I’ve read his Alien adaptation with Walter Simonson, sent to me by the very kind martialartsmaven, but I’m looking for more to read.
What would you recommend?
Dave Eggers takes his sketchbook to Game 1 of the World Series, posted by austinkleon.
I’m definitely going to copy this.
These people at Mohegan Sun were not even drunk; they were dancing in front of the stage, mostly sober—had I ever known anyone who could or would dance sober? I was still in the back, by the bar, but I was jumping up and down, and the rest of the bar was jumping up and down, everyone’s face positively stupid. And it occurred to me then that fun is only fun when’s stupid. That there is no joy without stupidity, without abandon, without judgment—that music is best enjoyed in this stupid way, in a stupid place like this, with people you love holding stupid tambourines and playing with strangers amid strangers, who are dancing around to a song about spaceship-people building municipalities without permits or city planners but with pop songs. — Dave Eggers in an excerpt from his forthcoming book of travel essays, Visitants. A book that doesn’t seem like it’s going to come out in the US, but I definitely want to read.
I’ve been to Mohegan Sun. I found the place to be a den of sadness. Generally, that’s my reaction to strip clubs and casinos. I had a poorly cooked hamburger there.
Doing the thing, talking to groups in film class. Photo by Jordan, who came and talked about editing film. I love this class. These guys are going to make some fun movies.
SBU journalism professor pens first novel with encouragement of peer and former students.
I can’t summarize how great and wonderful this is so I’m going to do it in list form.
Media studies has really embraced cultural studies, but having people as a whole think your work is awesome is very different than having a hiring committee, especially one made of people who aren’t necessarily in your field, think that celebrity gossip is worthwhile, if that makes sense. So for me it’s a combination of what I study, but also the way that I write about it—I study something feminized and devalued, and I do a lot of that work on the internet, which is still considered to be not “real” scholarship. I was always doing “real” scholarship alongside this internet work—I’ve published eight peer-reviewed articles—but if my time on the market is to be believed, it simply didn’t matter. Same with my book: because I got paid to write it, and because it’s with Plume/Penguin instead of a university press, it’s not legit. —
Anne Helen Petersen about leaving academia for Buzzfeed, at the Hairpin.
I’ve known for some time that my work, and the sort of audience I love writing for, is not a very good fit for academia, but I thought that I could wedge/force/hipcheck my way into a position that would reconcile the type of work that I wanted to do with the teaching that I love. But as a friend of mine said amidst her time on the market, “academia is drunk”—not belligerent or irresponsible so much single-sightedly focused on things that may or may not ultimately matter.
In other words, no one wanted to hire me! I want to be super explicit about that because I think people will assume that because of all the writing I do, both on and off the internet, that I somehow had some cornucopia of choices and was like “show me the money.” OH MAN I WISH. I get so much satisfaction from teaching, but there was no way to keep doing so—and continue the writing I find fulfilling—and make a sustainable salary. BuzzFeed gives me the platform and support to do the type of writing (and reach the type of audiences) that I love, but can also provide me with a living wage.
I wonder about this sort of thing. I don’t consider myself an academic but the fears shown in this interview mirror my own. My field is English with a focus on cultural and media studies. The chances are not good that I’ll have a secure job as an English professor. That means publishing regularly, getting a Ph.D, and being extremely lucky. I’m not sure that’s a thing worth engaging in at thirty-three. The other day, a colleague who has been teaching at the college for over thirty years says there isn’t a focus on a narrow field of study, professors teach many classes that are not what they have their graduate degree in. He teaches English, ethics, and permaculture. Next semester, I’m teaching an interdisciplinary course, composition, and a comics studies class. I’m not really sure what to think, but I guess I should have a more open mind on my options, because I’m not sure what I would do professionally if my day job wasn’t being a teacher. I don’t really want to have anything else be my day job. Well, being full time novelist would be fine, but I’d say that’s a long shot, and not something to count on.
I read Friends With Boys by faitherinhicks two nights ago and thought it was delightful. At its heart it’s about family and since I’m in a nesting lifestyle right now I’m enjoying reading about such things. I loved every page of it, right down to the ghost/mother metaphor and Hicks style that reminds me of buddy Nikki Cook, and Bryan Lee O’Malley.
I loved this first page, and you should check it out at the book’s website: Friends With Boys.
Teach What You Know - Show Your Work! Poster by austinkleon.
I’ve been sort of obsessed with this for the last couple of weeks. I talk about comics frequently , but I always respond to the question “Do you draw?” with a quick and resounding “NO!”—I couldn’t draw to save my life. I’ve made a resolution to start drawing more. Simple things: words with pictures, visual note-taking, so I’m copying Kleon to build my confidence. I’ll move on, and look at Lynda Barry, David Aja, and others, just to get out of my text-filled headspace.
I’ve studied the form of comics for years—I believe that the medium builds better retention and memory, but I do not engage in the drawing aspect of it. Because I believe that I should not draw. Resulting in narrow approach to understanding comics, because I approach it from a writer’s perspective. That is only doing half the job. The way I started writing, by reverse-engineering a Mark Waid Flash comic into prose, makes my base on writing a visual enterprise. I have no aspirations to be a comic artist, that’s not my wheelhouse, but doing it for fun, to get better, is something I think I should do. Why not?
I had Show Your Work pre-ordered forever ago, because I see quite a bit of myself in the work Kleon does. Championing books, combining words with pictures, and talking about process is some of my mine—and his—favorite things. I’m more comfortable with taking pictures and combining them with words than drawing. I see his simple and elegant drawings as something that is not much of a stretch for me artistically.
“ ‘If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas and contributing ideas.’ Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.” (11)
This is why I’m not that afraid to admit that I’m copying him and gearing my online presence to be about showing my work, because this is what I’ve been doing all along. I want to try experimenting in my plethora of notebooks, doing more visual things. Like collages.
I feel like I fail all the time—in fact I call myself an amateur at most things. “Amateurs might lack formal training, but they’re all lifelong learners, and they make a point of learning in the open, so that others can learn from their failures and successes.” (16) I’m an enthusiast, I enjoy things and I enjoy getting better as a person and writer, and that means screwing up all the time.
“If you want people to know what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.” (43). Taking photos of my work is what I use Instagram for, it’s filled with things I’m reading, including my writing drafts, followed by a diversion into scenery, because I love where I live and it’s often inspiring and breathtaking.
Kleon’s advice on the internet is also helpful, setting a timer for how much time you spend on it is useful. It’s something I’ve been working very hard on since the end of last semester to make the most of my time and not fall down a rabbit hole. This is why I’ve left my Feedly un-monitored. I’ve been setting a timer for how long I work on something before my mind wanders.
Lauren Cerand’s quote is also great: “Post as though everyone who can read it has the power to fire you.” Professor Viscusi once told me that you should behave in a way that when the New York Times does a profile on you there’s nothing in it that makes you squirm. The best way to execute this is maintaining your own space.
“Your domain name is your domain. You don’t have to make compromises. Build a good domain name, keep it clean, and eventually it will be its own currency.” (69) He’s echoing William Burroughs’s advice to Patti Smith. Though I find Smith to be insufferable, it’s the reason why I registered my blog as davidpress.net. I’m going to take this year to learn some web design and coding to make this place my online home. Frank Chimero is doing this, another person Kleon linked to.
This place is about things I enjoy, that fuel my work, and talk about things like this book. My personal life isn’t a thing I care to talk about here. I’d rather that bleed into my stories, my life is my work, and the personal side of things doesn’t matter. I’m too old for navel-gazing lifeblogging. It’s time to grow up. (He says though a few posts down one will find a panel from a comic book.)
Jonathan Lethem: “ ‘I’m basically a curator…Making books has always felt very connected to my bookselling experience, that of wanting to draw people’s attention to things that I liked, to shape things that I liked into new shapes.’ Lethem is someone I’m studying for my long-gestating analysis on how comic books have affected modern literature. A section of this project will revolve around Lethem, his book The Fortress of Solitude, and his reboot of Omega the Unknown.
The bit about credit is always due (85) is a thing I’m going to talk about this week in English. Teaching what I know has been my daily life for the last two years. I’m going to use the heck out of this in my classes. In fact I’m thinking about teaching this book next semester in first year seminar.
“Every client presentation, every personal essay, every cover letter, every fund-raising request—they’re all pitches. They’re stories with the endings chopped off. A good pitch is set up in three acts: The first act is the past, the second act is the present, and the third act is the future. The first act is where you’ve been—what you want, how you came to want it, and what you’ve done so far to get it. The second act is where you are now in your work and how you’ve worked hard and used up most of your resources. The third act is where you’re going, and how exactly the person you’re pitching can help you get there. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, this story shape effectively turns your listener into the hero who gets to decide how it ends.” (101)
This is the best advice yet, and something I didn’t wrap my brain around until yesterday.
Gustav Freytag’s pyramid of a five-act structure is also something that I’m using in my film class.
Though perhaps the biggest thing, the greatest lesson that I took from in this book is the concept of human spam. Kleon quotes Dan Chaon, someone to whom I’ve been meaning to read:
“The writing community is full of lame-o people who want to be published in journals even though they don’t read the magazines that they want to be published in. These people deserve the rejections that they will undoubtedly receive, and no one should feel sorry for them when they cry about how they can’t get anyone to accept their stories.
“I call these people human spam. They’re everywhere, and they exist in every profession. They don’t want to pay their dues, they want their piece right here, right now. They don’t want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs. They don’t want to go to shows, but they thrust flyers at you on the sidewalk and scream at you to come to theirs. You should feel pity for these people and their delusions. At some point, they don’t get the memo that the world owes none of us anything.”
I love this. In academia I see these sorts of people all the time and I spend most of my time trying to not come off like them. This is why this blog is about other people’s work rather than my own, other people’s creative efforts enrich me. As a teacher, I think the people who come to me for help are co-conspirators I’m helping them out and they’re helping me get better at my job, because teaching what I know is rewarding and helps me get outside of my head-shaped box.
Finally, the concept of chain smoking is something I’m doing now.
“You avoid stalling out in your career by never losing momentum. Here’s how you do it: instead of taking a break in between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next, use the end of one project to light up the next one. Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could’ve done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project.” (189)
I’ve been doing that with my fiction writing lately. If I feel myself stalling out on the next segment of the story, I switch to another story I’m working on—like a piece for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I’ll return to the piece of fiction I come at it with a new editorial perspective, because I have some distance from it. This is why I have many projects going at the same time—will I finish any of them? Staggering these projects, chain smoking off of them provides distance for re-writing.
Exercising, reading, making time away from the desk refuels me. Going away so you can come back, helps you come back to the work with a fresh head. This is why I cut off work in the evening, I use that time to make sure I get my daily word count in on my manuscript, and then I watch a show and start reading. That refuels me to begin again the next day.
tl;dr: I highly recommend this book. Kleon’s work is probably the only self-help books I’ll read and re-read, because they help me focus on what is important. Doing good work helps me have a healthy more meaningful life, and my personal life is the best it’s ever been as a result.