Entries from March 2011

Baldessari: Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell

Baldessari - Tips for Artists

Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell
John Baldessari (American, b. 1931)
Acrylic on canvas. 68 x 56½ in.

Categories: Art    Tags: ·

New York, 1964

André Kertész – Untitled (woman sunbathing on roof reading), September 21, 1964

Untitled (woman sunbathing on roof reading), September 21, 1964
André Kertész


Categories: Books · Photography    Tags: ·

What information consumes

In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.

Economist Herbert Simon, 1971

Categories: Internet · Productivity    Tags:

Bird vs. Magic

If you’re a hoop fan of [cough] a certain age, this HBO documentary on Magic and Bird is great. You can watch it on YouTube for now, beginning here. Do it soon, before they take it down.

Categories: Sports    Tags: · · ·

Photo of the Day

Men in Hats Watching the Sky (BBC)


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What Creativity Means

Everything Is a Remix

Creativity is not about making something out of nothing. It is about making something new out of old things. When we say that an artist creates, what we mean is that he refines, reshapes, remixes. He synthesizes. I am not creative, in the sense that I have no ability to manufacture novels out of thin air. I am an exceptional remixer.

Lately, desperate to get my new novel started, I have been suffering from a wrongheaded dread of influence, formula, and topicality, when in truth these are the very things I should be looking to. I have been suffering from a lack of input, starving the creative machine of fuel — ideas — then wondering why the engine will not start.

Wannabe writers ask, “Is there a book in me?,” then lose themselves in introspection, like a dog chasing its own tail. It is the wrong question. Look outward.

Image: Kirby Ferguson – “Everything Is a Remix.”

Categories: Creativity · Writing    Tags: ·

Quote of the Day

I can quite understand people wanting to know my writings, but I cannot sympathise with anybody wanting to know me.

Vladimir Nabokov, who “despised the idea of the author as celebrity” (via)

Categories: Books · Writers    Tags: ·

Sunday poem: “Tonight I Can Write” by Pablo Neruda

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, “The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.”

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.

I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.

And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is starry and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.

My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.

My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees.

We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tries to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms

my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer

and these the last verses that I write for her.


(Translated by W.S. Merwin. From Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, first published in 1924, when the poet was about 20 years old. Via.)

Categories: Poetry    Tags: · ·


Jaws, 1st ed.

Jaws, first edition, 1974. (via)

Categories: Books    Tags: ·

The price of coal


“For every person killed by nuclear power generation, 4,000 die due to coal, adjusted for the same amount of power produced.”

— Seth Godin, The Triumph of Coal Marketing

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: · ·


More blurbs continue to roll in for Defending Jacob. I won’t reprint them all here. I hate to turn this blog into an endless infomercial for my books. But if you’re curious, I put together a page to gather up the advance praise — read: blurbs — for the book. My sincere thanks to the authors who chimed in recently, Chevy Stevens, Stephen Frey and John Lutz, as well as the earlier contributors, Phillip Margolin, Lisa Gardner and Nicholas Sparks.

Categories: My Books    Tags:

Seth Godin: Ten Bestsellers

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 2.40.57 PM

This video is not new. It is Seth Godin’s presentation at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in February 2008. But I loved it at the time and still do. It is one of the few discussions of the digital publishing revolution that get me excited about the future rather than just scaring the hell out of me. Godin is a great speaker, self-promoter, and motivator, but there’s plenty of ideas here for ordinary mortals, too.

I recommended the video to a writer-friend today who is gearing up to promote his book, then I had trouble tracking it down on the web, mostly because I could not remember the name of it. So here it is, John: “10 Bestsellers: Using New Media, New Marketing, and New Thinking to Create 10 Bestselling Books.” Enjoy.

Categories: Books · Publishing    Tags: · · ·

How to Balance Work and Family

Nigel Marsh: How to Balance Work and Family

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: ·

Quote of the Day

I thought of myself as a writer for years before I got around to writing anything.

E. L. Doctorow

Me too.

Categories: Writing    Tags: ·

Pale Blue Dot


Earth — the tiny blue dot about halfway down the shaft of light on the right — as seen from the Voyager 1 in 1990, at a distance of nearly 4 billion miles. Via.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Carl Sagan

Categories: Odds & Ends    Tags: ·

Calvino: And then something happens

Every morning I tell myself, Today has to be productive—and then something happens that prevents me from writing.

Italo Calvino (via theparisreview)

Categories: Writing    Tags: ·

The Five Commandments

The last couple of weeks I’ve been cleaning up a few final details for my last novel and trying — futilely — to get the next one started. How, exactly, do you start writing a novel? Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve been spending my days writing and unwriting the same few sentences, kneading the same few barren ideas in the hope they will yield something new — a character, a scene. So far, nothing.

Of course, the initial stages of a new project are always hard. There is nothing to work with, just a few very vague concepts and reams and reams of blank pages. Big deal, right? I’ve been here before. I know how the process works. I know this period is going to suck. I expect it to suck. The trouble is, well, it has sucked.

It is an intractable fact of the writing life: a writer who stops writing for any reason is vulnerable to all sorts of infection. Laziness. Time-wasting. Loss of confidence. Now a new peril: impostor syndrome, as the rave reviews for my just-completed novel increasingly diverge from the endless fail-loop of my workdays, and the disconnect between hype and reality becomes harder and harder to ignore.

Enough is enough. Herewith, a reminder to myself of some basic rules. They aren’t really commandments; in fact, they may not work for other writers at all. And there aren’t even ten. But they’re important enough to me to recite them here, again. (If you’ve been reading this blog awhile, you’ve probably run across these ideas in bits and pieces.) These are the things I tend to forget when I fall into an unproductive rut in the beginning stages of a novel, as I have now.

Continue reading →

Categories: Creativity · Writing    Tags: ·

What good shall I do this day?

Franklin's schedule

Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule — “What good shall I do this day?” (Source: Nick Bilton. Via swissmiss.)

Categories: Productivity    Tags:

Madison Square Garden, 1951

College basketball 1951

St. John’s vs. Bradley at Madison Square Garden, January 1, 1951. (Source, via.) It’s tournament time.

Categories: Sports    Tags:

California, 1936

Dorothea Lange - Daughter of Migrant Tennessee Coal Miner

Daughter of Migrant Tennessee Coal Miner Living in American River Camp near Sacramento, California. Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1936.

Categories: Photography    Tags: ·