Categories
Web writer's inspiration

Podcasted: Tyler Cowen’s Conversation with Adam Tooze


The entire conversation will expand your mind, but I wanted to capture Adam’s suggestions for being a productive writer:

COWEN: You’ve written an enormous amount. Just this last week you had a major piece come out in the Guardian, one in London Review of Books. Your books are very long. What is your most unusual writing habit?

TOOZE: I’m not sure it’s unusual, but I think it’s the writing habit that many people have who do write a lot. I write every day, basically. I haven’t always found writing easy at all. I’ve been to a lot of therapy of various types to stabilize myself emotionally and psychologically. I still do. It’s very important for me in handling the stresses that arise in writing.

And one of the things I realized in the course of that is that, actually, rather than thinking it was something terrifying that I had to steel myself to do, the best way to think about it was as something I do every day, so it’s like exercise. If I have the chance, I like to exercise. It’s a puzzling activity. I just treat it almost as a game, rearranging the words, trying to fix things.

I’ll say to all of my grad students, you can do that for 10 minutes every single day, regardless of what else is going on in your life. You can always find that 10-minute slot. So that is the thing that I make sure I do. And that means even big projects slowly move along because then, when you get the big slice of time, the three or four hours at the weekend or something, it’s actually top of stack. You know where to go because you’ve been puzzling away at it and chewing on it every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.

COWEN: I give the exact same answer, by the way.

Not ground breaking advice by any means. But it applies well, specifically to editing.

10 minutes of edits a day and eventually you’ll have a finished piece.

Also, Adam’s suggestion for the best way to travel through Germany:

I would say travel. Get on the train. Unless you’re a car nut, and you want to experience the freedom of driving a Porsche at 200 miles an hour, which you can do if you do it at 2:00 am. The roads are clean enough, and they’re smooth enough.

But other than that, ride the train. Sit in an ICE going at, absolutely no kidding, 200 miles an hour, powered by solar power, and watch your coffee not even vibrate. It’s absolutely stunning. They have to put speedometers into the trains to make people aware of how fast they’re going.

Enjoyable. Watch in its entirety here:

Categories
amreading Poems writer's inspiration

He could not stop writing poems


But no matter how many babies he delivered,

no matter how many sick people he cured,

Willie could not stop writing poems.


A River of Words is a short, illustrated book about the life of Dr. William Carlos Williams.

His life, as both doctor and poet is inspirational.

I keep this book close by.

You should too.

From: A River of Words

Written by: Jen Bryant

Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet

Categories
amreading Poems writer's inspiration

Poet Donald Hall in one question


INTERVIEWER

I would like to begin by asking how you started. How did you become a writer? What was the first thing that you ever wrote and when?

DONALD HALL

Everything important always begins from something trivial. When I was about twelve I loved horror movies. I used to go down to New Haven from my suburb and watch films like Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Wolf Man Meets Abbott and Costello. So the boy next door said, Well, if you like that stuff, you’ve got to read Edgar Allan Poe. I had never heard of Edgar Allan Poe, but when I read him I fell in love. I wanted to grow up and be Edgar Allan Poe. The first poem that I wrote doesn’t really sound like Poe, but it’s morbid enough. Of course I have friends who say it’s the best thing I ever did: “Have you ever thought / Of the nearness of death to you? / It reeks through each corner, / It shrieks through the night, / It follows you through the day / Until that moment when, / In monotones loud, / Death calls your name. / Then, then, comes the end of all.” The end of Hall, maybe. That started me writing poems and stories. For a couple of years I wrote them in a desultory fashion because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a great actor or a great poet.

Then when I was fourteen I had a conversation at a Boy Scout meeting with a fellow who seemed ancient to me; he was sixteen. I was bragging and told him that I had written a poem during study hall at high school that day. He asked—I can see him standing there—You write poems? and I said, Yes, do you? and he said, in the most solemn voice imaginable, It is my profession. He had just quit high school to devote himself to writing poetry full time! I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. It was like that scene in Bonnie and Clyde where Clyde says, We rob banks. Poetry is like robbing banks. It turned out that my friend knew some eighteen-year-old Yale freshmen, sophisticated about literature, and so at the age of fourteen I hung around Yale students who talked about T. S. Eliot. I saved up my allowance and bought the little blue, cloth-covered collected Eliot for two dollars and fifty cents and I was off. I decided that I would be a poet for the rest of my life and started by working at poems for an hour or two every day after school. I never stopped.

One question in and I already have to recommend the rest of this interview.

From: The Paris Review Issue 120, Fall 1991

Interview by: Peter A. Stitt

Categories
4Panel Friday amreading Art

Four Panel Friday (on Saturday): A Spirit Layout


Mr. Q predicts the future.

A Four Panel Friday first – layouts instead of completed work. This from an unpublished Spirit story titled: The Cigar.

Important note – Klaus Nordling drew these layouts, not Will Eisner.

Good example of solid panel framing here. Nordling goes from a relative close up of Mr. Q, to framing him between the two henchman. Sweet stache’ on the driver too.

From: Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel

By: Paul Levitz

Categories
Commonplace Book writer's inspiration

A Christmas window story from Chuck Palahniuk


Another Christmas window story.  Almost every morning, I eat breakfast in the same diner, and this morning a man was painting the windows with Christmas designs.  Snowmen.  Snowflakes.  Bells.  Santa Claus.  He stood outside on the sidewalk, painting in the freezing cold, his breath steaming, alternating brushes and rollers with different colors of paint.  Inside the diner, the customers and servers watched as he layered red and white and blue paint on the outside of the big windows.  Behind him the rain changed to snow, falling sideways in the wind. 

The painter’s hair was all different colors of gray, and his face was slack and wrinkled as the empty ass of his jeans.  Between colors, he’d stop to drink something out of a paper cup. 

Watching him from inside, eating eggs and toast, somebody said it was sad.  This customer said the man was probably a failed artist.  It was probably whiskey in the cup.  He probably had a studio full of failed paintings and now made his living decorating cheesy restaurant and grocery store windows.  Just sad, sad, sad.

This painter guy kept putting up the colors.  All the white “snow,” first.  Then some fields of red and green.  Then some black outlines that made the color shapes into Xmas stockings and trees.

A server walked around, pouring coffee for people, and said, “That’s so neat.  I wish I could do that…”

And whether we envied or pitied this guy in the cold, he kept painting.  Adding details and layers of color.  And I’m not sure when it happened, but at some moment he wasn’t there.  The pictures themselves were so rich, they filled the windows so well, the colors so bright, that the painter had left.  Whether he was a failure or a hero.  He’d disappeared, gone off to wherever, and all we were seeing was his work.

For homework, ask your family and friends what you were like as a child.  Better yet, ask them what they were like as children.  Then, just listen.

Merry Christmas, and thank you for reading my work.

Chuck Palahniuk

From the essay: Stocking Stuffers: 13 Writing Tips From Chuck Palahniuk


Categories
amreading Commonplace Book writer's inspiration

Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles outlines

For a writer I associate so much with writing from the subconscious I was surprised to discover Ray Bradbury’s outlines for the Martian Chronicles.


The handwritten Martian Chronicles outline.

Typed version. The first four chapters match the handwritten version exactly.

I’m astounded at Jonathan R. Eller and William F. Touponce’s dedication to the research and cataloging of Ray Bradbury’s fiction writing career.

But it’s like Mr. Bradbury says:

Everything I do is a work of love. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t do it. I would like for people to say of me, ‘Bradbury’s books are all his children. Go to the library and meet his family.’

We’re fortunate they did.

From: Ray Bradbury the Life of Fiction. Jonathan R. Eller, William F. Touponce. The Kent State University Press.