This was really fun. Watch my chat with Oliver on Youtube:
Are you really helping here? That’s what you ought to be doing if you’re a writer. Or any kind of artist. Helping. Some. And it doesn’t mean cheerful or Pollyanna-ish. Francis Bacon, the painter, was helping. William S. Burroughs helps. We all help in different ways.
Here are my prep notes:
Big thanks to Tim for being game and thanks to the folks at Literati for setting it up.
Stay tuned: Next month I get to interview Sarah Ruhl about her book Smile.
Here’s video of my chat with David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Our conversation, as we had hoped, ranged all over the place. Of particular interest to me:
1. He told me he reads a lot of fiction to try to pick up interesting approaches to structure. He credited his experience helping a film editor friend who had a hand injury — literally sitting there all day and clicking the mouse for him — as hugely instructive. (This didn’t surprise me, as I learned a ton about writing from film editor Walter Murch’s book, In the Blink of an Eye.) He also said that he’s taken fiction classes.
3. He keeps “a book of small experiments,” where he forces himself, if he gets in “a rut of competence,” to try out and learn new things.
Here are my prep notes:
Thanks, David! Check out his newsletter, Range Widely.
“It was dark, and I needed a little light. So every day I did a little drawing.”
When they asked me if there was a local Austin artist I’d like to interview for CM Austin’s 8th anniversary, I had a long list of folks in my mind, but when they said the topic was procrastination, I immediately thought of Ed, and, specifically, this clipping, which I cut out of a NYTimes years ago:
I’m shocked that his latest project still doesn’t have a US publisher. Editors, get on it!
I’ve written more about EC’s work here.
“If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you.”
Statistically, I say “no” to almost all podcast requests. I say “no,” not because I hate recording podcasts, but because I love recording podcasts. You see, I am the rare extroverted writer, and I would much rather talk than write, and I could easily fill most of my afternoons with recording podcasts and never write anything again.
When I do say “yes” to a podcast, my policy is one of candor, of being as straightforward, honest, and frank as I can. I’m not sure if this moves as many units as sticking to talking points, but it’s a helluva lot more fun, and I figure if we’re going to talk for an hour, let’s try to get somewhere interesting.
Life is very short, and we are all very tired. We are especially tired, I think, of not just being lied to, but of hearing people talk like they’ve run everything through their own public relations department. I don’t think it’s just me, but when I hear someone tell the truth these days, I feel a jolt of electricity that makes me feel alive.
Maybe that’s lofty talk from a short man, but there you have it.
Tomorrow I’m talking to Jessica Abel, which will be recorded as a live podcast with Q&A from the audience, so my candor might get me into more trouble than usual.
Register here. Watch the replay here.
Last weekend I invited one of my favorite writers, Sam Anderson, staff writer at the NYTimes and author of the fabulous book Boom Town, to celebrate Montaigne’s birthday with me on Instagram Live. I ended up with a tour of Sam’s library in his converted garage and a long chat about the guardian spirits that inspire his workspace, his dictionary stand, the magic of blind contour drawings, the calm of collage, how he writes nonfiction, the writing exercise he warms up with every morning, and yes, our shared love for Montaigne. You can watch the whole thing on IGTV.
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