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Take me home!

Austin Kleon, of Newspaper Blackout fame, gives you permission to steal. He also tells you what’s good stealing and what’s stupid stealing. Also, why you’re stealing even if you don’t know you’re stealing. And, importantly, how to get out of your own way while stealing. In Steal Like an Artist, a tiny adorable book with lots o’ drawings, Kleon shares maxims, tips, quotes, anecdotes, rules… inspirations(!) for the creative person.  For those who need permission to screw up and write/paint/dream/grow/      insert creative verb here      drivel before they produce the masterpiece each of us is capable of (it’s okay, even I can’t tell if I’m being ironic here.)

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Here’s Ray Bradbury in 2008  for The Big Read, presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. Definitely worth eight minutes out of your life.

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The Guardian, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, asked some authors for theirs. Here’s Geoff Dyer’s list. Click here for the rest.

1 Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over – or not. Conversation with my American publisher. Me: “I’m writing a book so boring, of such limited commercial appeal, that if you publish it, it will probably cost you your job.” Publisher: “That’s exactly what makes me want to stay in my job.”

2 Don’t write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés . . . Since then I’ve developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.

3 Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.

4 If you use a computer, constantly refine and expand your autocorrect settings. The only reason I stay loyal to my piece-of-shit computer is that I have invested so much ingenuity into building one of the great auto­correct files in literary history. Perfectly formed and spelt words emerge from a few brief keystrokes: “Niet” becomes “Nietzsche”, “phoy” becomes  ­”photography” and so on. ­Genius!

5 Keep a diary. The biggest regret of my writing life is that I have never kept a journal or a diary.

6 Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.

7 Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I ­always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.

8 Beware of clichés. Not just the ­clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are ­clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.

9 Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.

10 Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to per­severance. But writing is all about ­perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of ­going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of ­postponing the day when I won’t do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.

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From a section titled Daily Program:

Mornings: If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

Evenings: See friends. Read in cafes.

Explore unfamiliar sections- on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.

Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.

Paint if empty or tired.

Make Notes. Make charts, plans. Make corrections of MS.

Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride…

Henry Miller’s Commandment #5:

When you can’t create you can work.

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Did you know that the most creative companies have centralized bathrooms? That brainstorming meetings are a terrible idea? That the color blue can help you double your creative output?

I didn’t. But I do now, because I read this book. And today I am one book smarter than I was two days ago. What is smart, anyway? This book answers that question, too. Pretty good book,  wouldn’t you say?

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In conclusion, watch this. Ideas are such funny little guys.

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Filed under Bits and Bobs, Book Recommendations

a bit of whimsy and some coincidence

One of the best things about working in a bookstore like ours is that it’s a place where surprises occur, serendipity happens, you read a book about a culture you previously knew nothing about and all of a sudden you’re in conversation with someone seemingly right out of the book… It’s amazing, really.

It was one of those quiet, chilly nights here at the bookstore.  I looked up to see an elderly couple coming through the door from the cafe.  The gentleman had on a grandpa sweater with no idea that it is considered a fashion item among young women today.  He wore his sweater with disregard for anything but its warmth and coziness, and it looked as if it had served him well for many years.  They both had an air about them that brought to mind farms and countrysides in a time gone by.  I greeted them and he nodded and she smiled a smile that warmed the entire bookstore. I watched as she examined many of our pretty antiques and then her eyes found our little silver vases.  She called her husband over and spoke excitedly in a language I couldn’t place. She showed him the vases, and there was more conversation and nodding, and shrugging on his part.

Soon they were both at the counter, with five of the vases, and she said to me, “Which do you like best?”  We discussed where it was going to be placed in her house and what she would be using it for, as a bud vase or just decoration.  She assessed the height of each vase and then pointed to one and said, “Perhaps this one is too serious, a small vase should not take itself so seriously. And this one,”  she pointed to another, “is perhaps too fragile-looking.  I like things to be sturdy, right?” She winked at me.  She held a third vase in her hand.  “Now this one, I believe it to have whimsy, I think whimsy is a good thing in a vase, don’t you?”  Her husband and I agreed.

At this point I was completely charmed by them and asked where they were from and if they were visiting L.A.  She said, “Romania.  Do you know Romania?”  I said I had never been there, nor had I ever met anyone from there… but I am currently enamored with literature from Eastern Europe and how cool that you’re here! She laughed and said, “Well, now you know a couple of Romanians!”  I said, “If all Romanians are as nice as you are I will definitely have to visit that country.”   She blushed a bit at the compliment. They continued to discuss the pros and cons of each vase and then their conversation drifted to their grandchildren.  They were in Los Angeles to visit their three grandchildren and were thinking of moving here to be close to them, as they miss them so much when back home. She asked if I had any grandchildren, and as they paid for two vases that were deemed to have enough whimsy, she added,  “Children and grandchildren are the money we have. That money is better than money.”  I thought about it for a minute and told her she was absolutely right.

Two of my favorites:

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon, is a National Book Award Finalist.  It tells parallel stories, one based on true events of the murder in Chicago in 1908 of an immigrant, Lazurus Averbuch from Eastern Europe.  The other is a contemporary story of a writer named Brik, also from Eastern Europe, who decides to write about Lazurus and travels to Sarajevo with his friend Rora to do “research”. The writing is original and extraordinary.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is a novel based on true events. During the siege of Sarajevo a cellist plays everyday on a street where twenty two people were killed in a mortar attack.  It is his way of commemorating the killings. Inspite of the danger, he plays at the same time everyday.  He is the link in the story between other survivors and snipers in a city under siege. Extraordinary book, as well.

 

-Donna

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