Sunday, April 30, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 4: Norman Mailer on the Value of Ignorance in Writing

Norman Mailer distrusted extensively researched novels. He said, "I feel in a way that one's ignorance is part of one's creation, too."

Mailer's outsized ego triggered his taking great pleasure in making trenchant pronouncements and outrageous innuendos during interviews, but he meant what he said in this interview. Too much research and not enough story line yields an encyclopedic treatise, not a compelling narrative. Of course, we should ground what we write on reality, but facts are not what moves our readers; rather, our interpretation of those facts and an imaginative exploration into their underlying value are what keep them turning pages.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 3: Norman Mailer on the Link Between Style and Character

Some writers say that style comes from wisdom, experience, and maturity. Norman Mailer believed it comes from being good. "Style is character," he famously said in a Paris Review interview. "A good style cannot come from a bad, undisciplined character." He went as far as saying that those who are physically graceful have a greater chance of writing well than those who are physically clumsy, and that greed and laziness contribute to poor style.

Those inclined to disparage Mailer's provocative view on his craft should consider the delicate balances that writers must strike among contradictory forces. They need to selfishly guard their writing time yet selflessly seek the truth of their subject matter, uninhibitedly release their creativity while discerningly review their manuscripts with a critical eye, and spend endless hours in isolation during the composing process but explore their environment and its denizens in discovering new ideas. All of these inclinations and actions take character.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 2: James Jones on What It Takes to Write

Novelist James Jones once established a self-funded writer's colony that failed to produce his desired results. He believed that giving talented, developing writers the space, solitude, and encouragement to create would yield creative literary output.

For the most part, the experiment did not work. Jones realized that talent and environment are not enough. Writers need to write. They have to work at their craft just as any craftsperson would.

Taking my lead from Mr. Jones, my advice to people who say they want to be writers is simple: Stop saying you want to be a writer and just write.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 1: James Jones on the Incremental Nature of Writing

Author James Jones did not think big when it came to daily literary output. He knew the math: a few words a day mean many more per week and exponentially more per month. In a Paris Review interview He looked for two or three typescript pages per day of narrative and maybe ten to twelve of dialogue. The next day he would read what he had written before moving on to the next two or three pages.

That level of productivity might not seem like much, but it produced From Here to EternitySome Came Running, and The Thin Red Line, among other works.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Financial Management Network Talk on Time Management

I had the great pleasure of being a featured speaker on the Financial Management Network (FMN) for an April 2017 talk, "Time Management: Are You Masterful?

For three decades, FMN has been viewed monthly by as many as 44,000 corporate financial executives, who rely on the network's expert commentators to keep them up to date with recent developments affecting their profession. Here is how FMN describes the event:

To most people in a business environment, it seems as if there is never enough time in the day. Yet, since we all get the same 24 hours, why is it that some people achieve so much more with their time than others do? The answer, according to well-known author, instructor and coach Phil Vassallo, lies in masterful time management. In this segment, he shows you how to shift your focus from “activities” to “results,” in order to work smarter rather than harder.