there’s no point in denying it: i’m one of those people. i don’t really like watching television—or, at least, i’m well under the national average of watching 2.7 hours a day. i frequently try to convert non-believers to the gospel of the the wire, but otherwise this equation tends to be true: time spent wondering how people (including very good/very well educated friends of mine) can sit & watch so much stupid shit on tv > time spent watching shit on tv myself. then i started watching louie on the fx channel. and on demand. and online. and probably soon, the first season on dvd.
i haven’t had cable in my home since 2004. i do not give a shit about mad men, or entourage, or franklin & bash. but i can’t get enough of louie, and if there’s an upside to me being unemployed & homeless, it’s that i get to split my time between my sister’s and mother’s homes, where i can see the show whenever the hell i want. which is often. i’ve even gone so far as to seek out reading material about louis c.k. online, just so i can get access to more things that emerge from this comedian’s brain (for the record: gq has an excellent profile on louis c.k.; on grantland, chuck klosterman has a brief, but great, breakdown of what makes louie awesome; and the slate, vanity fair, pitchfork and l.a. times interviews with him are ok).
what i’ve found is that there’s a general consensus that louis c.k. is the best comic working today, and not only is his show doing stuff unseen before, it’s stuff that makes you simultaneously laugh and be horrified by our humanity (and that includes you, bub). in other words, it’s as close to the perfect distillation of comedy that you’re likely to find.
Author/editor of The Rumpus Stephen Elliott recently published an essay, found here, that, for the last week or so, I’ve gone back and read at least 15 times. “Good on Paper,” found in San Francisco’s 7×7, explores professional writing not as a job, upon which money is relied, but as a love that Elliott happens to do seven days a week, for as long as eight hours, occasionally taking half-days on Sunday to watch football.
I keep coming back to the essay because, as a writer who has no intention of relying on my craft for money (as stupid as it may sound to say money doesn’t matter), it’s reassuring to know that yes, it is possible to live professionally as a writer, without measuring your worth to the amount of revenue you bring in. If this all sounds vague, it’s because Elliott says it much better than I could, and you should just read “Good on Paper” – it’s got lust, love, death, and a central argument buried in the middle, like any good contemporary personal essay ought to. The catch is, of course, that he’s written seven books, and lives off 25k of “royalties and such,” but he also sees himself as essentially retired. So yeah – NaNoWriMo begins in only four days. Time to start crackin’ on that pension, yeah?
Raymond Carver liked to get a draft of a story down in one go, “I write the first draft of a story as quickly as possible, preferably at one sitting. Then I revise it, and revise it yet again” (Conversations with Raymond Carver80). Janet Burroway agrees this is a good method because, “you are more likely to produce a coherent draft when you come to the desk in a single frame of mind with a single vision of the whole than when you write piecemeal, having altered ideas and moods” and “fast writing tends to make for fast pace in the story” (Writing Fiction 16).
I am not a fan of being required to write a complete first draft in one day or even two, let alone one sitting. It was during a writing binge last week (for a deadline for my writing group) that I was so miserable I began seriously questioning why I even bother (see all the negative comments I left on blogs last week for evidence to support this claim).
I asked my mom on the phone why humans bother exerting so much time, energy, and thought to write stories that no one wants to read or publish anyway. She told me that even if one person gains insight from something another person wrote then it’s worth it. I liked that idea. She also said the self expression that occurs through writing must be useful to the writer in some way. I insisted that what I’m doing is far more complex than self-expression. Read more »