Friday, April 08, 2005

Typing, daily

My father got up every morning around seven a.m. He would walk to the local coffee shop and have a cup or two with the hoi polloi. He would return home before 9:30 AM and sit at "the machine". The late industrial revolution sound effect of a manual typewriter would then start up. It would go, with very few pauses longer than a minute, until someone brought him a sandwich, or reminded him to eat. When I would come home from school, he would finish whatever sentence he was in the middle of and we'd play catch for an hour. Then back to the machine. Until dinner. If he was enjoying himself a lot, or had a deadline, he would go back to the machine and write until nine, ten at night. If he didn't have a book or story to write, he'd knock out essays or spend the day writing letters. Hundreds of thousands of letters.

He did this five or six days a week for something like fifty years. The result was not always literature, but sometimes it was. Whatever the case it was always readable and never, ever dull. In this way he wrote around 200 novels, of which at least 170 of them saw print in his lifetime (I counted the ones on the shelf this afternoon.)

We all have different processes, obviously. I read recently that Graham Greene wrote 500 words a day and then stopped. (I think the number was 500. At any rate it an arbitrary number of words.) In the documentary "Comedian", Seinfeld says that he used to write only in the mornings, until one day he saw a bunch of construction workers at lunch, and thought, "If they can bear to go back to work after lunch, I should be able to do it, too..."

I'm not making a point here, just telling a story about a certain style of work. I'm certainly not capable of it. Too many distractions, too much dithering, and wondering and internet surfing. But it seems like something to aspire towards. If you really do love it. My dad had no patience with writers who agonized over process. He always said, "why would you want to do something you don't enjoy?" I've had blocks, certainly, but when I'm cruising along at top speed, I know what he meant. I try to remember, in the low moments, how much I enjoy sitting at the machine and bashing ahead and spinning out the new stuff. The times when you almost can't type fast enough to get it all down and it all seems fantastic and you're proud of it. I'm willing to endure the foggy times and the procrastination-driven self-loathing because all that is temporary; it's nothing. It always passes, and suddenly it's easy. I slip into the groove and what follows is the sheer joy of racing forward happily, that satisfaction and contentment which is completely unique to writing.

I love that feeling, and it comes readily, like the way the body adjusts quickly to the temperature of a swimming pool. There's always the shock of diving in, but then you pop up and spit out a little clorine and brush the hair out of your eyes and it's all fine. Suddenly something that was cold and harsh and literally hurt you feels warm and soothing and utterly comforting.

So that's why I do it; at least it's one strong reason.

Why do you do it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Burn, Baby, Burn

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Sure, we know you're a master of the sci-fi, action-adventure, detective/spy, kick-boxing and softcore pornography genres... but where's the comedy? Make us laugh, monkey!" I can't say whereas I like your attitude... but fair enough. Ifilm has just put up my new film "The Making of Burn, Baby, Burn". "New" meaning "I made it three years ago but I'm too pathologically lazy to promote anything so it just sat around". Here's the link:

This film was written by and stars the brilliant Maggie Rowe. After you see this film, you're going to want to write your congressperson and say, "We need more Maggie Rowe." I can tell you that this film is great without an ounce of my trademark egomania, because it's not me: it's all Maggie. I'm just the guy who pointed the camera at her.

Maggie's costar is the very funny Craig Anstett. Mark Morris, my strong right arm, was the cinematographer. (Okay, so Mark pointed the camera at her, not me. But I told Mark where to put the camera, and that's gotta count for something. Also they let me yell "action" and "cut", which is always nice.) The hilarious title song is by Amy Mikel, who broke all our hearts by leaving Los Angeles.

It's under ten minutes long. Go watch. Enjoy.

(By the way, all the blog titles on this page are links -- including the "Burn, Baby, Burn" atop this paragraph. Click on the titles and they'll take you to the page discussed in the body of the blog. Sooooo fancy.)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Citizen Carl

One deadly night at the Dresden Room, one particularly dreary awful night, I was slumping my way to the exit when I felt a firm grip on my shoulder. I turned to see Carl Ferraro, the Dresden's owner, manager, Godfather. All ninety-some years of him, still trim and natty in a herringbone blazer. And Carl spake, saying, "Keep swingin', baby." And lo, my spirits were lifted. And I went forth, and kept swinging.

Over the years, Carl and I became good friends. After my dad died it was nice to have another old codger around who'd call me "boy". On his way out the door he'd clap me on the back and say, "I'm going home. You're in charge, my boy." This made him laugh. The first time he said it was the first time I consciously thought "I come here waaaaaaay too much."

By now you see where this is going.

Carl was an ornery old cuss, but sheer obstinacy alone can only hold off the reaper for so long. He's gone wherever great saloon keepers go, and to paraphrase Kipling, I'd take a swig in Hell from Carl Ferraro. Until that time I'll just have to keep swingin',

Saturday, December 04, 2004

To Begin With

My father once said, "A man's ambition must be small, to write his name on the craphouse wall." Perhaps he was quoting, but the man was an inveterate aphorist, so it might have been an original. Either way, I'm not entirely convinced that the Blogsphere isn't just all scribbling on the htmlatrine walls.

Once I'm converted to this new form of expression, I'm quite sure I'll make with the angry political rants and cookie recipes just like everyone else. For now I'd like to direct your attention to the center ring, for a different form of expression...