“But knowing what I don’t want to do doesn’t help me figure out what I do want to do. I could do just about anything if somebody made me. But I don’t have an image of the one thing I really want to do. That’s my problem now. I can’t find the image.”—Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (via afterglowintokyo)
“The interior of our skulls contains a portal to infinity.”—Grant Morrison, “Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Use About Being Human.” (via 0659am)
“It” is that precious quantity which lets you make artwork which is better than good and sometimes “it” allows for work which is truly inspired, but I learned from working on monthly deadlines for Kodansha and Dark Horse, you couldn’t depend on “it”. It was capricious and wispy, disappearing for periods of time, sometimes only half returning, or returning for only half as long as you want it. It’s also a problem to have to create work on deadlines without “it”. That is a killer. Too much of that kind of thing will beat you into a peculiar kind of self-loathing, hard to describe, but which makes your face in the mirror unbearable for yourself to look at. But you can get “it” to come and stay with you when you have great discipline and work hard without distractions. This is why I like working for three days straight. Those first few pages of Escape are pure “it.” And that set the standard I had to follow, which meant to keep on working until “it” came back, which “it” always does eventually. When I’m most discouraged and begin thinking I have no talent at all, I recognize that as the lowest point of the process of making art and ride it out. Looking back on Kirby’s work, or Toth’s, they seemed to always have “it,” even in their obvious mistakes and their sloppy work. I get mad at myself, then, for the vain luxury of complaint. You have no excuse, I say, or something in me says. You live in a part of the world where you can do just about anything you want. Not everything but anything. No one is firing mortar shells at your block. There are no attack dogs, no mustard gases are ruining you. No one is poaching you for your tusks. You’ve got no excuse.
So I try brewing coffee, then change the music on the CD player. Nothing helps. So I leave my place. I don’t do my laundry, which is dirty and shoved into a narrow crevice in my closet. I don’t do my dishes, dirty and uneven and even dusty in the sink. I don’t pay the bills, their eternally replenishing stack by the mailslot. I don’t put gas in my car, which is always on empty. Instead, then, as I do now, when the deadline stress is too great, I wait until I’m hungry, then go eat Indian food. That day, I called Scott and we went to this place called Taj Mahal to eat Chicken Tikka Masala, spicy, with Nann, no butter. Aloo Matar, and Raita. Mint chutney, too. Lamb Korma, or a sizzling Tandoori platter. Or spicy curry chicken. And Chai or a King Fisher, or a Flying Horse. No dessert. Not long after he and I started working together, we established this custom of eating a big Indian dinner as we were about to enter a serious deadline period. This ritual is intended to brace you for the hard week ahead, and let you celebrate it, too. After all, deadlines are part of this lifestyle, take it or leave it. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. And if you sometimes take a week, or even two, off and do absolutely nothing, you only really steal it from some other week yet to come, and regardless, every third or fourth week seems to be this sleepless, fitful, awful deadline time, with fifteen hour a day work weeks. And you must learn to love this. It’s your lot, your wife, your price. You must love this stress and learn how to burn with it, not to be burnt by it, otherwise it is a miserable servitude without much recompense. This is your garden, now cultivate it.
-Paul Pope, from the intro to THB Circus (1997).
Also remember that Pope said, in his “In the Studio” essay from PulpHope that “You simply can’t only work when you feel inspired… You can’t always rely on the caffeine or the juice in the iPod. You can’t afford to only work when you feel “it”. I learned early on, you can’t rely on “it” to get you out of a mess.”
“Not writing is the lonely thing. Not writing creates self-obsession. Self-obsession blocks connection with others. Self-obsession blocks connection with the self. Writing is like looking at an inner compass.”—Julia Cameron, The Right to Write
“I am going to be rather hard-nosed and say that if you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you’re writing. And, if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn’t flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work. Nobody ever said it was easy. What they said is: “Life is short, art is long.”—Ursula K. Le Guin (via writingquotes)
Discovered Ursula K. Le Guin today. So thrilled to find more female science-fiction writers
They pack their worries,
Head for the parking lot
The pavement crawling
Mirage of a green sunrise
A funhouse mirror
10,000 things await within
Caramel corn pebbles
A fountain of carbonated sugar water
Statue of a mouse
They clutch their tickets
Ice skates sawing across black asphalt
No helmet to protect their brains from bone
A backpack full of breadcrumbs
A carnival macabre
beyond the gates
Made of discarded wishes
I’ve been there before
The air is thin
And the junk food
Tastes like meth-smoke/
Let me in.
Conan O’Brien has talked about how comedians try to emulate their heroes, fall short, and end up doing their own thing. Johnny Carson tried to be Jack Benny but ended up Johnny Carson. David Letterman tried to copy Johnny Carson but ended up David Letterman. And Conan O’Brien tried to be David Letterman but ended up Conan O’Brien.
In O’Brien’s words, ‘It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.’ Thank goodness.
A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve.
So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.