Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Franzen, The Dalai Lama, and Connection

Here are few great quotes on writing I found on the interweb over the past few days. I've followed them up with a very spare attempt on my part to link them into something interesting. The first quote is from a Jonathan Franzen essay I found in The Guardian:

"When I write, I don't feel like a craftsman influenced by earlier craftsmen who were themselves influenced by earlier craftsmen. I feel like a member of a single, large virtual community in which I have dynamic relationships with other members of the community, most of whom are no longer living."

And here is another gem from the same article:

"There is an important paradox here that I would like to stress: the greater the autobiographical content of a fiction writer's work, the smaller its superficial resemblance to the writer's actual life. The deeper the writer digs for meaning, the more the random particulars of the writer's life become impediments to deliberate dreaming."

The third and final literary quote of the day is from a One Story interview with Stephen O'Connor:

"The unconscious, I have realized, is only interested in those things that are most important to me, those things that I most desire, am most afraid of, and so on. When I just let my unconscious have its way, it seems much more likely to lead me to issues that truly matter (to me and, I hope, to readers) than my conscious mind, which is much more hemmed in by defense mechanisms, clichés and trivial anxieties (“Will I be able to publish this story?” etc.)"

It seems the common themes here are an interest in writing from a deeper place and a belief that writing from a deeper place will lead to a stronger connection with others. It's another way to think of writing as a spiritual path, but instead of focusing on what happens to the writer, these quotes seem to be getting at what happens interpersonally when we write from those layers beneath the conscious mind. Do we really find more opportunity for connection there? Does it point towards an experience of our true nature? Is this how literature works?

Today the Dalai Lama tweeted, "The many factors which divide us are actually much more superficial than those we share."

It's probably going to far to say the understanding of these writers is the same as the Dalai Lama's, but it suggests to me, at least, that creating and consuming literature from these deep places can point us the same direction.


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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gifts, Gaiman, and Nudity

Getting to it pretty late tonight.  I feel like I had a lot of interesting ideas to air here but I'm too tired to think of them right now.  Perhaps they'll come to me as I type.

Today's platform building exercise (I'd like to come up with a better way to say platform building exercise) was to reply to three tweets.  I replied to five, but unfortunately this buys me no extra credit.  It was a good exercise though, as I now see an additional value in Twitter.  As I told my wife only a few minutes ago, Twitter not only allows me to immerse myself in a literary world as one might be surrounded by pop culture if one indiscriminately watched TV, listened to the radio, and relied on other content providers aimed at a mass market, but I can surround myself with a literary world neatly tailored to my preferences.  This is an extraordinary thing.  Over time I can refine the people I follow on Twitter until it has just the right flavor for me, and I can continue to tweak it as things change.  It's like having a line of people--some of them friends, some of them respected peers, and some of them people you have long admired--walking through your living room throwing gifts at your feet.  It's a smorgasbord of connections and relationships waiting happen.  Who cares if that amounts to book deals or publications or other professional opportunities?  It is a beautiful thing in and of itself.

One of the gifts I found on Twitter tonight was a commencement speech given by Neil Gaiman to an assembly of graduating art students.  You can watch the whole video here but I've broken out a couple of the quotes I liked best.  Here they are:

"I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work."

"The things I’ve done that worked the best were the things I was least certain about."

"The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right."

All of these spoke to me, especially the last, as I feel that is starting to happen to me.  The platform building is one aspect of it, but only because of the *way* the platform building is taking shape.  The things that I'm doing on the internet and in my other writing are surprising me and making me feel vulnerable but in a strong and tender way I like and trust because it seems to come from an authentic place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 8. Writing Platform Quest. LinkedIn.

Just improved my LinkedIn profile.  That was pretty easy.  Doing a slightly better job of not getting swept up in all this social-media tasking stuff today.  It puts me in such a strange headspace.  I do one thing, and then there is something else to figure out, and then something else, and once my mind gets momentum in that direction it is very hard to stop.  Problem is, it is not at all the headspace that is conducive to writing fiction.  Or should I say, I have yet to figure out how to turn that headspace into the stuff of fiction?  For me, writing fiction involves a lot of silence--a lot of waiting and watching and listening.  These social media sites are all about instant gratification.  I'm reminded of those lab rats who keep injecting themselves with narcotics until they die.  That's probably a little extreme, but a mindset of constant task completion is not a recipe for a sane life.

I think an important thing for me to keep in mind will be the need to be selective about what I decide to publish.  Vehicles like Facebook and Twitter create a sort of Scylla and Charybdis scenario.  On the one side there is the danger of hiding out and not reaching out to others for fear of getting hurt, and on the other side there is the danger of reaching out compulsively and indiscriminately in the insane hope of having someone praise me in a way that will really satiate my need to be loved.  I feel confident I can navigate these obstacles, but I'm still learning, and it will take time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Building My Writer Platform, Day 7

Should have been so easy.  All I had to do was add some buttons to my blog from AddThis.com.  I managed to get some buttons installed, but then I wanted more, then I ran into problems, then I lost my freaking mind.  I'm learning though, and now I'm turning off my wireless so I can get a little writing done.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Building My Writer Platform, Day 6

Okay.  I just commented on someone else's blog, which was the task for today.  you can find the comment here on Yuvi Zalkow's blog.  I found Yuvi in the blogosphere while chasing links during yesterday's platform-building work.  I'm actually starting to have some fun with this, though it can be maddening.  There is so much out there.  I see lots of opportunity for connections, but I also still feel fear that I might meet enemies.  I also tend to compulsively feel that I need to master the entire environment, which is insane.  I'm finding my way, though.  Bit by bit I'll keep building and reaching out, and I really believe exciting things will come of this.

By the way, you should check out Yuvi's short films on writing.  Here is the most recent one.  It's about networking, surprise surprise.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Twitter, Trying to Catch Up

Just went through days 3, 4, and 5 of this 30 day platform building exercise.  I fell behind last week due to illness and have been spending the weekend with family from out of town.  Lots of information out there on building a platform using social media and I feel like my head is going to explode.  I was reminded that platform building is a process, not a goal, and I need to keep that in mind.

I'm now officially on Twitter.  My handle is @davidbdriscoll.  Someone had taken logomancer, but I could not find any info other than that it was taken.  Must be privacy settings or something.  Wonder if @logomancer is really casting spells in a way that I'm not.  Dark.  Dark arts.

I feel like I should probably be writing instead of doing this platform building stuff.

There it is.  There's that good old guilt.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Today's platform building challenge is to state my short and long term goals.  I feel only slightly better about this than I did about defining myself yesterday.

Short term goals:

-Keep up submission schedule of one story per week through the end of 2012.
-Put at least one of my short story collections in front of an editor/agent/publishing house before the end of the year.
-Continue posting at least semi-weekly to blogger through the end of August
-Finish screenplay before the end of the year
-Finish a draft of children's book before the end of the year
-Join Twitter
-Make at least two new literary connections per month through the end of 2012
-Start using Facebook to make writing connections
-Try not to puke while writing long term goals

Long term goals

-Be a good father, husband, family member, and friend to all beings everywhere (including myself)
-Finish a novel and publish it
-Publish a book of poetry
-Write a memoir
-Continue to collaborate with other artists
-Surrender to life
-Live in peace and recognize abundance

Not bad.  Definitely much easier than yesterday.  Am I improving?  I do so like improving;)

Monday, May 14, 2012

A New Platform, a New Vista, and the Terror of Defining Myself

I’m building my writer platform.  I suppose I should say I’m improving my writer platform according some guidelines I found in an email from Writer’s Market.  I should say right up front that I find this rather terrifying for at least a couple of reasons.  One, putting even a slice of my personal life in the way of the public makes me so nervous I feel like I’m going to puke.  Two, since I started writing fiction (and probably before) I’ve told myself that following someone’s formulaic approach to any artistic endeavor is the kiss of death.  This may be true in some aspects of making art, but it’s clear to me now that both of these aversions have been defensive.  If I’m going to be a writer whose work makes connections in the writing world, I’m going to need to start actively putting myself out there, and formulaic approaches are sometimes the best way to learn new things.

So, here I go.  I ask only that should anyone read this, please do not take anything I say too seriously.  I am painfully aware of the way words limit and reduce the truth to an abstraction, and I also like to blatantly make stuff up and am often sarcastic.  A good amount of fiction may find it’s way in here as a result, and in a way, it’s all a fiction once it’s put into words.

The first task in this approach to platform building is to define yourself.  I once met a girl at a party who asked me to do this, and as a guy who’d recently graduated from the University of Chicago and had started defining himself as an artist, I treated this question with eye-rolling disdain.  I didn’t actually roll my eyes, but I did laugh and immediately cut the legs out from under the question in typical U of C fashion.  It went something like this: If I start offering definitions, then you’ll start to get ideas in your head that will put me in a box, and those ideas won’t necessarily have anything to do with who I really am or what I’m likely to say or do.  I’d rather we forge ahead without too many preconceived notions.  Let’s start smaller, or better yet, let’s just get really drunk.

I later made fun of her (behind her back, of course) for asking this absurd question.  Obviously she’d touched a nerve, and in a way, I still feel there is something potentially pernicious about defining myself, but only if I take the definition too seriously or expect that anyone else will.  I think, in the end, I’ve long been afraid of making claims that I’ll have to live up to, feeling that if I don’t live up to them, I’ll find myself scorned, spurned, detested, abandoned, mocked, and alone.  In a word, I’ll find myself alone.

I found this platform building exercise on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog, My Name is Not Bob, and he went about defining himself by writing a list.  I hate lists, unless they are totally tongue and cheek, but I’m going to start off following his format anyway and see where this takes me.

Name (as used in byline): David Driscoll

Position: Self-employed fiction writer (indeed, another way to say unemployed), blogger (occasionally), editor (of work done by my writing acquaintances), occasional guest teacher, occasional guest lecturer

Skills: Fiction writing, poetry writing, meditation, yoga, self-inquiry

Social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Blogger (others to follow)

URLs: logomancersandlogodaedalists.blogspot.com

Writing: Published in numerous literary magazines including: Mississippi Review, TriQuarterly, Eleven Eleven, Inkwell, Main Street Rag, P-Queue, and Backwards City Review.  Selected for inclusion in New Stories from the Midwest 2011 (Indiana University Press).  Runner up in the 2006 Whiskey Island Fiction Contest. 

Education: Master of Arts in the Humanities from the University of Chicago (2006).  French Language Diploma for Level Superior I at the Sorbonne (2001-2002).  Bachelor of Arts in Economics (with honors) from the University of Chicago (1999).  Completed the requirements for graduation in Law, Letters & Society at the University of Chicago though the school did not recognize double majors at the time (1999).  Dean’s list of distinguished students each academic quarter at the University of Chicago.

Athletics: Captain of the University of Chicago men’s soccer team (1998).  Team MVP and Offensive Player of the Year (1998).  Two-time UAA All-Conference Selection (1998, 1997).  Division III National Semi-Finalist (1996)

Interests: Writing, reading, meditation, yoga, family & friends, English Premier League soccer, movies, psychoanalysis

Who am I?:  I am neither my body nor my mind though most of the time I fall into the trap of thinking I am one or the other.  On a conventional level, I am a writer and a husband who is soon to be a father.  I own pets and plants.  I am a person who yearns for a sense of deeper connection and am finding it as I learn to let go of my fear.  Turns out the connection was there all along.

There.  I did it, and I did it with minimal amounts of sarcasm.  The above is in no way comprehensive, of course.  That would be impossible; all I mean to say is that I consciously left some stuff out.  I did it though.  Now onto my writing work.