A Few Thoughts on the Writing Process

If you’re a writer and have been writing for a while, you know the experience of pouring yourself into something and coming to a point, eventually, of feeling like it’s ready. Then you come back to it a few months later and revision is much easier. Things you thought were perfect now seem a little clanky, and something (time, distance, rest, other pursuits, other work, good reading) has given you the ability to make them right. You tighten things up, make hard (even emotional) cuts, and now you know it’s ready. This happens two or three more times. That’s the process, isn’t it? It seems to be for me.

The only way I know to become a better writer is to keep writing, keep reading, and keep building in some opportunities for distance. Stay intellectually curious. Study the mechanics of your art. Listen to great lectures. Get feedback. Keep going.

I come back to these words often:

“In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you’ll dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it to the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Or, as Ann Hood says, “blow it up.” I come back to those words, too.

Introduction to Literary Theory with Paul Fry

Spent a lot of time in the car today. Found this on Open Yale Courses and listened to the first lecture. I highly recommend it for both personal and professional reasons.

“In this first lecture, Professor Paul Fry explores the course’s title in three parts. The relationship between theory and philosophy, the question of what literature is and does, and what constitutes an introduction are interrogated. The professor then situates the emergence of literary theory in the history of modern criticism and, through an analysis of major thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, provides antecedents for twentieth-century theoretical developments.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/01-introduction/id341652579?i=1000063753360

Green Fields of Home: Giamatti, Baseball, and the Immigrant Experience

I lived in New Haven for three years in the early 2000s. Many things from that time have stuck with me. One vivid memory is Randall Balmer paraphrasing Bart Giamatti’s insight about baseball and the immigrant experience both being quests for home.

In this piece from 2011, Lia Petridis Maiello talks to Lawrence Baldassaro about his book on the concept.

I was reminded today about the card Donruss put out in 1990 when Giamatti passed, and of his great “Green Fields of the Mind.” I knew the brilliant actor, Paul, was his son, but I never really realized how young Bart was when he died. I was 10 in 1990, which means I’m 40 now. 51 probably seemed ancient to me not that long ago.

Related: Everything I Know About Postmodernism I Learned from the Phillies, a piece of mine at Hobart.

Volare: Italian Americans in Popular Music

I was listening to Dean Martin last night, and I got to thinking about putting together some sort of superlative list of Italian-American figures in American popular music. Below are my current Sweet Sixteen. Who would you add in order to fill out a proper field of sixty-four?

Joe Satriani 

Jon Bon Jovi

Gwen Stefani

Steven Tyler

Frank Zappa 

Tony Bennett

Jim Croce

Louis Prima

Madonna

Dean Martin

Lady Gaga

Frankie Valli

Frank Sinatra

Mario Lanza

Henry Mancini 

Bruce Springsteen

Kerouac’s “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose”

From a letter Jack Kerouac wrote to Donald Allen in 1958, here’s the wonderful “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials.”

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  4. Be in love with yr life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel centre of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You’re a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

As Ever,

Jack

Jack Kerouac, “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials,” letter to Donald Allen (1958), published in Heaven & Other Poems, Grey Fox Press, 1958, 1977, 1983. Reprinted in Evergreen Review, Spring 1959.