I was a few hours north of Kansas City in a small riverfront town called Dedham. There was a bar there that had once been called "Bootlegger's" until some young idealists stole the first three and final five letters so that the sign looked like: "...tle......" and people started calling it the T.L.E. Over the years those letters stopped shining and by then people didn't call the bar anything at all.
I used to fantasize about riding the rails a lot when I was younger.
In this article, a British author recounts his adventures riding the rails with tramps and hoboes.
The piece begins a little too preciously, too "writer-y", but turns into a compelling read.
"The temperature dips with the sun, and I stuff my clothes with newspaper, remembering Doc’s dictum: “Tramps, bums and hobos all use The Wall Street Journal for insulation, but the hobo reads it first.” The night clears and the stars come out like nobody’s watching. I am lulled by the symphonic racket of a thousand train parts in seeming revolt against one another. Peace in pandemonium."
A rewarding interview with one of the writers of the 'Alien' prequel, 'Prometheus', Jon Spaihts:
His bit about the central predicament defining the protagonist is obvious, yet insightful.
And he goes on about making narratives compeling:
"There are three motives of story that matter: having something that you hope for, having something that you fear, or having a burning question that you need answered. Any one of them is sufficient. If you can have more than one of them running at one time, or all three—you can be afraid of one thing and fearful of another and desperate to understand some mystery that's been dangled in front of you, then you are maximally engaged, all three motors running."
Commencement speeches are their own genre, one that I like. In a way they are no better than any other self-help truisms, but people who give such speeches seem to tend to pay more attention to the language in the advice, making the advice more clear and more true.
David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite writers now. I only really "discovered" him after his death. He was a care and clarity with words that make everything I've read of his compelling.
And this speech is worth reading also because Wallace tries to transcend the genre of commencement speech and talk about what many other speeches fail to address.
NPR has a '3-minute fiction' contest, which puts a word count limit at 600.
In the field, this is known as 'flash fiction.'
The even briefer version is called 'hint fiction' and has a word limit of around 25.
"Blind Date," by Max Barry.
She walks in and heads turn. I'm stunned. This is my setup? She looks sixteen. Course, it's hard to tell, through the scope.
"Houston, We Have a Problem," by J. Matthew Zoss.
I'm sorry, but there’s not enough air in here for everyone. I'll tell them you were a hero.
"I made tea."
He captured the way I sometimes write - a way that was not so easy before computers - to start with the essential outline and backfill it in until the sentence has turned into a story.
A blog called Daily Routines covers "How writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days."
The entries are collected from diaries, interviews, and other documentation about these writers' (most of the people covered are writers) habits.
This is a subject that should be boring, yet I find interesting. I (like many others, as evidenced by the preponderance of books claiming to help boost productivity) sometimes wonder whether I could be using my time (my hours, my days, and my weeks and months) more effectively.
Many of the writers seem to have the habit of getting up early and getting a lot done before the normal day's work begins. Ben Franklin said, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise". And there is a Japanese proverb that translates to something akin to, "If you wake up after the Sun has risen, you're already late." And the one about the early bird (and the Garfield-esque response, "and look at what happens to the early worm!")
But I find I'm most productive at night. For me, often, the act of creation and expression is a way of distilling my reactions to things - condensing a dozen conversations into a single sentence. And when better to compact all those reactions than at the end of the day?
Also, I am absurdly distractable. There cannot be human language within earshot for me to be productive. The exception is certain languages, such as Italian, which is so musical that I interpret it as music instead of speech.
And the night time is quietest time.
After greatly enjoying (years after the fact) the original (BBC) "The Office" I looked around for other projects by the same people and found that the writer and star, Ricky Gervais, had done another show called, "Extras".
It was a more polished show, although more bitter in tone. Both shows seemed to aspire toward making the audience cringe, which seemed like a new kind of storytelling, at least to me.