March 2, 2007

"We're all scared."

Says Joe Klein, talking about writers and making me feel like quoting him, because I'm sitting here this afternoon writing... and scared.

30 comments:

George said...

If I were a serious national political commentator like Klein with beaucoup experience....

and my picture appeared BELOW that of Wonkette ("She is more serious than you'd think but never as sober," says her Time bio)....

and my blog appeared under the heading "Swampland," I'd be nervous, too....

And I wouldn't write about being "scared."

The cure for being a "scared" thumbsucking wheelspinner is to do what he's paid to do... interview pols and research issues and write authoritatively about both.

"We live badly," he says. Who is he kidding?

Palladian said...

I have a piece of writing that I have to complete in a week's time (1000-1200 words) that's going to be published and I haven't started. I haven't even started to be started. And I'm scared.

Any advice, Althouse?

SteveR said...

Is he scared that will named KO's worst person in the world if he strays off the reservation? Scared of losing his hearing spending too much time in the echo chamber.

Get some real issues Joe, good grief.

Ann Althouse said...

Based on my experience, you just keep letting the deadline get closer and closer until you really do sort of feel as though you're dying. Then you freak out and feel horrible. Maybe that will help.

Beth said...

Palladian, the freaking out is part of the starting. So, you've started. All that anxiety is actually deep, subconcious writing going on. Now, if this involves research, well, you might have to get moving on that. Good luck, and congrats on the publishing opportunity.

TMink said...

Blogging is to writing for publication as jamming is to recording. Blogging is more improvisational and ephemeral. You can't edit the note, but you can work it to make it sound like it fit or you meant it. In the studio, you can just edit or protools the clam out.


Now, if you hit some really sour notes jamming, (Marcotte) they may come back to haunt you. And if you hit them a lot, it is impossible to say that you were just having an off day because the truth is you just can't jam in a way that anyone wants to hear it.

Some people like studio recordings, some people like concerts or live recordings. Take your pick.

Trey

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Palladian: You have to find yourself a magic table. The table alone will do if ideas are few.

tiggeril said...

Palladian, the freaking out is part of the starting. So, you've started. All that anxiety is actually deep, subconcious writing going on. Now, if this involves research, well, you might have to get moving on that.

Oddly, that's how a lot of photography projects go too.

reader_iam said...

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
--Gene Fowler

reader_iam said...

Palladian: Fiction or non-fiction? Opinion, interview, research-based or... ?

Ron said...

From the Time pics, I see Kristen Bell (from Veronica Mars) as Cox, Oliver Platt as Klein, and Streep as Althouse in Hey, I'm bloggin' here! the movie. Thank God it's not a musical!

Hanks as Reynolds? Heh.

Richard Dolan said...

Palladian: Just do it. At some point in everyone's life, that ceases to be an annoying ad and turns into a sensible adage. Nor is this a time for psychobabble. And, above all, pay no attention to the procrastinating redhead-turned-blonde behind the curtain.

Ron said...

When I'm writing a longer piece of stuff, I only write it in my head, thinking about it constantly, and when I finally sit down with it, I'm merely typing it. (fixing only spelling and grammatical errors) I find the more I stay in that write-edit-write cycle, I never finish anything because it's too easy to make the umpteenth revision. If it's only in my mind, word for word, I have to really, really know it and be aware of it.

Joan said...

Klein: ...I'm still biting my toes each week waiting to see if the editor likes it or not.

Biting his toes? Is that really what he meant to say? (If it is: ew!)

Obviously Klein should be scared of blogging, because he doesn't have an editor to catch bizarro comments like that one. Proofread, Joe, proofread. You can do it!

Daryl Herbert said...

Ann, you should face your fears, and drop the whole performance art thing (the snark and careful sniping) and write a clean, direct, straightforward message to your campus as your next blog post. Don't hold back, don't pull punches, and don't be afraid to step on someone's toes. They certainly aren't afraid to call you a monstrous bigot--are you so afraid of being called one that you'll let everyone around you be cowed?

Think of this like a bank robbery. These people want money they don't deserve, and they're willing to hurt people you know and your institution in order to get it.

If you drop the snark and face them head-on, you will expose yourself to their attacks. But you'll have much more effect, and you will also be protected from misrepresentations. It would be easy for someone to say "Ann responded to students' serious, painful concerns about racism with characteristic snark" and make you look like a bad guy--but not if you lay it all out, like you're writing a brief.

Daryl Herbert said...

Biting his toes? Is that really what he meant to say?

Biting his toenails, of course.

Anyway, Palladian, you still correctly believe you have enough time left that you can continue to goof off, and still finish up with a "good enough" product. You have to truly believe that mediocre isn't good enough if you want to get started now.

Palladian said...

"Based on my experience, you just keep letting the deadline get closer and closer until you really do sort of feel as though you're dying. Then you freak out and feel horrible. Maybe that will help."

Uh, thanks Ann...

"Palladian, the freaking out is part of the starting. So, you've started. All that anxiety is actually deep, subconcious writing going on. Now, if this involves research, well, you might have to get moving on that. Good luck, and congrats on the publishing opportunity."

Thanks, (Eliza)beth. I think you're right that the anxiety is part of the formation of the project. I feel like I've already assembled the mental lumber and now I have to hew a cabin out of it. Fortunately the project doesn't involve research!

For the curious, I'm writing an essay on an artist's work for a catalog that's being published to accompany an exhibition. It ain't an op ed in the New York Times, but it's still scary. I need some sort of fuel for the project; I'm deciding between coffee and Bordeaux... Perhaps both? Maybe Bordeaux for the writing stage and coffee for the editing stage.

JorgXMcKie said...

Palladian, part of the problem is learning to know your crappy shit from your good-enough shit. (You'll never recognize your excellent shit, others have to do it for you.) This leads to worry about whether a piece is 'good enough'.

I suggest you write 'anydamnthing' and then let it rest for at least 24 hours. Now, read it with relatively fresh eyes. Is is crappy or almost good-enough? If it's crappy, throw it totally out and start over. If it's almost good-enough, figure out what's wrong and fix it.

In either case, actually getting stuff down keeps you busy until you get it right. That's what counts.

bill said...

I've always been impressed with the results from a combination of procrastination, alcohol, and insomnia. 3am is the creative hour.

Trying to find something inspirational, the best I could find is this pep talk from 30 Rock; just replace acting with writing:

Liz Lemon: Okay, here's your pep talk. You're not an actor. You're Jack Donaghy, all right? So quit whining and NUT UP. You're right. If you can't do this, you ARE a failure. Josh can do this, and earlier today he ate a club sandwich with the toothpick still in it. Jenna can do this, and she was once engaged to David Blaine. Any dumb-dumb can act, Jack. So be a man and get it done.

Jack: If you were any other woman on earth, I would be turned on right now.

Pogo said...

Or you can follow Ann Lamott's advice, and just take it bird by bird.

George said...

No, no, no...

Klein isn't talking about writer's block...He's worried about losing his great-paying gig at Time due to competition from bloggers and hard times in the magazine biz.

Print media is hurting big time. For example, the Atl. Const. just smoked 17% of its editorial staff. The New Republic is ending its weekly publication frequency. Circulation numbers at major magazines are way, way, way down in almost all advertising categories. Time Inc. has had whopping layoffs and has sold some of its magazines. Even though Klein is not on staff, his contract may not be renewed or his fee may be cut back.

He probably pulls down low six figs from Time. Klein was hot stuff...when?...almost 15 years ago. The man's worried about his job.

LutherM said...

For someone with a fine mind and a flair for prose, I don't understand the fear.
Regardless of my effort I am unable to write publishable fiction. The ability to write well can be nurtured by being taught and through practice; but, in the final analysis, is a gift; and "I can't put in what God left out". So, while I can appreciate good writing, I can't fully know the process, or the fear.
When I attended U.Va., William Faulkner was one "Writer in Residence". The writing process he described differed from another "Writer in Residence", Nancy Hale, whose short stories appeared in The New Yorker. But both regarded at some time a piece as being finished, not subject to further revision. I never heard any discussion of the role of editors. The famous stories - Hemingway being told to revise/cut most of the first 30 pages of "The Sun Also Rises", the New Yorker editor Harold Ross changing writers' language for the better - I've seen them in print, but did not hear the authors talk about how their own work was changed.
I doubt that most (any ???) bloggers have editors, and I can't believe that many newspaper columnists have them either.

SO - I recall from another blog "Why do you blog? > To live freely in writing."

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"

Ann Althouse said...

The thing I was writing was my 5th and last NYT column, which should be up in a few hours.

"Joan said...'Klein: ...I'm still biting my toes each week waiting to see if the editor likes it or not.' Biting his toes? Is that really what he meant to say? (If it is: ew!)"

Even if he did mean toes, there's still the ambiguity. It seems as if the question is whether the editor likes him biting his -- Klein's! -- toes. (Note my strenuous effort to avoid the picture of Klein nibbling on his editor's toes, which is all Dick Morris-y.)

Patrick Martin said...

You people are making me have horrible flashbacks to too many 3am sessions writing a term paper, pleading, memo, or appellate brief the night before it's due. Nothing like sheer terror of flunking or being disbarred or sued for malpractice to get rid of writer's block.

I wonder if I have a cause of action if you trigger a PTSD attack... ;-)

Annie said...

Some of you people obviously aren't writers. They tell me success is no cure for the fear, because you're only as good as today's pages. You always fear you'll lose it, you'll miss it. It'll get away. It's not just the fear of missing the deadline. It's much more existential, if I may use a pretentious word.

Even writing a little small thing, to some extent you have to dissolve and recreate yourself every time you write. You have to go out there into nothing and bring back something, and it feels as if you yourself won't get reassembled if you don't succeed in making that thing.

amba

Annie said...

Sorry. Most of you ARE writers. George isn't, and the other people who told Joe Klein to suck it up and quit whining.

Of course he's scared for his job, because he's scared he can't do it any more. Writing doesn't all come from the conscious ego, or whatever you call that front man, so that one has to get out of the way for it to happen, and that's what feels like dying. Procrastination is that one not wanting to let go. It's also a useful distraction so the sub- or unconscious work that's necessary can go on undisturbed.

Simon Kenton said...

On 2/27/07, a Saturday, the relatively famous outdoor writer named Jim Zumbo posted a blog entry calling AR15s "terrorist rifles", saying those who used them were terrorizing the globe, and calling for that type of rifle to be banned from hunting.

Over the weekend he was blogswarmed. The common term for this is 'viral,' but it was really more like the reaction when two subcritical masses of radioactive material are brought too close together. Posts were going up by the tens, then by the hundreds; there were thousands per hour going up before clampdown. By Monday his blog at Outdoor Life had gone down, but not before his remarks had appeared on the Brady gungrab site. He had Kerrypologized; this was widely derided by thousands more. By Monday afternoon, he had lost his television show, his 30-year writing gig with Outdoor Life, his sponsorships by Remington, Mossy Oak, Cabela's, and others. It came out a little later that while he claimed to have posted the egregious piece while tired and out of sorts, various people at Remington, his main employer, had pre-seen the entry, which maligned a type of rifle they manufactured, and warned him not to post it.

This man wiped himself out, professionally and economically; it was suicide by blog. Electrons are forever.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

You could take the dyslexic approach to this and declare "We're all sacred." And then the writing god-within-you would meet that deadline.

Oligonicella said...

"Even writing a little small thing, to some extent you have to dissolve and recreate yourself every time you write. You have to go out there into nothing and bring back something, and it feels as if you yourself won't get reassembled if you don't succeed in making that thing."

What the hell does that mean?

I mean, really. You actually feel yourself dissolve and reassemble when you write? Please.

Just write. If it's in your head, there should be no problem getting it on page. If it's not good enough, that's what edits are for.

SteveR said...

I'm not unsympathetic to the task of writers (or any other task) but Joe Klein? Not so much. How long has he been in the upper 0.1% of "writers"?