From the New York Times’s 1988 obituary of Louis L’Amour:
On his way to the best-seller list, Mr. L’Amour worked at almost everything but writing. Before he handed in his first western – “Hondo,” in 1953 – he had been a longshoreman, a lumberjack, an elephant handler, a fruit picker and an officer on a tank destroyer in World War II. He had also circled the world on a freighter, sailed a dhow on the Red Sea, been shipwrecked in the West Indies and been stranded in the Mojave Desert, and had won 51 of 59 fights as a professional boxer.
Related posts: “Be a Strange Duck” and “Specialization Is for Insects.”
Michael Bierut on Massimo Vignelli, who died today at 83:
It was Massimo who taught me one of the simplest things in the world: that if you do good work, you get more good work to do, and conversely bad work brings more bad work. It sounds simple, but it’s remarkable, in a lifetime of pragmatics and compromises, how easy it is to forget: the only way to do good work is simply to do good work. Massimo did good work.
Previously on SFYP: Sasaki Colorstone Dinnerware, Massimo Vignelli’s Desk, Massimo Vignelli’s 80th Birthday Party Invitation.
“A good writer needs to know what it’s like, and ‘it’ can be just about anything. We have far too many writers today who have never ridden a horse, or fired a gun, or sharpened a knife, or fought with their fists, or been shot at. And so on and so on. They are like those professors who get a Ph.D. and a job teaching. Clearly nobody can try everything, but it’s possible to try a lot. I’ve sailed on a small boat, for example. Also a troopship, and a luxury liner. I’ve been a waiter, worked in a factory, and flown in a light plane. (No, I was not the pilot, but I wish I had been.)”
“From the beginning, all I’ve ever cared about is things being great. I never cared about when they were done. Because I also feel like I want the music to last forever. And once you release it, you can’t go back and fix it, so you really have to get it right. And that takes time.”
“Be contemporary. Have impact. Strive for it. Be of the world. Move it. Be bold, don’t hold back. Then the moment you think you’ve been bold, be bolder. We are all alive today, ever so briefly here now, not then, not ago, not in some dreamworld of a hypothetical future. Whatever you do, you must make it contemporary. Make it matter now. You must give us a new path to tread, even if it carries the footfalls of old soles. You must not be immune to the weird urgency of today.”
—Ian Bogost, who’s addressing graduate students here, but whose advice, I think, has broad applicability
“The one thing I am trying to do in my ‘real’ life is simplify. There are really only a handful of things I care about, so I’m trying to minimise the distractions associated with the other things. It’s basically: family, writing, teaching.”
(Via Alan Jacobs.)
“I can build a motorcycle, I can fly a model airplane, I can throw somebody out of a bar, I can wrestle a pig and I can program a computer. I’m a strange duck, that’s for sure.”
—Iowa pig farmer Carl Edgar Blake II
(Via A Continuous Lean.)
Related post: Specialization Is for Insects
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
—Charles Bukowski, Factotum
“Writing is a business and should be practiced as such. On days when you think you can’t possibly write a line you do it anyhow.”