a writer, is a lonely one. You think you are alone, and as the years go by, if the stars are on your side, you may discover that you are at the center of a vast circle of invisible friends whom you will never get to know but who love you. And that is an immense reward.

Thx @robinsloan

Apr 05, 2014
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I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities I have visited.
— Jorge Luis Borges (via chelseyphilpot)

(via gwendabond)

Mar 26, 2014
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The core of all my writing was probably the five free years I had there on the farm. […] The only thing we had was time and seclusion. I couldn’t have figured on it in advance. I hadn’t that kind of foresight. But it turned out right as a doctor’s prescription.

Feb 26, 2014
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Does anybody actually own a dictionary anymore?

Today I tweeted:

You know what’s underrated? The simple act of looking up a word in the dictionary.

And a few people seemed shocked that I actually use a paper dictionary.

A big, 10-pound American Heritage, no less.

A few months ago I went out and bought the biggest, nicest dictionary I could find. I wanted a huge honking dictionary, open on a side table in my office, like one of those big bibles you see at a mass.

If you consider your mission exploring language, flipping through pages of words to land on a particular definition is a feature, not a bug.

For example, did you know that “patina” comes after “patient”? One word about enduring time, the other describing its residue.

Google won’t give you that.

Feb 21, 2014
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The Happy Writer’s Flowchart

ayjay:

in response to Austin Kleon’s Miserable Artist Flowchart

This is great. Highly recommend Alan’s The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, btw.

The Happy Writer’s Flowchart

ayjay:

in response to Austin Kleon’s Miserable Artist Flowchart

This is great. Highly recommend Alan’s The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, btw.

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Maybe you want your back against the wall. Gunslinger style. Nothing can sneak up on you except your own bad sentences. Try it.
— Colson Whitehead on where to write

Feb 20, 2014
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Amtrak writer’s residencies

Here’s what went down: in his PEN Ten interview, @AlexanderChee was asked where he best liked to write:

I still like a train best for this kind of thing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.

That’s it. Two sentences. And then this happened:

And here’s Jessica Gross on writing on the Amtrak during her test residency:

[There is] a sense of safety, borne of boundaries. I’ve always been a claustrophile, and I think that explains some of the appeal—the train is bounded, compartmentalized, and cozily small, like a carrel in a college library. Everything has its place. The towel goes on the ledge beneath the mirror; the sink goes into its hole in the wall; during the day, the bed, which slides down from overhead, slides up into a high pocket of space. There is comfort in the certainty of these arrangements. The journey is bounded, too: I know when it will end. Train time is found time. My main job is to be transported; any reading or writing is extracurricular. The looming pressure of expectation dissolves. And the movement of a train conjures the ultimate sense of protection—being a baby, rocked in a bassinet.

As John Cleese put it, the artist needs “boundaries of time and boundaries of space.”

What a great story. And PR dream for Amtrak. Well done, y’all.

Feb 12, 2014
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Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready

This was a lot of fun. Call it a terse, sci-fi hard-boiled noir: Ex-garbageman turned hit man in a post dirtybomb NYC protects a damsel-in-distress. Nice doses of humor, too.

Books like this are like a big fat reset button for my reading habits: when I’m stuck on boring books, they get me going again, turning pages.

I’ve followed Sternbergh’s writing for a few years, and it’s cool to read this after reading all his essays circling around the idea of “trash” and genre.

Last week, he published this essay on “guilty pleasures,” lamenting the point at which he stopped reading books for pleasure, and started reading books because he should. (Today I posted my own excerpt from my new book: “No More Guilty Pleasures.”) He writes: “This year, I’m making a simple resolution… I’m going to banish the word “should” from my cultural vocabulary.” (This is an attitude I’d first run into from Jonathan Lethem and then fully embraced when I read Alan Jacobs: “Read at whim! Read what gives you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame.”)

Here’s Sternberg debating A.O. Scott’s notion of “strained pulp”:


  This observation about “strained pulp” really struck me — in part because so much of what I love falls precisely in this category: knowing, sophisticated attempts to replicate pleasures that were once widely disdained. I like Soderbergh’s genre films like “Haywire” and “The Limey”; I like Michael Chabon’s self-consciously pulpy novel, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”; heck, I liked “Drive.”


What’s interesting is that it seems to have taken him a while to get around to “write what you like”:


  I was probably doing what I was habitually and temperamentally inclined to do in the presence of book editors, which was mumble some half-baked ideas for nonfiction books that I thought might be commercially appealing, but which, upon further reflection, I’d realize I didn’t even want to read, let alone write. You recognized this, and forcefully reiterated the question: No, Adam—what do you want to write? At which point I think I mumbled, even more sheepishly, something like: “Well, I’d like to write fiction.”


Just as there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be reading and reading what you want to be reading, there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be writing, and what you want to be writing. All fiction is fan fiction. Michael Chabon in Maps and Legends:


  All literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction….Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving—amateurs—we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers—should we be lucky enough to find any—some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff that we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.


Anyways, thumbs up.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready

This was a lot of fun. Call it a terse, sci-fi hard-boiled noir: Ex-garbageman turned hit man in a post dirtybomb NYC protects a damsel-in-distress. Nice doses of humor, too.

Books like this are like a big fat reset button for my reading habits: when I’m stuck on boring books, they get me going again, turning pages.

I’ve followed Sternbergh’s writing for a few years, and it’s cool to read this after reading all his essays circling around the idea of “trash” and genre.

Last week, he published this essay on “guilty pleasures,” lamenting the point at which he stopped reading books for pleasure, and started reading books because he should. (Today I posted my own excerpt from my new book: “No More Guilty Pleasures.”) He writes: “This year, I’m making a simple resolution… I’m going to banish the word “should” from my cultural vocabulary.” (This is an attitude I’d first run into from Jonathan Lethem and then fully embraced when I read Alan Jacobs: “Read at whim! Read what gives you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame.”)

Here’s Sternberg debating A.O. Scott’s notion of “strained pulp”:

This observation about “strained pulp” really struck me — in part because so much of what I love falls precisely in this category: knowing, sophisticated attempts to replicate pleasures that were once widely disdained. I like Soderbergh’s genre films like “Haywire” and “The Limey”; I like Michael Chabon’s self-consciously pulpy novel, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”; heck, I liked “Drive.”

What’s interesting is that it seems to have taken him a while to get around to “write what you like”:

I was probably doing what I was habitually and temperamentally inclined to do in the presence of book editors, which was mumble some half-baked ideas for nonfiction books that I thought might be commercially appealing, but which, upon further reflection, I’d realize I didn’t even want to read, let alone write. You recognized this, and forcefully reiterated the question: No, Adam—what do you want to write? At which point I think I mumbled, even more sheepishly, something like: “Well, I’d like to write fiction.”

Just as there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be reading and reading what you want to be reading, there’s that leap of getting over what you feel like you should be writing, and what you want to be writing. All fiction is fan fiction. Michael Chabon in Maps and Legends:

All literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction….Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving—amateurs—we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers—should we be lucky enough to find any—some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff that we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.

Anyways, thumbs up.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Feb 06, 2014
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Talking about things that don’t matter is the practice of despair.

Feb 03, 2014
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Kathy Sierra on how she writes books:

thinkprocessnotproduct:

I write (books, non-fiction) starting w/ a storyboard. Each “cell” on the paper maps loosely to 1 page in book. I don’t “write” start-to-finish; I iterate over the “cells” adding details. The [table of contents] emerges last.

This makes me so happy. Show Your Work! in full effect.

via @seriouspony

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