The War of Art

In my advice to writers, there are two books I always recommend. One is On Writing by Stephen King, the other is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Immediately after I first read the latter, I plopped down and wrote my first novel, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, and I re-read it regularly (easy to do, as it’s a short book).

Pressfield’s deal is getting us to overcome the resistances within ourselves and just getting down to the friggin’ work. His book is a self-help book that’s really helpful and not full of homilies and crap like “You are the captain of your own ship.”

(Which a therapist once told me in what was, inevitably, our one and only session because I damn near laughed in her face).

I recently became aware of Pressfield’s blog for writers, Writing Wednesdays, and it should be required reading for anyone wanting to make it in the arts.

Here’s one gem I found there:

The Muse, if she’ll forgive me, is kind of like a mailman. She makes her rounds every day, cruising past our offices and studios and peeking in the window. Are we there at our easels? The Muse likes that. She likes to see us taking care of business. And if we’re there with our hearts breaking or tears streaming down our cheeks, all the better. The Muse says to herself, “This poor bastard is true to me; I’m gonna give him something in return for his loyalty.”

And into our heads pops the solution to Act Two, the bridge to that song we couldn’t lick, the breakthrough concept for our new philanthropic venture.

The lesson is, if you’re not at the place you do the work, at least trying to do the work, the work won’t happen. And if you are there, and getting down to business, you will discover wondrous things, gifts from the Muse, that will surprise you and enrich both you and the work itself.

But you’ve gotta be working for it to work.

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The Future of Doc Wilde

I conceived of the adventures of Doc, Wren, and Brian Wilde as a series, starting with Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. That was the plan. As a writer, I decided, I am in the Doc Wilde business.

Putnam also saw the Wildes as a potential series, but largely avoided talking about that. They are, after all, a business. Profits must be made, books must be balanced. So they understandably played it close to the vest, waiting to see how Frogs of Doom did, both critically and commercially.

I kept with my plan, continuing to work on Wilde stuff, figuring that even if Putnam ultimately didn’t opt to publish more, I’d find some way to get these adventures out there.

As anyone who’s been following the reviews of the book knows, the Wildes have been extremely well received by the critics. I literally had one sort of negative review, and even it largely praised the book, though it wasn’t the writer’s cup of tea. Even Kirkus Reviews, which is notoriously tough, had only good things to say (Novelist Kimberly Derting commented “I’m awed, you’ve cracked the Kirkus code!”)

(Feel free to visit the Reviews page at the Doc Wilde website.)

As for sales… Continue reading

Why I Will NOT Read Your Stuff

“Do these jeans make me look fat?”

That’s the classic relationship question that has only one answer, unless you want to hurt the asker’s feelings. And largely, the asker wants that one answer. The reassurance. They’re not really looking for the asked to use their critical eye, not wanting raw, unflinching honesty.

This, precisely, is how the overwhelming majority of wannabe writers/artists/musicians ask for critique of their work. Continue reading

O those tea baggers and their lil white lies!

Desperate to paint their cause in epic colors, the tea baggers released this image of their protest over the weekend. Pretty impressive. Look how they swamp the national mall, like neurons in the pathways of a brain. Well, a brain possessed by someone other than a tea bagger, anyway.

crowdWell.

PolitiFact.com (“a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter…”) ran down the facts about this photo, and about the baggers’ claims of multitude:

We spoke with Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, who said that the local government no longer provides official crowd estimates because they can become politicized. That said, on the morning of Sept. 12, Piringer unofficially told one reporter that he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up.

So, not quite a couple of million. And the photo?

“It was an impressive crowd,” he said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street,” he said.

Yet the photo showed the crowd sprawling far beyond that to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.

There’s another big problem with the photograph: it doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth St. and Independence Ave. that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn’t show the “tea party” crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.

Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Natural History Museum (the second building from the lower left of the National Mall). According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, “The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.”

That makes the picture at least a decade old.

That means the trumpeted count, and the picture, are about as accurate as most information offered up by these people. And lying is apparently very much a right-wing value. Like greed and intolerance.

The Simple Health-Care Solution

In an editorial for the Washington Post, Sen. George S. McGovern (1972 presidential candidate who lost to Nixon, and boy that worked out, didn’t it?) offers up a simple, smart, elegant solution to our national health-care nightmare:

If we want comprehensive health care for all our citizens, we can achieve it with a single sentence: Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans. Those of us over 65 have been enjoying this program for years. I go to the doctor or hospital of my choice, and my taxes pay all the bills. It’s wonderful. But I would have appreciated it even more if my wife and children and I had had such health-care coverage when we were younger. I want every American, from birth to death, to get the kind of health care I now receive. Removing the payments now going to the insurance corporations would considerably offset the tax increase necessary to cover all Americans.

Medicare exists. It works. It’s beloved by its beneficiaries, who are such a large voting block that it’s beloved even by most conservative politicians, who ought to despise it as the dread “socialism” they fear so much. Why not just expand it?

We know that Medicare has worked well for half a century for those of us over 65. Why does it become “socialized medicine” when we extend it to younger Americans?

…We recently bailed out the finance houses and banks to the tune of $700 billion. A country that can afford such an outlay while paying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can afford to do what every other advanced democracy has done: underwrite quality health care for all its citizens.

If Medicare needs a few modifications in order to serve all Americans, we can make such adjustments now or later. But let’s make sure Congress has an up or down vote on Medicare for all before it adjourns this year. Let’s not waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. We all know what Medicare is. Do we want health care for all, or only for those over 65?

Those of us who care about our fellow citizens, rather than mostly ill-educated ideals of selfishness and short-sightedness, certainly do.

The whole piece is here. Thanks go to Betsy Burnam for making me aware of it.

The Life Before Her Eyes: beautifully crafted, beautifully written, beautifully performed (review)

life

Streaming movies on Netflix continues to be a source of discovery. It allows me (and you, if you sign up) to try any number of films I probably would never get around to, if I knew of them at all. Sometimes they’re duds (I tried 1994’s The Favor, for instance, and couldn’t bear more than ten or fifteen minutes), but sometimes they’re treasures.

The Life Before Her Eyes is a treasure. Continue reading