I read a lot of writing advice. But you know what I don’t do NEARLY enough of? Writing. I probably write about 1% as much as I should. All I tell people is that I write. I have a cavernous amount of ideas, thoughts, and plans for my writing.
But back to the advice part. I have a stack of books on writing (I focus on the ones by actual writers, not the self-help drivel that soccer moms pick up to help them write their romance novels) and loads of pages saved in Pocket about, for, and from writers on the art and craft. But yet again, I JUST DON’T WRITE. I’m at a time in my life that is so chock full of free time, as I really have for the past two years, but yet again I just can’t get my lazy ass in the figurative writing chair to get going. I get distracted, then I get discouraged, then I play video games or browse the web. Cycle, rinse, repeat.
And recently I have all but lost hope of getting into an MFA program for next year. One program left to hear back from, but I’m not exactly holding my breath. I know my writing sample was far from perfect, but I believed (foolishly, perhaps) that it would show my potential, my talent, etc. Apparently not, but that’s life, right?
So I was talking to my dad, who hasn’t always been pleased with my choice of living for my art. It’s a choice that I’ve never truly regretted, as I can’t imagine how miserable I’d be if I were some office drone. But as I was talking with my dad, he gave me some writing advice. Most, if not all, I’d heard dozens of times from books, writers, blogs, etc. But to come from someone so removed from what I want to be, so removed from the world I inhabit, it really stuck. He told me to not just write what I know, but to take risks, to write about things that made me uncomfortable, and to keep at it until I truly found my voice. I knew these things were true, but to hear it from someone who disapproved with my choices yet still believed in me and my talent was incredibly sobering. I hope that it gives me some push, some drive to do these things, so that I might realize and fulfill not only what I see in myself, but what someone who loves me unconditionally sees in me as well.
I’m currently in the midst (sorta) of a series I want to do titled “Why I Would Be A Better New Yorker TV Critic Than Emily Nussbaum.” Stay tuned for that, we’ll see how it goes. I think it’s the truth, but my goal is to just show my chops at TV criticism and hopefully blast the status quo of “literary” TV criticism into pieces. I personally think that the New Yorker needs to break out of its “mmhmm, yes, mmhmm” shell of not really taking a stance on certain issues, but rather just agreeing with what everyone else in its elitist circle says.
NONETHELESS. This post was especially meant to highlight an awesome blog that absolutely anyone interested in telling a story should be reading: Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. I haven’t even read any of his books, but his blog and accompanying Kindle files are phenomenal resources for novelists, screenwriters, even poets. The most recent of these excellent craft posts, 25 TURNS, PIVOTS, AND TWISTS TO COMPLICATE YOUR STORY, is excellent. Just reading through it gave me so many ideas and bits that I’d like to experiment with in my own writing.
Anyway, read his blog. At some point I’ll compile his tips into a “Best Of” or something.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. I’ve had three rejections from MFA programs so far (yippee!), so three more to go.
What will I do? Well, I’ll do something. I’m getting married in June to the woman of my dreams, and all I want is to provide and care for her. Kind of hard to do when even Target won’t hire you.
I’m trying to create, create, create. I have the hardest time focusing. I have so many ideas, but when I think about them (or about my lack of job, money, etc.) I get depressed and start watching TV and browsing Tumblr or Reddit.
Having a great time in Jonathan Lethem’s Westerns & Gold class at Pomona College. Has me thinking about the place of the Western in modern literature/film, and helping me in the process of my own writings. Some highlights:
- The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt: what a contemporary western should be, I think. The book is written very well, putting a very modern feel into a story set in the 1800s. Its short chapters and lack of bullshit is inspiring to me.
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: what a killer film. John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart led the cast very well, but John Ford attacked every aspect of the typical Western and nailed it.
- Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams: sounds cliche, but a searing portrait of the human condition. A story about an educated easterner that moves to the West to just “experience” it as told by Emerson. It really made me think about the role of the buffalo in white society during the time period, and how much it relates to the things we rely on today. John Williams is a stellar writer, props to NYRB for bringing him back out of obscurity.
I want to flesh out an essay when I finish the class, I’ve got some really great ideas that I hope I can explain properly. Another cool resource is the always-awesome Austin Kleon and his posts on the western, specifically this one, which led me to renting (and hopefully buying when I have money) the excellent Red Dead Redemption video game.
disclaimer: i shamefully stole and repurposed the title of sheila heti’s book for this blog post title. i know this.
so how should i be? how am i supposed to survive and prosper as a writer…scratch that. as a *person* straight up. how should i be. what should i do?
the problem is that i apply for endless amounts of jobs and somehow, none of them ever respond. the ones that do respond would like me to do everything for free. story of my life. jobs that (according to their own descriptions) i am overqualified for. i just don’t get it.
i lived in LA for four months and tried to survive. yet again, what are the only things I’m able to do? either retail or do shit for free. my only non-retail paying gig was for my friend’s commercial shoot, where i was the lowest man on the totem pole.
what am i doing now? scrounging for cash and jobs, of course. helping my fiancee plan our wedding, when i (and my family) can barely contribute financially. like, can’t i just catch a break?
in terms of ways to get cash, i’m editing a short audition-ish video for a friend of my fiancee…let’s just say i hope it’s the only video i ever work on that starts with an anal joke and requires humping animal pictures to be green-screened in.
in terms of non-cash-making gigs that i hope lead to legit opportunities in the long run…
- working an intern (more or less) for small press startup Red Lemonade, mainly working on grassroots publicity for a quirky little novel by Richard Melo called Happy Talk. (stay tuned btw)
- writing a column for the British magazine Structo, whom I’ve written reviews for in the past
- taking a class on Westerns and Gold at Pomona College with acclaimed novelist Jonathan Lethem. really great class, such an amazing opportunity to study with such a talented writer.
i’m always thinking about various projects. short stories, poems, essays, blog ideas…it takes a lot for me to realize an idea, unfortunately.
i’ll reiterate this, out of anger more than anything. why do people post jobs and not reply to people with more than enough experience or training for said job? and of course there are those that lead you on, acting all serious about their endeavor, then end with saying they can’t pay you.
I don’t regret my choice in career, I just wish that the world would stop trying its damnedest to make me regret it.
Some highly recommended locations (mostly in Redlands, CA):
any time i think about these places i’m like:
Seriously. I need to get it together up in here. I have a lot of ideas for things but I just don’t follow through. Let’s call that my new years resolution. or something. To help make up for it, I’m going to tell you about my favorite things of 2012. Here goes.
Favorite Blogger: Austin Kleon. The guy manages to find the coolest shit, every single day. Stuff that all the other bloggers and tweeters and such don’t find. He is a talented writer and artist, and is more productive with a newborn than I am with my hours of unemployment. His blog and Twitter is always, ALWAYS full of awesome content. I want to have a cool website and platform like he does. Oh and his book, Steal Like An Artist, is excellent. Recommended to absolutely anyone, from boring accountants to experimental filmmakers.
Favorite Artist: Wendy MacNaughton. This girl is crazy talented. Love that she is getting some real exposure, getting her art into the NY Times and more. Go buy some of her prints and follow her on Twitter.
Favorite Podcast: Literary Disco. Great recommendations with hilarious commentary by a hilarious group of writers. Bonus points that one of them is Rider Strong, of Boy Meets World fame.
Favorite Movie: three-way tie between Argo, Moonrise Kingdom, and Django Unchained. That’s all I have to say. I’d probably like Moonrise Kingdom a lot more if I hadn’t seen it in a seedy theater in Pasadena with a fat guy snoring behind me.
Favorite Bookstore: Skylight Books in Los Angeles. Great events, great books, and I won a sweet discount on a few books there in November.
Favorite Coffee Shop: Augie’s in Redlands. Great spot. Now that I am spending most of my time in Redlands (hint: it’s because I just got engaged), I’m glad they have a stellar coffee shop for me to pretend that I’m doing important things. I’m doing that very thing right now.
Favorite Book: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Raw, beautiful memoir. I highly recommend it. I wish I had read more books last year. I’m such a lazy reader, I hate it. I abandoned too many books to count as well. I’m a pool of self-loathing.
Favorite new TV Show: Parks and Rec. Such a hilarious show. Filled the void that the Office left once it started going downhill. After Steve Carell left, it wasn’t the same.
And finally. Here are my other new year’s resolutions. Aptly titled, Shit I’m Gonna Do In 2013.
Add to this: get into grad school, become a better blogger (see above), and stop being so goddamn lazy.