elladaa: Courtyard in Santorini, by Jim Zuckerman
Deborah Eisenberg (awards) on writing her first short story:
…I would become frustrated by this very easily. I would burn what I had written, tear it up. I would cry and scream because it was so terrible. But then, after many months of it, I decided I would show it to Wally. I thought I was writing a factual piece about the Y, and he read it and he said, “Well, you know, this is not a factual piece, this is fiction, so turn it into fiction.” [Pause.]
Many, many more months passed with me trying to turn this into a piece of fiction, having a very, very hard time. I gave it to him to read again and he said, “Well, you’ve turned it into fiction but it’s lost its life, so do it again.”
I: You’re lucky you had a coach at home.
Oh yeah, he’s like the world’s best writing teacher. But I thought I was going to kill him, of course.
I: Of course.
Anyhow I wrote it again over many months and he said, “Great, you’ve done it, you’ve written a story.” Of course it’s very autobiographical and it’s in my first book. It’s a lousy story and I’m sorry that I published it, though it is the only story of mine that a lot of people like.
I: Really? You don’t like it?
Yeah, I think it’s really crap. I have sort of a family feeling for it, but I don’t think it’s any good.
“Do you have any advice for young writers?”:
Yes, I do. One is, that it isn’t supposed to be good at first. You can’t just expect to sit down and write something good. There have always been a few people that can. I certainly can’t and when I started I couldn’t write a decent English sentence. It’s very thorny grammar, it’s difficult, it’s squishy weird grammar, it’s hard to get a handle on. It’s very, very hard to express the simplest idea or thought or activity and I think that often young writers are not prepared for that. On the one hand, they are frustrated too easily because they think, “This is harder than it should be.” No, it isn’t! It’s really, really, really hard. And they think, “Well I’m not suited to it, because its so hard.” I mean, that’s what I always thought. But the fact of its difficulty has nothing to do with whether you’re suitable for it or not. Nothing to do with it.
Then there’s the converse problem of people not being as ruthlessly honest with themselves about what they’ve made as they ought to be. Thinking, “This will do, this is okay.” So on the one hand, you have to have a lot of confidence that you’re going to be able to do it, but you also have to be really scrupulous in your honesty about whether or not you have done it. It’s a double thing. It’s very, very difficult. It’s very demanding.
I: And you have to have the perseverance and the hard-work ethic to go back and say, I have to do it again.
Yeah. I think a lot of young writers are very frightened by revision. I happen to like it, because I’m embarrassed about the first draft, my early drafts. After a certain point, you do develop a certain confidence that you may not be able to make it good, but you may be able to make it a little better each time, and that’s precious gold too, to know that that’s going to happen. You know that little by little by little by little you can make it something that you yourself can bear to look at. But that’s a learned thing.
— Deborah Eisenberg, Dec 2011
the things she does with the word ‘today’
in case the audio is too short — there is a conversation about beautiful eyes later on
Your goal is to generate enough material to locate your best options.
— Writing Analytically, 6th ed. (A) about exploratory writing (“In the invention stage, you follow prescribed methods for coming up with things to say, material which can then be arranged into the most effective form (presentation)”).
Out of all my Douglas Sirk screenshots where the key person in the scene is marked with the stuff above their head (lamps (evil light or just on-off status), flowers, a flag, a meaningful banner, a picture), this one is my favorite.
The guy is the villain in this scene & I just love his pose, the choice of “his” bouquet & “villain” color, and so on.
Also, it’s because of Sirk’s movies that I realized that some* directors parallel ALL characters in the scene with props (e.g. pictures on the walls, sculptures or other objects nearby).
E.g., when people in the dialogue are equal, Sirk lines up pictures side by side. But here there is a dominance, so the pictures are above each other. He also added additional layer of symbolism (current mental state of the characters) with (the choice of) these two bouquets, and another layer — via the way he lined up men & women in the room (it’s 1950s, a party at the country club, i.e. Sirk “hints” the purpose of these events).
* — well, Maurice Pialat did it too.
Yann Tiersen - Les jours tristes
MARGAUX: Sheila has this passage in her book about this house, where Sheila and Sholem and Jon live, and this cop on a horse walking by. And then Ryan is singing songs about where he lives, and Sholem is drawing his own face …and it starts to make your world look pretty meaningful, when you see it being looked at.
— ARTINFO Canada, 2011
1. ”I still try to always write when I have that feeling. If I don’t …— then I feel really bad and like I’ve let myself down.”
SH: It took probably ten years or so for me to accept my way working, and to believe that work was going to get done. But when I was writing The Middle Stories, even then my only discipline was that when I felt like writing I had to write. You can’t miss those times. That was the foundation of discipline for me. I really tried to be sensitive to those moments. Sometimes I’d leave class and go home to write. Now, I don’t just wait for those moments of, let’s say, inspiration, but I still try to always write when I have that feeling. If I don’t—if I have the feeling, but instead watch a movie, or read a book, or go on the Internet or email—then I feel really bad and like I’ve let myself down. It’s like something wanted to be expressed in that moment and I missed it and I’ll never get it back.
2. ”The world doesn’t need your books.”
SH: …The world doesn’t need your books. So it seems silly to force yourself to write if there’s nothing to write.
JM: “The world doesn’t need your books” is an interesting statement coming from a writer. Can you talk about that a bit more?
SH: Well, the world isn’t sitting around waiting for your books. The world is taking care of children and making money to pay the rent and eating dinner. If you don’t write your books, pretty much who cares? There are already more than enough good books for any reading person. You do it because you want to, not because the world is begging you.
3. “…what’s the rush? You want to make something good.”
SH: …my imagination for what writing can do has expanded. I used to only think about writing in terms of the sentence, but now I think that a piece of writing can be a game that a readers uses to play with the world, a book can be so many things. So all new kinds of calibration are needed.
…It’s like, if you work for a number of years on something, then there are just layers to it that give it more meaning than you could give it if you just spent a week or a month on it. I think that’s the most interesting thing about writing—working on something over five or six years. I’ve learned to really love that. I guess Ticknor was my first experience of that. You’d think that you’d get bored, but there are so many different angles on something and there’s a whole world that you’re looking at and so I think the text becomes more intelligent the more time you spend on it.
…I don’t think two years is enough.
…For me, I think you need five years. That so far seems like the right amount of time to spend on a book. Maybe seven years is even better. That’s one full cycle they say, right?
JM: Do you always feel that patient with the process?
SH: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
JM: So you’re really, truly enjoying the process?
SH: I mean, what’s the rush? You want to make something good.
— Jill Margo interviews Sheila Heti, Numéro Cinq
BLVR: And I wonder, as a human and as a writer, if you don’t have the same people around you, not just family but also friends, also landmarks in a city that you’ve lived in for many years—because cities change—does one become more fragmented-feeling, more atomized?
JD: Well, I think you do, and then you have to learn to deal with that. I mean, that was part of what I was doing in this book. This book was quite personal. I don’t mean it was personal because I talked about things in my life that were personal; I mean it was personal in that I was dealing with my own inability to find the narrative.
BLVR: So what does it feel like to come out of a book you’ve written that doesn’t have a narrative?
JD: Well, it’s not an encouraging attitude, but at this moment, I wanted to flat-out deal with the fact that I did not have, at the moment, an encouraging attitude. [Laughs]
BLVR: Writing something fragmented as opposed to narrative, was it a different kind of thinking?
JD: Absolutely it was a different kind of thinking. Because what you’re normally doing as a writer is trying to find the narrative. And a lot of the pieces I’ve written over the past ten years or so have had to do with finding the narrative. This was exactly the opposite. This book proceeds from the idea that the narrative isn’t there and it’s not going to matter.
BLVR: So where is the intensity of the thinking located, then, if not in finding the narrative?
JD: Well, in the idea that narrative doesn’t matter, I guess.
BLVR: Does that feel more true to you than being able to find a narrative? Is that a deeper truth?
JD: At the moment it seems so to me, yes. That’s kind of what this turned out to be about.
— Joan Didion about Blue Nights, an interview by Sheila Heti
The Humanist: How do you define critical thinking?
Rush Holt: Let me define instead what I like to call “thinking like a scientist.” It’s asking questions that can be answered based on evidence; it’s expressing questions in a way that allows someone to check your work. If you don’t have both of those elements, it’s too easy to fool yourself or to get lazy in your thinking. I wouldn’t say that critical thinking is hard thinking, because I don’t want to discourage people from doing it, but like anything else, it’s easier if you practice.
Third graders, for example, are often very good at thinking like scientists. Like scientists, they know that if you ask how something works, what something means, or how something happens, you should do it in a way that allows for more than just pure thinking. There should be some evidence, something empirical. You should form your question so that it allows someone else to ask that same question and observe the evidence to see if they get the same answer as you do. And that’s the essential part of critical thinking. If you say, “I’ve been thinking about this deeply and, by golly, now I understand it,” but then you try to explain it to someone else and can’t, then you probably don’t understand it … or it’s not very reliable knowledge.
I keep trying to get science taught in a way that, even if you can’t remember a single Latin term or are a klutz at solving equations, you’ve learned how to frame questions and sift evidence. I talk about verification but another way of putting it is: be ready for the cross-examination. Prepare to explain yourself.
— Thinking Like a Scientist, The Humanist
Mr. Soderbergh said he shared what he described as Gray’s need “to keep making art in order to get out of bed in the morning.” So he felt an admittedly irrational fear that what Gray suffered would somehow “splash onto him.” His anxiety was so great, he said, that he never made contact with Gray after the accident.
“I was totally absent in a way that is inexcusable to me,” he said. “And this entire movie is in part an act of contrition. The irony is that I spent the better part of three years immersed in something I tried to avoid. But as Spalding would say, ‘What are we to do with any of this except make a piece of art?’ ”