Why Don’t You…?

Last week’s posts were very fin de siecle, non? Many thanks to everyone who commented or dropped an e-mail. Some interesting themes emerged in the discussion. Paul referred me to an Ira Glass quotation.

The gist was, if you’re trying to be creative, the most important thing you can do is a lot of work, so you can close the gap between your work and your ambitions/potential/taste. Bearing in mind that your taste is why your work disappoints you. Wanting to write a piece of music, Paul noted these thoughts, and added his own guidelines:

  1. Add constraints to germinate the creative process.
  2. Finish something.
  3. Only publicize something which meets a minimal bar. But not the maximum bar.
  4. Repeat

Using these techniques, Paul has composed some rather fine, what I would call, modern classical music. (I mean, I would, but I have no grasp of musical theory, and that may be way off base.)

Neal reminded me of a story he related when I first tapped him up for his advice on building a blog. As related in this link, Jerry Seinfeld advised a young comic that “… the way to be a better comic [is] to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes [is] to write every day.” So far, so obvious. The little bit of genius was the way he pressured himself to write.

  1. Get a big, year long, wall calendar, and a big red magic marker.
  2. Each day you write, put a big red X on that day.
  3. Find yourself enjoying seeing the chain that the Xs form, and make it your job not to break the chain.

I was reminded of a third, similar story. You may recall, when Roger Ebert died last month, there was much discussion online of his status as a New Yorker cartoon caption competition veteran….

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been crazy about New Yorker cartoons. Of course, Seinfeld covered this in the episode The Cartoon. Long story short, Elaine starts obsessing about a New Yorker cartoon, and eventually complains at the magazine’s offices. She discovers that the editor didn’t understand the cartoon either, and that he simply “liked the kitty”. Figures. Someone needs to tell The New Yorker that talking animals aren’t funny in and of themselves. Not unless they’re saying something funny. Y’know, like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, or something.

[I was tickled to find on The New Yorker’s wiki page page that “at one point in the early 1940s, the quality of the artwork submitted to the magazine seemed to improve. It was later found out that the office boy (a teenaged Truman Capote) had been acting as a volunteer art editor, dropping pieces he didn’t like down the far edge of his desk.)” I so want this to be apocryphal.]

Anyway, Ebert entered 107 of a possible 280 contests leading up to an eventual win in caption contest no. 281. Thereafter, he entered every week up to his death. As The New Yorker noted after his death, his continuing entries “right up to the end” were “a tribute to the human spirit”.

Ebert was remarkably prolific right up to his death. When he cut his workload in 2012, it was noted that “[Roger] has always been a prolific writer but [that year] may have been his busiest year behind a keyboard. Ebert wrote 306 movie reviews, 1-2 blog posts a week and other articles for the Sun-Times, his blog and other publications, and has been a prolific presence on social media. Ebert’s already strong writing has been honed to a razor sharpness in the years after he lost his voice to thyroid cancer and has become his primary form of communication.” Well, there’s a constraint for you.

Now, to paraphrase the old BBC kids’ show, Why Don’t You Stop Reading apoplectic.me And Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?

[Seriously, as a symbiotic service here at apoplectic.me, why not tell us what you want to achieve this week, and I’ll check in with you later to see how it went?]

Reithianism: “If no-one’s reading, you’re doing it wrong.”
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7 thoughts on “Why Don’t You…?

  1. I’m going to write a girl-loves-Dalek or chicken-loves-mustache pop song. 3 minutes 2 verse chorus bridge. With a coauthor. Namely you.

    1. What?!! That’s not how this post works. *You’re* going to write a song. *They* are going to evaluate your efforts. *I* am going to sit on my arse all week.

      There’s a joke there about about two the Latin professors in a restaurant declining soup, I think.

  2. Let me know if you need me to pick up a giant calendar later. I’m going to Whole Foods for contact lens solution.

    1. Thanks, Jen! (Though the possibility of sarcasm hadn’t occurred to me until you mentioned it….) Good luck with the chips — that was some comprehensive material. I’ll be checking in on progress. Learning French to digest the works of chipmaster Jean Pain next?

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