Writers

  • Daily Routines of Great People

    ERIK SATIE

     

    On most mornings after he moved to Arcueil, Satie would return to Paris on foot, a distance of about ten kilometres, stopping frequently at his favourite cafés on route. Accoring to Templier, "he walked slowly, taking small steps, his umbrella held tight under his arm. When talking he would stop, bend one knee a little, adjust his pince-nez and place his fist on his lap. The we would take off once more with small deliberate steps."

    When he eventually reached Paris he visited friends, or arranged to meet them in other cafés by sending pneumatiques. Often the walking from place to place continued, focussing on Montmarte before the war, and subsequently on Montparnasse. From here, Satie would catch the last train back to Arcueil at about 1.00am, or, if he was still engaged in serious drinking, he would miss the train and begin the long walk home during the early hours of the morning. Then the daily round would begin again.

    Roger Shattuck, in conversations with John Cage in 1982, put forward the interesting theory that "the source of Satie's sense of musical beat--the possibility of variation within repetition, the effect of boredom on the organism--may be this endless walking back and forth across the same landscape day after day . . . the total observation of a very limited and narrow environment." During his walks, Satie was also observed stopping to jot down ideas by the light of the street lamps he passed.
     

    GERHARD RICHTER

     

    He sticks to a strict routine, waking at 6:15 every morning. He makes breakfast for his family, takes Ella to school at 7:20 and is in the studio by 8. At 1 o'clock, he crosses the garden from the studio back to the house. The grass in the garden is uncut. Richter proudly points this out, to show that even it is a matter of his choosing, not by chance. At 1 o'clock, he eats lunch in the dining room, alone. A housekeeper lays out the same meal for him each day: yogurt, tomatoes, bread, olive oil and chamomile tea.

    After lunch, Richter returns to his studio to work into the evening. ''I have always been structured,'' he explains. ''What has changed is the proportions. Now it is eight hours of paperwork and one of painting.'' He claims to waste time -- on the house, the garden -- although this is hard to believe. ''I go to the studio every day, but I don't paint every day. I love playing with my architectural models. I love making plans. I could spend my life arranging things. Weeks go by, and I don't paint until finally I can't stand it any longer. I get fed up. I almost don't want to talk about it, because I don't want to become self-conscious about it, but perhaps I create these little crises as a kind of a secret strategy to push myself. It is a danger to wait around for an idea to occur to you. You have to find the idea.'' As he talks, I notice a single drop of paint on the floor beneath one of his abstract pictures, the only thing out of place in the studio.
     

    CHARLES DARWIN

     

    [The following is from Francis Darwin's reminiscences of his father. It summarizes a typical day in Darwin's middle and later years, when he had developed a rigid routine that seldom changed, even when there were visitors in the house.]

    7 a.m.  Rose and took a short walk.
    7:45 a.m.   Breakfast alone
    8–9:30 a.m.   Worked in his study; he considered this his best working time.
    9:30–10:30 a.m.  Went to drawing-room and read his letters, followed by reading aloud of family letters.
    10:30 a.m.  Returned to study, which period he considered the end of his working day.
    12 noon   Walk, starting with visit to greenhouse, then round the sandwalk, the number of times depending on his health, usually alone or with a dog.
    12:45 p.m.   Lunch with whole family, which was his main meal of the day. After lunch read The Times and answered his letters.
    3 p.m.    Rested in his bedroom on the sofa and smoked a cigarette, listened to a novel or other light literature read by ED [Emma Darwin, his wife].
    4 p.m.    Walked, usually round sandwalk, sometimes farther afield and sometimes in company.
    4:30–5:30 p.m.   Worked in study, clearing up matters of the day.
    6 p.m.    Rested again in bedroom with ED reading aloud.
    7.30 p.m.    Light high tea while the family dined. In late years never stayed in the dining room with the men, but retired to the drawing-room with the ladies. If no guests were present, he played two games of backgammon with ED, usually followed by reading to himself, then ED played the piano, followed by reading aloud.
    10 p.m.   Left the drawing-room and usually in bed by 10:30, but slept badly.

    Even when guests were present, half an hour of conversation at a time was all that he could stand, because it exhausted him.
     

    ERNEST HEMINGWAY

     

     

    INTERVIEWER
    Could you say something of this process? When do you work? Do you keep to a strict schedule?

    HEMINGWAY
    When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and you know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.
     

    WILLEM DE KOONING

     

     

    If Elaine [Fried, whom de Kooning married in 1943] found it strange to return directly to work on her wedding day, she never said so. That was the way of life on Twenty-second Street: every woman in de Kooning's life from Nini onward could attest that he was already married to his work. During the time when Elaine was commuting back and forth to Brooklyn, de Kooning's days were devoted to art, and they continued to be so after she moved in permanently. Typically, the couple rose late in the morning. Breakfast consisted mostly of very strong coffee, cut with the milk they kept in winter on a window ledge; they did not have a refrigerator, an appliance that in the early forties was still a luxury. (So was a private phone, which de Kooning would not have until the early sixties.) Then the day's routine began with de Kooning moving to his end of the studio and Elaine to hers. Work was punctuated by more cups of strong coffee, which de Kooning made by boiling the coffee as he had learned to do in Holland, and by many cigarettes. The two stayed at their easels until fairly late, taking a break only to go out for something to eat or to walk up to Times Square to see a movie. Often, however, de Kooning, who hated to stop working, began again after supper and pushed far into the night, leaving Elaine to go to a party or concert. "I remember very often walking by and seeing the lights on and going up," said Marjorie Luyckx. "In those studios, the heat used to go off after five o'clock because they were commercial buildings. Bill would be painting with his hat and coat on. Painting away, and whistling."
     

    ROALD DAHL

     

    Settled into a writing career, he lived on a farm where he raised livestock and bred greyhounds. His routine was to write from 10 A.M. until noon, spend the afternoon tending his animals and return to his writing again from 4 to 6 P.M.

    His writing was far from effortless. He commonly spent six months working on a single short story.

     

    KARL MARX

     

    His mode of living consisted of daily visits to the British Museum reading-room, where he normally remained from nine in the morning until it closed at seven; this was followed by long hours of work at night, accompanied by ceaseless smoking, which from a luxury had become an indispensable anodyne; this affected his health permanently and he became liable to frequent attacks of a disease of the liver sometimes accompanied by boils and an inflammation of the eyes, which interfered with his work, exhausted and irritated him, and interrupted his never certain means of livelihood. "I am plagued like Job, though not so God-fearing," he wrote in 1858.
     

    ROGER EBERT

     

    Morning routine: I usually get up around 7. I make oatmeal in my rice cooker. Then I take an hourlong walk: outside if the weather's good; on my treadmill if it's cold. Then I shower, shave and go to the first of three movies I see on many weekdays.

     

    GARY PANTER

     

    Get up at 7:30 in the morning -- feed cats, drive daughter to school, read the NY Times and drink chocolate milk. Do chores and tasks and try to get time to make art. Make art. Take naps. Before each 5 minute nap I read a page or two. Right now I'm reading Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day. Make art. Go to sleep at 3:00 in the morning.
     

    HARUKI MURAKAMI

     

    When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

     

    via 2 Do Before I Die
    Categories: Writers, Artists, art
  • HOW WE WORK

    Rod Corp has assembled an absolutely amazing collection of the world's best writers, architects, artists, intellectuals, movie makers, musicians and composers and complied a list of quotes of them explaining how they get their job done. Below is are the just a few quotes from the nearly exhaustive list.

    _______________________________________________________________________________

    Milton Glaser

    "You can only work for people that you like
    If you have a choice never have a job
    Some people are toxic avoid them
    Professionalism is not enough or the good is the enemy of the great
    Less is not necessarily more [aka: Just enough is more]
    Style is not to be trusted
    How you live changes your brain
    Doubt is better than certainty
    Solving the problem is more important than being right
    Tell the truth"

     

    Martin Scorsese

    Scorsese is driven to make film; can't write, hates shooting film, loves editing:

    Scorsese enjoys the money and the effects it enables him to create, but not the ensuing commercial pressures that demand films with so little dialogue a Hispanic illegal with six words of English can still follow the plot. "I'm drawn constantly to projects that need a sizeable budget. For that money, what can I give them? Everyone is on a tightrope."

    He admits he became "obsessional" about Gangs of New York in 2002, which went over its $97m budget and lost millions; no other director would have been so indulged. Much as the film world loves "Marty", some will tell you privately he can be a nightmare to work with: "Tinker, tinker, tinker," says one. [...]

    "You say 'I've got to make a film, it's what I do'. And when you make one, you want to be allowed to make a few more." [...]

    There is no hint of retirement, because he is obsessed, just like Hughes [whom his 2004 film The Aviator is about]. "I wish I did know something more than movies so as I could make a living, I wish I could write; I envy Woody Allen that. But I do have an obsession with the actual moving image. I hate shooting, there are too many people on set and too many things can go wrong." But alone in the editing suite is the nearest he feels to life having purpose.

     

    Steve Reich & Philip Glass

    Steve Reich's (and indeed Philip Glass's) music lends itself strongly to a How we work because it has a strong performative and methodological component. But until we dig into that, read this from a 2006 profile and try imagine what music for moving bookcases he and Glass must have hummed together as they humped sideboards up staircases and carried boxes of records for music-loving householders:

    In 1966 Reich moved back to New York, where he got to know Philip Glass. At one point they had a moving company together; Glass also worked as a plumber while Reich drove a cab.

     

       

     

     OSCAR NIEMEYER

     

    Works every single day of the year, including Sundays and Christmas.

     

     

    ARTHUR RIMBAUD

    Notoriously, gave up poetry by the age of nineteen.

     

     

    BILL MURRAY

    Bill Murray has replaced an agent with a freephone number and an insistence upon asynchronous communication. From The Times (link may expire so here we are):

    By definition, Hollywood stars must have agents and publicists. Not Bill Murray. He has never had a publicist and, five years ago, he fired his agents. "I said I didn’t ever want to speak to them again, and I never did," he says. "I like to cut my own lawn now. I don’t need a landscaper."

    Now Murray’s only contact with the film business is through a freephone number. If people need to talk to him - perhaps producers who want him to star in a film - they have to call the number and leave a message. (Of course, they have to find the number first.) If he feels like it, he will call back. Often, he doesn’t. Sometimes, he’ll go for weeks without even listening to the messages. It took Sofia Coppola hundreds of phone calls and seven months to get him to look at the script for Lost in Translation. Even then, she wasn’t sure he was going to make the film until he appeared on the set on the first day of the shoot in Tokyo. Other directors have apparently been told to leave scripts in a phone booth somewhere near his home outside New York, up the Hudson River. On a recent film, a production assistant who needed to contact him was told to call his freephone and leave a number for a phone that she would not pick up, so he could call her back without having to talk to her. Of course, he doesn't see this as strange or eccentric. He likes to be accessible, he says, but on his own terms.

     

     

    DAMIEN HIRST

    Hirst has three assistants working solely on the butterfly pictures - he's Britain's biggest importer.

    Waldemar Januszczak went to visit Hirst's new studio in Lambeth in March 2005, and found him rotating assistants on his new photo-realistic paintings to ensure that the authorial hand remains identifiably his, rather than theirs':

    The new painting studio is the size of a large parish church. Though perhaps taller. Stuck to the walls in a ring, as if by centrifugal force, is an assortment of boiler-suited assistants, carefully dabbing away. That's photorealism for you. It can't be done from a distance. Damien's in a boiler suit too, and takes a bit of spotting. He looks well. A couple of pounds heavier, perhaps. Lots more polar-bear hair in the barnet. But he's still on the wagon, and it is still giving him energy to burn. Usually I would let him gabble at me for a while before turning to his art, because Damien is such an entertaining gabbler. But I simply cannot believe what I see when I enter, and brush past him to take a closer look. Of all the things that this gore-splattered chameleon could have become, becoming a photorealist is perhaps the least likely. [...]

    Damien explains how it works. First he identifies a photograph that he wants to re-create. Then he gets his people to phone up and get permission to use it, while never revealing it's for Damien Hirst. [...] The teams of assistants do most of the bread-and-butter copying — "If it was me I'd paint it monochrome and stick a fag packet in the middle" — and Damien patrols the results, jazzing up this and that: a dab here, a daub there. He's just been working on the blood pouring down from a football hooligan's face and takes me over to inspect his handiwork. He's been adding glazes. Making it look more bloody.

    Don't the assistants get upset when he dabs about with their paintings? Doesn't he sometimes spoil what's there? All the time, he giggles, proudly, but they are not their paintings, they're his. And to ensure this is clear, he swaps the assistants around from picture to picture so nobody is ever responsible for the whole thing. Smart strategy.

     

     

     

    JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER

    Foer's collection of blank sheets of writing paper started by accident: a friend was sorting Isaac Bashevis Singer's belonging for a university archive, and gave the uppermost sheet of Singer's stack of unused typing paper to Foer. The sheet became a mystic writing pad for Foer, a mirror for writing, and the collection followed.

    But I was wrong about the empty page. Or I was wrong about myself. A relationship developed. I found myself thinking about the piece of paper, being moved by it, taking it out of its envelope several times a day, wanting to see it. I had the page framed and put it on my living room wall. Many of the breaks I took from looking at my own empty paper were spent looking at Singer's.

     Looking at what? There were too many things to look at. There were the phantom words that Singer hadn't actually written and would never write, the arrangements of ink that would have turned the most common of all objects--the empty page--into the most valuable: a great work of art. The blank sheet of paper was at once empty and infinite. [...]

    And it was also a mirror. As a young writer--I was then contemplating how to move forward after my first effort--I felt so enthusiastically and agonizingly aware of the blank pages in front of me. How could I fill them? Did I even want to fill them? Was I becoming a writer because I wanted to become a writer or because I was becoming a writer? I stared into the empty pages day after day, looking, like Narcissus, for myself.

    I decided to expand my collection. Singer's paper was not enough, just as Singer's books would not be enough in a library, even if they were your favorites. I wanted to see how other pieces of paper would speak to Singer's and to one another, how the physical differences among them would echo the writers. I wanted to see if the accumulation of emptiness would be greater than the sum of its parts. So I began writing letters to authors--all of whom I admired, only one or two of whom I had ever corresponded with--asking for the next sheet of paper that he or she would have written on.

     

     

     

    JOHN CAGE

    "I think people who are not artists often feel that artists are inspired. But if you work at your art you don't have time to be inspired. Out of the work comes the work."

     


     

     

    ANTHONY BURGESS

    Burgess was prolific, writing six novels in 1960. "I refuse no reasonable offer of work and very few unreasonable ones" he would confess in 1978.

    It's unclear whether this urgency can be attributed to a doctor predicting that a brain tumour left him with (as much as) a year to live:

    After fighting in World War II, he worked for five years as a colonial education officer in Malaya. While he was there, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and a doctor told him he had only one year to live. He later wrote: "I had been granted something I had never had before: a whole year to live. I would not be run over by a bus tomorrow, nor knifed on the Brighton racetrack. I would not choke on a bone. If I fell in the wintry sea I would not drown. I had a whole year, a long time. In that year I had to earn for my prospective widow... I would have to turn myself into a professional writer."

     

     

    JACKSON POLLOCK

    Knocked a wall down in his studio in order to fit in the canvas that would become Mural (1943), for Peggy Guggenheim's apartment. But he didn't commence work on it until 15 hours before it was due to be delivered - "it was a stampede", he would later report.

    When it was delivered, Guggenheim found that it was eight inches too long to fit into the space. On Marcel Duchamp's advise it was chopped down to fit.

     

  • Rene Daumal

     

    La grande beuverie (A Night of Serious Drinking)

    “Words are made for a certain exactness of thought, as tears are for a certain degree of pain. What is least distinct cannot be named; what is clearest is unutterable. “

    “It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content … it must also have a goal and an imperative. Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble and from babble to confusion.”

    “Common experience is the gold reserve which confers an exchange value on the currency which words are; without this reserve of shared experiences, all our pronouncements are cheques drawn on insufficient funds.”

    These are the words of Rene Daumal, spiritualist, poet and inspiration behind Jadorowsky's epic film The Holy Mountain.

     

    René Daumal  was a French spiritual surrealist writer and poet.  In his late teens his avant-garde poetry was published in France's leading journals, and in his early twenties, although courted by André Breton co-founded, as a counter to Surrealism and Dada, a literary journal, "Le Grand Jeu" with three friends, collectively known as the Simplists, including poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte . He is known best in the U.S. for two novels A Night of Serious Drinking and the allegorical novel Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing both based upon his friendship with Alexander de Salzmann, a pupil of G. I. Gurdjieff.

    Daumal was self-taught in the Sanskrit language and translated some of the Tripitaka Buddhist canon into the French language, as well as translating the literature of the Japanese Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki into French.

    Daumal's sudden and premature death of tuberculosis on May 21, 1944 in Paris may have been hastened by youthful experiments with drugs and psychoactive chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride. He died leaving his novel Mount Analogue unfinished, having worked on it until the day of his death.

    The motion picture The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky is based largely on Daumal's Mount Analogue.

    poems

    One cannot stay on the summit forever -
    One has to come down again.
    So why bother in the first place? Just this.
    What is above knows what is below -
    But what is below does not know what is above

    One climb, one sees-
    One descends and sees no longer
    But one has seen!

    There is an art of conducting one’s self in
    The lower regions by the memory of
    What one saw higher up.

    When one can no longer see,
    One does at least still know.

    XXX---XXXX--X

    I am dead because I lack desire,
    I lack desire because I think I possess.
    I think I possess because I do not try to give.
    In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;
    Seeing that you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;
    Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing:
    Seeing that you are nothing, you desire to become;
    In desiring to become, you begin to live.

      

  • Richard Allen | The Charles Dickens of Skinheads

      

      

       

       

     

    Red 777
    Undo Mundo

    "James Moffat (1922-1993) was a Canadian-born writer who once published a magazine about bowling and who, under sundry pseudonyms, wrote hack fiction (westerns, children’s stories, mysteries). In 1970 he was asked because he was so versatile and prolific, to write a book for the New English Library about skinheads, the white working-class youths whose thuggery seemed, to some, an authentic cry of alienation and, to others, the decline of Western civilisation.

    Allen’s first novel, Skinhead, uneasily combined self-righteous fascist rhetoric, nihilist indifference and the shocked voice of reason. But it succeed with its authentic portrayal of Joe Hawkins, the 16-year old gangster convinced the Cockneys had lost control of their patch, London, and whose life of rape, drink and hooliganism ends in a kind of triumph when he is jailed for beating a cop – a punishment which, he gloats, makes him king of the skinheads.

    After that sold a million, the formula stayed pretty constant for 17 other novels – seven with the words “skin” or ‘Skinhead’ in the title. Allen bought to the task an enthusiasm for research, speed – he once completed a novel in less than a week – narrative drive and pulp fair. The opening line of Suedehead is masterful: “As he stood in the dock, Joe Hawkins considered the situation with a detachment”. Yet the author, uncomfortable with charges he encouraged violence, later blamed “leniency in courtrooms, catering to fads by mercenary-minded rage-trade merchants, a soft-peddling attitude by politicians who look for teenage votes and a overwhelming pandering by the media”.

    Rediscovered in his seventies, Allen was planning a sequel Skinhead Return, when years of writing at short notice aided by tobacco and booze finally caught up with him. He died in 1993."

    - The Richard Allen Project

  • The Trap Door Spiders | A Gentlemen's Club and Arguing Society

     

    The Trap Door Spiders are a literary male-only eating, drinking, and arguing society in New York City, with a membership historically composed of notable science fiction personalities. The name is a reference to the exclusive habits of the trapdoor spider, which when it enters its burrow pulls the hatch shut behind it

    The Trap Door Spiders were established by author Fletcher Pratt in 1944, in response to the June 7, 1943 marriage of his friend Dr. John D. Clark to operatic soprano Mildred Baldwin. The new Mrs. Clark was unpopular with her husband's friends. Pratt reasoned that the club would give them an excuse to spend time with him without her. Over the course of its existence the Trap Door Spiders has counted among its members numerous professional men, many of them writers and editors active in the science fiction genre, along with some prominent fans such as Dr. Clark.

    The get-togethers of the Trap Door Spiders followed a set format, which remained consistent through the years; a meal, to which a guest would be invited by one of the members to be grilled by the others and form the focus of conversation for the evening. The grilling was traditionally begun by the host for the evening enquiring of the guest "How do you justify your existence?" or some variation, such as "Why do you exist?" Jack Coggins remembers that an editor for Reader's Digest went home from a meeting in tears after a brutally personal grilling. As of 1976, the club met roughly one Friday a month, eight or nine times a year, and maintained a membership of thirteen, among whom the privilege of hosting the meetings rotated. The host of a given meeting selected the restaurant, wine, and menu for the evening, and had the option of inviting one or two guests he believed might prove interesting to the other members.

    Wikipedia