I wrote this book because I needed to read it. It’s my best one yet. You can get a copy here or anywhere books are sold.
See you on the road.
Oh, and here’s a fun little tidbit: Government redactors don’t actually use black markers! Here’s Michael G. Powell in his 2010 essay, “Blacked Out: Our Cultural Romance with Redacted Documents,” to explain:
Before FOIA officers would begin to redact sections of a document—and admittedly nowadays many of them opt for computerized forms of redaction because they are working on computer records—they make a photocopy of the document. Then, they take a red or brown marker and, more or less, highlight the segments unfit for access. Running this red marker redacted document through a photocopy machine set for high contrast produces a new document with black marks. The FOIA officer can then store the red marker document in the agency’s files, allowing other bureaucrats to see exactly what has been redacted. If a black marker was used, then anyone needing to revisit the document would be unable to see what had been redacted without arduously comparing the document with the original, side by side.
For a while, I was making blackouts this way, with a red marker:
And then scanning them and making them pure black and white:
Oh, PS: The NYTimes is still running their blackout poetry contest!
My agent was standing in front of this display at the Book Passage in Corte Madera and he said to me, “You’ve had a busy decade, young man.”
I was reminded of some advice I heard from cartoonist David Heatley, well, about a decade ago: “Give yourself a decade.”
On the one hand, it went so fast. On the other hand, it’s felt like forever. So it goes.
Related reading: “3 Thoughts on a Decade of Publishing.”
A few months ago, the Harvard Business Review ran a piece by Ryan Buell on what he calls “Operational Transparency.” Here is the summary:
Conventional wisdom holds that the more contact an operation has with its customers, the less efficiently it will run. But when customers are partitioned away from the operation, they are less likely to fully understand and appreciate the work going on behind the scenes, thereby placing a lower value on the product or service being offered…. Managers should experiment with operational transparency—the deliberate design of windows into and out of the organization’s operations to help customers understand and appreciate the value being added. Witnessing the hidden work performed on their behalf makes customers more satisfied, more willing to pay, and more loyal.
If this sounds familiar, it’s a fancier way of saying, “Show Your Work!”
Today I visited my friend Wendy MacNaughton’s studio in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. Piled and pinned everywhere was the physical evidence of how hard she works on her stories. She showed me a bug she was painting for a new story and now I can’t wait to read it.
Earlier, we were having lunch at the bar in Piccino and the chefs were preparing a lemon meringue tart. Seeing their delicate work, we immediately ordered one to split.
What windows into your own operations can you open for the people you serve?
One of my favorite things so far on this tour has been taking Amtrak trains. I took one from Philly to NYC, Portland to Seattle, and yesterday I took The Coast Starlight from Seattle to San Francisco.
I had a nice little sleeper car, but I spent most of my time between the diner car (free meals with a sleeper — I ate very well) and the observation deck, which was surprisingly uncrowded.
The train is just a whole different vibe than flying. On planes people are sort of territorial and paranoid and a little aloof. On the train, everyone’s a little more chill. I felt incredibly relaxed after a day of riding.
The clouds parted a bit for some blue skies on my way up to Seattle.
Here are some photos of Oregon out the window…
Most surprising was getting up in the mountains south of Eugene and seeing all the snow and the trees which seem to be a mile high. After a big dinner in the dining car, I went to sleep and woke up to a sunrise in Sacramento:
And the last little bit around the Bay Area was especially pleasant in the morning light:
I highly recommend it at least once. If you’ve got the time, take the train.
Seen on tour in Portland, Oregon: a particularly bitchin’ memento mori.
In interviews, silence is the weapon, silence and people’s need to fill it—as long as the person isn’t you, the interviewer. Two of fiction’s greatest interviewers—Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret and John le Carré’s George Smiley—have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking and to let silence do its work. Maigret cleans his ever-present pipe, tapping it gently on his desk and then scraping it out until the witness breaks down and talks. Smiley takes off his eyeglasses and polishes them with the thick end of his necktie. As for me, I have less class. When I’m waiting for the person I’m interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information I want, I write “SU” (for Shut Up!) in my notebook. If anyone were ever to look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of “SU”s.
Filed under: silence
One thing I didn’t even consider when writing Keep Going is that people would read the “Airplane Mode can be a Way of Life” chapter on an actual airplane!
My friend Kio Stark, author of the books Don’t Go Back To School and When Strangers Meet, sent me a message yesterday and I asked her if I could share it here. (Maybe we’ll make this a regular thing? We’ll see.) Here’s what she said:
I just wrote a new strangers newsletter, and not having sent one in 6 months, I realized that writing it is one of my best “keep going” strategies. It’s small and doable, and reminds me that I am good at writing. Because it’s about documenting interactions with strangers, it also pushes me to pay more attention when I’m out in public with other humans.
It started as a blog in 2009 — they were very short back then — as a way to keep in touch with my writing self while I had a day job. I used to write them on my lunch hour. They were maybe 100-150 words tops. The newsletter ones now are longer because I don’t have a day job anymore…
Part of what I discovered, particularly about being a novelist, is writing a novel works best if you can do the same day over and over again. The closer you can come to Groundhog Day, you just repeat that day. You set up a day that works for yourself.
Want to be an artist? Watch Groundhog Day.