Category Archives: writing

Work All the Jobs

“Worked in slaughterhouse, dog biscuit factory, Di Pinna’s of Miami beach, copy boy on the New Orleans’ Item, blood bank in Frisco, hung posters in New York subways 40 feet below the sky drunk hopping beautiful golden third rails, cotton in Berdo, tomatoes; shipping clerk, truck driver, horseplayer ordinary, holder down of barstools throughout a dull alarmclock nation, supported by shackjob whores; foreman for American newsco., New York, Sears-Roebuck stock boy, gas station attendant, mailman…”

—Charles Bukowski, from the forthcoming On Writing

(Via Lit Hub.)

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

A Very Sophisticated Act

“Quoting writers and citing the places where their words are to be found are by now such common practices that it is pardonable to look upon the habit as natural, not to say instinctive. It is of course nothing of the kind, but a very sophisticated act, peculiar to a civilization that uses printed books, believes in evidence, and makes a point of assigning credit or blame in a detailed, verifiable way.”

—Jacques Brazun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher, 5th ed. (1992)

(Via.)

Lateral Thinking

“The few pages of this chapter have taken you a few minutes to read; they have taken me, I’m sorry to say, days and days to write. No, I haven’t been sitting at my computer the whole time. First I carried the germ around for a while, mulling over how to best approach it, then I sat down and knocked a few items onto the screen, then I began fleshing out the argument. Then I got stuck, so I made lunch or baked some bread or helped my kid work on his car, but I carried the problem of this chapter around with me the whole time. I sat down at the keyboard again and started in again but got distracted and worked on something else. Eventually I got where we are now. Even assuming equal knowledge about the subject, who probably has had the most ideas – you in five minutes of reading or me in five days of stumbling around? All I’m really saying is that we readers sometimes forget how long literary composition can take and how very much lateral thinking can go on in that amount of time.”

Thomas C. Foster

Wish Fullfillment

From Limitless (2011):

Paper Covered With the Wrong Words

Dorothy Parker to her editor in 1945:

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I know the feeling.

(Via Letters of Note.)