Category Archives: work

Philip Glass: Taxi Driver

Dan Wang on composer Philip Glass, who came out with a memoir earlier this year:

Glass didn’t work just as a taxi driver and as a (self-taught) plumber. He also worked in a steel factory, as a gallery assistant, and as a furniture mover. He continued doing these jobs until the age of 41, when a commission from the Netherlands Opera decisively freed him from having to drive taxis.… He seemed uninterested in stabilizing his position with more regular income. He never took up an honorary conductor position. He never ensconced himself in a plush conservatory professorship. And he didn’t even apply for grants because he didn’t like that they imposed terms.… Other music students may spend their Juilliard prize monies to practice and compose, but he bought a motorcycle so that he can ride around the country. When people made fun of him for appearing in a whiskey ad, he retorted: “It seemed to me that people who didn’t have to sell out… must have had rich parents.”

Related post: “Key to the Whole Thing.”

(Via Kottke.)

Research Techniques

“Write early in the morning, cultivate memory, reread core books, take detailed reading notes, work on several projects at once, maintain a thick archive, rotate crops, take a weekly Sabbath, go to bed at the same time, exercise so hard you can’t think during it, talk to different kinds of people including the very young and very old, take words and their histories seriously (i.e., read dictionaries), step outside of the empire of the English language regularly, look for vocabulary from other fields, love the basic, keep your antennae tuned, and seek out contexts of understanding quickly (i.e., use guides, encyclopedias, and Wikipedia without guilt).”

—John Durham Peters, in a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books about his new book The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media

Unplug the Clock

“The most defeatist thing I hear is, ‘I’m going to give it a couple of years.’ You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer. You should want it so badly that you don’t have a choice. You have to commit for the long haul. There’s no shame in being a starving artist. Get a day job, but don’t get too good at it. It will take you away from your writing.”

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner

Creative Process

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by Christoph Niemann

The Lookout

(Via.)

Don’t Be Late

“Show up on time. I learned this from the mentor who I call Bigfoot in Kitchen Confidential. If you didn’t show up 15 minutes exactly before your shift — if you were 13 minutes early — you lost the shift, you were sent home. The second time you were fired. It is the basis of everything. I make all my major decisions on other people based on that. Give the people you work with or deal with or have relationships with the respect to show up at the time you said you were going to. And by that I mean, every day, always and forever. Always be on time. It is a simple demonstration of discipline, good work habits, and most importantly respect for other people.”

—Anthony Bourdain

The Long Game

Part I:

Part II:

Add Your Own Sauce

“I grew up in a subdivision in Baton Rouge. I had no connection to the business at all. But I felt like it’s going to happen to somebody. I was like an athlete who didn’t have any extraordinary skills, but had basic skills, but worked really hard. That was me. I’m a grinder. I’ll beat you because I will not sleep. Whenever I go and talk to aspiring filmmakers, I go, ‘Look, at the end of the day, I can talk about craft, whether you have a soul of an artist, I don’t know.’ Your take on things is what is either going to make you somebody we talk about or no. You have to have a take on shit. It’s got to be specific and engaging. We’re all standing on the shoulders of what other people have done. But you’re supposed to take that and add your own sauce.

Steven Soderbergh

A Vast Array of Experiences

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.

(Via.)

Related posts: “Be a Strange Duck” and “Specialization Is for Insects.”

Figure Out What the Impediments Are and Remove Them

From Creativity, Inc., a book about Pixar:

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(Via Holly Brockwell.)