Proust Questionnaire.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige

For a while now I quote David Bowie from his answers to Marcel Proust’s Vanity Fair questionnaire.

“What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Living in fear.”

So I thought in these times, where it seems like everyone is home, a good old questionnaire would be worth it. I’d love to see anyone else’s responses to these questions in the comments.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Reading and writing near a view of some water or woods.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Cutting people off by finishing their sentences and intending better but having a totally different impact.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being a morning person and being a dad.

What is your greatest fear?
Becoming a victim to my brain and my all or nothing way of going through life.

What historical figure do you most identify with?
John Hughes.

Which living person do you most admire?
No one.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Writers who publish books and novels and comics. Really all writers.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Making excuses, blaming others, complaining, and becoming a victim.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is your favorite journey?

The drive to Lake Placid. Especially just before the Glens Falls exit where you can see Six Flags and a mountain I don’t even know the name of, but I’ve always called that part of the road: “The Entrance.”

But really when I pull off Exit 30 and drive through Keene, Keene Valley, Cascade Lake and Mountain, and past the ski jumps into Lake Placid.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
Seriously, any adverb really.

What is your greatest regret?
Resisting admitting that I’m not neurotypical.

What is your current state of mind?
Creative; apologetic. Always.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
That we didn’t talk over each other. What can you do? We’re Italian, Jewish, and New Yorkers—that’s like saying no to a bagel—it’s simply not in our DNA.

What is your most treasured possession?
Notebooks and journals.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I’m going to go with what David Bowie said to this question: “Living in fear,” but adding of letting my family down and being given the pink slip by them and being homeless.

Where would you like to live?
Somewhere that is near the splendor of the Adirondacks but not nearly as far from a major city. Honestly, somewhere like Ellicottville, NY and close to Buffalo.

What is your favorite occupation?
Typing on a typewriter.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Radical transparency.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Not afraid to drink dark beer and bourbon. I found her.

What are your favorite names?
My kids’ names.

What is your motto?
Fatahmaha. (Inside joke.)


QUESTION: What do you do for fun?
ANSWER: I write for fun because it allows me to keep playing with my imaginary friends.
QUESTION: Do you do this with someone? Do you collaborate with people?
ANSWER: At my root I’m a comic book writer so yeah my process is pretty collaborative, usually before beginning any story I spend a lot of time talking to myself (which my mom used to say makes me look crazy, but I would just respond with “I’m rehearsing dialogue,” which is true.), then free writing in a scrapbook, creating a rough outline in my journal, then writing into a Scrivener project.
But most of all, I like writing as a solitary experience. Humans are social animals and unlike some writers who like to say they’re hermits and anti-social (I’m looking at you, Mr. Ellis), I’m not one of those people—I like talking to people and hearing their stories, but like a lot of people there’s only so much socialization I can take. And often I like retreating to my desk and being alone for a couple of hours every day.
QUESTION: Where do you write?
ANSWER: During the week, I stand up at the bar top in my living room/kitchen and type. I like to pace so often I’ll step away from the computer or notebook and pace while I’m thinking out a scene or a plot point. Saturdays and Sundays, during nap time, I do my dirty work upstairs in the bedroom in our condo as that’s the only place in the whole apartment where there can be a desk setup. Sometimes, I follow Nicholson Baker’s example and write in my car when I need a break. I need to be alone without distraction.
QUESTION: When do you write?
ANSWER: Early in the morning, because I’m a swimmer.
QUESTION: Why do you write?
ANSWER: This is probably the most important question of all and it’s something every person who writes and wants to do it professionally should know their answer. It also helps to ask Why five times to get at a truth. The first Why is I believe I’m meant to tell stories and meant to help people tell theirs. Sometimes those stories are of people who are not real, but are they actually not real? Given multiple earth theory, don’t you think that somewhere out there your characters are alive and well and walking around like you and me?
But why do you feel like you’re meant to tell stories? Chris Claremont said on the Beginnings Podcast a while back, “If I don’t write, I don’t breathe. If I don’t breathe, I don’t live.” This is true for me too. It’s something I’ve done for so long that it’s a part of my operating system. I get anxious without a notebook on me when I’m out. I’m trying to break out of that, to be a little more intuitive rather than use it as a crutch, as a distraction from paying attention to the world around me, but I’m not that good about it yet.
Now why do I use notebooks as a crutch? Sometimes, in the moment of something anxiety producing, stressful, or otherwise scary, I’ll retreat to the notebook to figure out what to think about the thing that is causing me angst. Other times, I’ll use it to write something down when I should be paying attention to—I dunno—my son running his scooter out into the street in our neighborhood. I should be paying attention to something like that rather than face first into my notebook writing stuff down. So I’m trying to write down details all the time when I find sometimes letting go of the notebook allows my brain to do subconscious work and if it’s good enough and I want to remember it, my mind just will. But sometimes I’ll leave a note to myself in an Evernote file.
But why Evernote? Why use a cell-phone? I’m with you. I don’t like using a smartphone and I don’t like using Evernote because it uses people’s notes to sell services and spies on others. But I have an Android phone so I can’t use Bear, despite wanting to. At the same time, you don’t have to charge or have an internet connection to use a notebook.
Why are you so neurotic about this? Not every thought you have will be worth writing down. That’s true, and probably the reason why I’m trying to step away from taking a notebook with me everywhere is to get over some of those neurosis (neurosi?), and be present with my life for a second.
QUESTION: How do you write?
ANSWER: With pen and paper, computer for as little time as possible, then pen and paper again.