Category Archives: Links

I Write for Me: A Manifesto Of My Self-Importance

I write a lot, but not for other people.

I write mostly to and for myself: journals, poems, notes, etc. I enjoy being engaged in the writing process, and I want to write about what I want to write about, and these aren’t always things that I think other people would care about.

I write these blog posts to be read by others, whoever you are. I mostly write these for myself as well, but I want to let you know, Readers, that at least I’m thinking of you. The thought is what counts.

For years, I’ve wanted to turn the things I wrote into things that others would want to read. But that hasn’t been going so well. I mean, unless I’m writing to a specific person, I don’t know who I’m writing to. I suspect that I’m writing to others like myself, which could suggest that what I’m already doing is pretty great! I needn’t change a word! But do others who are like me need to hear what I’m saying, or do they already know it?

So, I’m considering changing my approach and just embracing whatever the hell it is that I do. I mean, if there are no standards — and in creative work, why would there be? — then I can do whatever I like.

I have, over recent days, been reading some emails I wrote 5 and 6 years ago to a friend, and while I was conscious of writing to him, I was also just writing to air my own thoughts, explore my own ideas. And I remarked, in an email, upon that tendency of mine. And as I read that remark today, I thought, hell, why not?

Why not come out and embrace what I have been doing, but not acknowledging to myself, all these years? For years, I’ve been thinking that I had to be something other than what I was: I still expected myself to one day write things that would be for other people, wonderful, witty texts that would impress, entertain, and instruct my readers, and that would establish my reputation as a Writer Worth Reading.

But I’m not sure I need that kind of validation anymore. Or, let’s say, I’m not sure that I want to work for that validation (but I’d take it if it came!). I’m coming to terms with who I am: a self-centered writer. I love to write about my own ideas and experiences. I want to write whatever I want to write and not worry (as I so often have) about whether a text is good enough or not to share.

Some of this worrying has prompted me to write merely charming or clever texts, and some of this worrying has prompted me to overedit the texts that I share. I’m not sure these are what I want to be doing.

I will accept that I may never sell a book, or even write one, and that such a lifestyle is gonna be OK with me. I don’t have to achieve Authorhood. I am already a writer. I don’t gotta sell nothin’. I’m willing to be subversive, as described in a recent New Yorker article by Andrew Marantz: “In our data-obsessed moment, it is subversive to assert that the value of a product is not reducible to its salability.”

My books won’t be salable, because I won’t sell them — or, let’s say, I’m not sure why I myself would care about sales, since publishing is not a creative act but is a business act, an ego-act, and it’s also a business that seems terrible for a lot of writers now. I’ll give away on this blog whatever I feel like giving away. If I feel like it, I’ll make single copies of books.

I don’t need to sell products to strangers in order to feel good about myself (or so I’m still trying to convince myself — maybe I’m not quite there yet, and maybe this mini-manifesto is pushing me to get there). How wonderful that we live in a time where we do have this Internet available for instant, world-wide distribution! I’m not gonna fret about getting paid — I’m an Artist, dammit!

15 links on creativity, writing, art: Recorded poets, audience, storytelling, etc.

1. “75 at 75″: Recordings from the 92nd Street Y’s series of writers reading their work. Here’s an NPR story about this as well.

2. The persistence of a writer’s voice: Tom Stoppard’s quote that “all my people speak the same way, with the same cadences and sentence structures. They speak as I do.”

3. Regarding the audience for one’s art: Frederick Wiseman says, “the only safe assumption I make about an audience is that the people who are going to see the film are as smart or as dumb as I am. I think anything else is condescending.”

4. “The Psychological Comforts of Storytelling” in The Atlantic

5. “Steven Pinker’s Bad Grammar.” Related: “Style Wars

6. How one pastor writes his sermons.

7. How cartoonist Tom Toles finds ideas.

8. “There’s a tiny handful of musical-cultural conversations Americans have decided they want to be a part of, and then there’s everything else.

9. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s nonfiction book.

10. Several links about Sesame Street from the AVClub: “What do you remember learning from Sesame Street?” and “Sesame Street is the perfect TV show” and Adam Savage’s dad’s animation for Sesame Street and The Ladybug Picnic and other counting songs and pop culture allusions in Sesame Street.

11. Jazz non-improvisation: A re-creation of Kind of Blue.

12. “The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction

13. “Introducing the Reality Novel”: Writers don’t need to go fictional to discuss their own problems and issues in a permissive society. Related: Tim Parks’ article “Trapped Inside the Novel

14. Story-writing and -sharing site Wattpad.

15. A documentary about a marble quarry.

Serious nonsense rituals

In an article about absurd precision in football measurements, this quote grabbed my attention:

like all rituals that make no sense, we take this one extra seriously

‘Perfection is not beautiful’

While the paragraphs quoted below were making a point about human appearance, I read these and thought that this sentiment also could apply to any and all endeavors where perfection is sought:

The moral couldn’t be more clear: REAL faces are beautiful. We need to work a little harder to see that — privately and publicly, alone and together. We need to turn our gaze away from the shiny reconstructions, and start celebrating what’s real. We need to look in our mirrors and acknowledge what’s there. This is not feminist boosterism. This is not a way of blaming women for their choices. Every woman has a right to her own choices about how to handle the pressures of being a woman at this ruthless time in our history.

But we ALSO need to say this together: Real beauty is unique and flawed. Perfection is not beautiful, and real beauty is never perfect. Look in the mirror and see what’s actually there. Not a comparison to some nonexistent ideal. Look at what’s there. Your flaws make you beautiful. Your dark circles make you beautiful. Once you can see how gorgeous your flaws are… , you will be transformed into something much more magical than a pretty princess, holding her breath forever. You will be FORMIDABLE.

Link: Covers of Paul McCartney songs

Via Slate, here are covers of Paul McCartney songs by many other artists:

Here’s the tracklist, via Stereogum:

01 Billy Joel – “Maybe I’m Amazed”
02 Bob Dylan – “Things We Said Today”
03 Heart – “Band On The Run”
04 Steve Miller – “Junior’s Farm”
05 Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) – “The Long and Winding Road”
06 Harry Connick, Jr. – “My Love”
07 Brian Wilson – “Wanderlust”
08 Corrine Bailey Rae – “Bluebird”
09 Willie Nelson – “Yesterday”
10 Jeff Lynne – “Junk”
11 Barry Gibb – “When I’m 64″
12 Jamie Cullum – “Every Night”
13 KISS – “Venus And Mars / Rock Show”
14 Paul Rodgers – “Let Me Roll It”
15 Roger Daltrey – “Helter Skelter”
16 Def Leppard – “Helen Wheels”
17 The Cure – “Hello Goodbye” (Feat. James McCartney)
18 Billy Joel – “Live And Let Die”
19 Chrissie Hynde – “Let It Be”
20 Robin Zander & Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick – “Jet”
21 Joe Elliott – “Hi Hi Hi”
22 Heart – “Letting Go”
23 Steve Miller – “Hey Jude”
24 Owl City – “Listen To What The Man Said”
25 Perry Farrell – “Got To Get You Into My Life”
26 Dion – “Drive My Car”
27 Allen Toussaint – “Lady Madonna”
28 Dr. John – “Let ’Em In”
29 Smokey Robinson – “So Bad”
30 Airborne Toxic Event – “No More Lonely Nights”
31 Alice Cooper – “Eleanor Rigby”
32 Toots Hibbert with Sly & Robbie – “Come And Get It”
33 B.B. King – “On The Way”
34 Sammy Hagar – “Birthday”

Links: Failure, denial, ghosts

1. “Welcome to the Failure Age” by Adam Davidson at NYTimes.

2. Denialists (those who practice “the willful disregard of factual evidence by ideologically motivated groups or individuals”) use the rhetoric of logic.

3. Research in consciousness: “The Brain Makes Its Own Ghosts

An Ad for Sex: ‘It’s how we get children’

Via The New York Times, here’s an ad from a Danish travel agency promoting vacations for procreation. Good stuff, particularly when one hears Scandinavian sweet nothings.