Nothing says springtime like a refreshing rum cocktail — refreshing, with its remoter connotations of freshets and bursting water — so let us get comfortably numb, with rum:
“If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far.”
–Stephen King, On Writing
I admit it: Stephen King has never been my cup of tea, and yet with him here I do not demur.
A couple of years ago, I decided to do a test. I cut my TV time to one show per day and then read for two hours instead.
My creativity exploded. I went from writing 1,000 words per day to pumping out over 2,000 words per day in the same amount of time.
So, now I’m a believer. Television may be popular, but it’s poisonous to creativity, and all truly dedicated writers need to limit their exposure to it.
A high-jumper I used to be friends with, a former teammate named Mike Kylop, once told me that the best jumpers love to jump.
“Good jumpers love to jump,” he said. “Now pass me that goddamn bottle.”
So how do you become a more productive writer?
First, you make writing your passion. Next, you make writing a habit.
Is television really poison? Is Twitter? Facebook?
I don’t know about that, but I do know that if there were only one thing I could pinpoint that’s made me personally into a more productive writer — and, really, when you get down to it, there is only one thing — it’s this:
2. Write more.
3. Write even more.
4. Write even more than that.
5. Write when you don’t want to.
6. Write when you do.
7. Write when you have something to say.
8. Write when you don’t.
9. Write every day.
10. Keep writing.
What do you think?
Here’s how the writer begins:
Sure, alphabetically, Absalom, Absalom! is first on this list. But, coincidentally, it is also the greatest Southern novel ever written. A crowing achievement of William Faulkner’s experimentation in narratives and storytelling, it encapsulates all that defines the post-war (that’s the Civil War, you guys) Southern mentality, perfectly summed up in the book’s final line, revealing Quentin Compson’s true feelings about the homeland with which he has such a complicated relationship: “I don’t hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!”
Live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy!
On this day, March 26th, 1931, in the West End of Boston, Massachusetts, Leonard Simon Nimoy was born to Max and Doris Nimoy — both Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, now part of present-day Ukraine — and today he turned 83 years young.
Leonard Nimoy is exactly four days younger than his Star Trek co-star, William (“Common People“) Shatner.
Never a huge Star Trek devotee, I’ve always nevertheless really loved Leonard Nimoy, and I honestly do regard Spock as one of the greatest and most original television characters of all-time.
(Note of interest: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who died in October of 1991, was an admirer of the novelist Ayn Rand, and Spock is Roddenberry’s loose interpretation of the Randian ideal.)
Happy Birthday, Leonard Nimoy.
You always struck me as a happy person.
“I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights.” — Hashem Shaabani, February, 2014
This just happened.
On February 17th, 2014, the Iranian government executed Hashem Shaabani, a thirty-two-year-old Arab-Iranian, and his friend Hadi Rashedi, both of whom were members of the so-called Dialogue Institute, an organization outlawed by the Iranian regime.
These men were executed for (and I quote) “waging war on God.”
There were other charges, of course:
“Sowing corruption on earth.”
“Propaganda against the Islamic Republic.”
“Acting against national security, according to a 2012 sentence handed down by the Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court.”
A well-known and loved poet in Iran, Shabaani was originally arrested in 2011 and “confessed” the crime of terrorism on Iranian state-controlled Press TV after being subjected to months of torture and interrogation.
However, in a letter that was published by Ahwaz News Agency in 2013, Shaabani said he had “never participated in any armed activity, whatever the motives.”
He said, “I started my journey wielding my pen against the tyranny that is trying to enslave and imprison minds and thoughts….”
Shabaani continued, “I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.”
The novelist Hanif Kureishi — who teaches creative writing at Kingston University, and whom I’d frankly never heard of before I saw this article — has recently come under some fire for remarks he made to The Guardian newspaper:
“A lot of my students just can’t tell a story. They can write sentences but they don’t know how to make a story go from there all the way through to the end without people dying of boredom in between. It’s a difficult thing to do and it’s a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don’t think you can….
“A lot of them [students] don’t really understand. It’s the story that really helps you. They worry about the writing and the prose and you think: ‘Fuck the prose, no one’s going to read your book for the writing, all they want to do is find out what happens in the story next.’”
He works with his own students, said Kureishi, “for a long time”. “They really start to perk up after about three years. And after about five years they really realise something about writing. It’s a very slow thing. People go on writing courses for a weekend and you think, ‘A weekend?’”
Concerning the same subject, Truman Capote once said:
“The last thing in the world I would do was waste my time going to college, because I knew what I wanted to do. The only reason to go to college is if you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or something in a highly specialized field…. If you want to be a writer, and you are a writer already, and if you can spell, there’s no reason to go to college” (Want to be a Writer? Drop out of College).
Paul Bowles, on the other hand, a stylistically pristine and lyrical writer, who studied music in college but not literature, and who later in his life occasionally taught creative writing courses, once noted — and sagely so, I think — that there are far, far worse things aspiring writers can do than congregate among other aspiring writers and share work.
I always liked that sentiment, even if I don’t entirely agree with it. In fact, I guess I’ve always sort of felt the poet Philip Larkin put it best when he put it thus:
“I can’t understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems: It’s like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife.”