Charles Daly

Writer

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Mood Tunes and a WWI Podcast

“You know who doesn’t go around calling themselves ’the boss?’ Bosses.” —Ryan Holiday

I’m still reading Sam Shepard’s The One Insideso I haven’t got any book recommendations for you this week. I do however have a bunch of articles, on everything from mortgage payments to bullies, and two of the best Spotify playlists ever made.

Enjoy.

What I’m Reading 

“Your Life in Weeks” — If this article from Wait But why? doesn’t motivate you to get busy living, I don’t know what will. Spoiler alert: we don’t have much time.

Frogman Comics — Entertaining my inner-boy and doing some research for the novel with these vintage comics about the real-life exploits of the Navy frogmen. The Frogman series was originally published in 1952 in the middle of the Korean War, shortly after the role of the frogmen in D-Day and the Pacific had been declassified. The reprinting features ads from the 1950s including mail-order fitness plans for kids who are tired of being picked on for being skinny.

“‘Never Forget’: the Story of Pete Davidson’s Father killed on 9/11” — My brother, Michael Daly, honoring a fallen hero in the Daily Beast. 

“The Tradeoff: The True Story of my $624 mortgage payment”–Catherine Baab-Muguira tells the story of a real estate bargain that gave her the freedom to travel and write more. This post and her piece on whether or not writers need to move to New York have been helpful to me as I figure out my next move.

Ryan Holiday:

  • “Living Like a Boss” — On why you should shut up, keep your head down, and let your work speak for itself. He also gets into why consultants and self-proclaimed experts tend to be “clueless assholes.”
  • “Maybe and Might” — On the virtues of ambivalence and loosely held opinions.
  • Means— Why you shouldn’t take advantage of a dip in the economy to upgrade your living situation any more than you should move your house closer to the water when the tide goes out.

Robert Greene has two fantastic posts on dealing with difficult people which draw from his latest book The Laws of Human Nature:

 

What I’m Listening to

Hardcore History, “Blueprint for Armageddon” A multi-part, 20+ hour deep-dive into WWI, it’s causes and implications extending to the present day.

Two Spotify playlists: Little Big Clap and Really Good Mood Tunes. If you’re getting married anytime soon, forget the DJ, don’t hire a band, all you need is an AUX cable and these playlists.

What I’m Writing

Deep in the re-writes of my dad’s book and a novel. Anyone can start two books in a year, finishing them is a challenge.

What I’m Doing

Exploring the Cape Cod National Seashore. Henry David Thoreau said of this stretch of coast,

“A man may stand there and put all Americans behind him.”

 


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“Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t”

I’m keeping my head down this week, and getting back to not giving a fuck about anything but the work after I voted and fulfilled my civic duty on Tuesday and checked my phone for results all night.

Politics tends to be a blind spot in my reading as it will be in these roundup posts. That said, anyone interested in finding a non-obvious way to take on Trump should read Conspiracy: Theil, Hulk Hogan, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, Ryan Holiday’s account of the Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker lawsuit and its implications for next-level dissent.

What I’m Reading

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight — The story of how Nike was built out of Knight’s parents’ basement.

The One Inside by Sam Shepard — So far I’ve only read the lyrical introduction by Patti Smith who describes it as a work of a “loner who doesn’t want to be alone.” Who is “Captivated, confused, and amused by women, drawn toward them yet compelled to skip out.” Shepard dedicates the book to multiple women.

Nobody Wants to Read your Sh*t: Why That is and What to do about it by Steven Pressfield As in his other books, Pressfield preaches the gospel of showing the fuck up, overcoming procrastination, and organizing your work with a three-act structure. He talks about the various stages of his career and why copywriting is phenomenal training for an aspiring novelist.

“I’m a Millennial and I don’t Understand my Peers–  Not Even a Little Bit” By Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday’s advice on how and why to find a mentor and why you shouldn’t use the word “mentor” in their presence.

John LeFevre, Creator of @GSElevator,  just for fun. He has some solid advice about affiliate links (which, by the way my reading list uses) as a way to generate passive income for writers.

What I’m Listening to

A TED Talk about how and why to work for free some of the time.

Radiolab, “In the No.” a 3-part, NSFW, series about consent.

What I’m Writing

Lots of housekeeping this week:

I’ve been self-educating about SEO and setting up a new theme for my website.

I wrote a letter (okay, an email) to one of my favorite living crime writers, and he wrote me back. Made my week.

What I’m doing

Headed to New York for a fundraiser supporting my filmmaker friend Bridget Gormley‘s documentary about post 9/11 illness.

Don’t Order Fish on Monday

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park.”
–Anthony Bourdain

What I’m Reading

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. A must-read for anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant or eaten in one.  It’s where he explains why you should never order fish on a Monday. This is my first time re-reading it since he eighty-sixed himself, and I’m rapidly alternating between anger and admiration.

Bourdain’s Articles on Medium including one about #metoo and his feelings of personal responsibility for having perpetuated a culture of “grotesque behavior” in kitchens with his early writing.

 “Here’s what Happened when I Quit Drinking A year Ago.” Quitting drinking from a perspective that’s a little more relatable to nonalcoholics.

How to Read More–a lot More.” In a short post reminiscent of Orwell’s “Books vs. Cigarettes“, Ryan Holiday reminds us that reading is not a luxury.

What I’ve Been Listening to

 The audiobook of Kitchen Confidentialin which Bourdain voices the accents of his runners, busboys, and mob-connected purveyors.

The Velvet Underground & Nico.

Weezer covering “Africa” by Toto after being successfully petitioned to do so by a fan on Twitter.

What I’ve Been Writing

I’ve been taking notes for the first time while I read.


Micky Avalon Revisited

Instead of talking about how much money we have, let’s talk about how much we don’t have.”

–Micky Avalon

 

What I’m Reading

Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. The true crime story that inspired The Departed and Black Mass. A must-read for new arrivals in Boston who don’t know the story of the city’s disturbing pre-tech past.

Just Kids by Patti Smith. On art, love, life, loss, and trench mouth.

5 Things Every Entrepreneur can Learn from Rappers Micky Avalon and Simon Rex.”

What I’m Listening to

McCauley Culkin on Joe Rogan. The Home Alone star has grown up to write, paint, podcast, and found an art collective.

Florence Welch reading “Lovesong” by Ted Hughes.

Micky Avalon.

What I’m Watching

The world series with my dad.

 

What I’m Writing

Working on a New Year’s deadline for dad’s memoir.

Finished marking up the rough draft of my novel. I’ll be posting my novel log, documenting the writing process, on Medium. Stay tuned.

 

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Note to my 19-Year-Old-Self

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”

Pablo Picasso 

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week…

 

Lately, most of blogging has been on Medium. I’ll be linking to those posts in these weekly roundups.

 

What I’m Writing

“29 Writing Tips for my 19-Year-Old Self”

“Writing Tips I Put on my Wall 

How to Get Sh*t Done as a Freelancer” which was featured in Data-Driven Investor.

My dad and I are getting close to a submittable manuscript of his memoir–stay tuned.

I recently finished a rough draft of a pulp-style crime novel. It turns out writing two books in a year is easier than finishing one. As anyone who has ever run a race or climbed a mountain knows, the two hardest parts are starting and finishing.

What I’m Reading

Driven to Distraction: recognizing and coping with Attention Deficit Disorderby Dr. Edward Hallowell

Getting Off: One woman’s journey through sex and porn addiction  by Erica Garza

The First Quarry, by Max Allan Collins

 

What I’m Listening To

Charlie Parker. But I’ve started wearing earplugs while I’m working and reading–again, adult ADD.

 

What I’m Doing

Taking a free online studio art class through the Museum of Modern Art on Coursera: Postwar Abstract Painting. It’s like Bob Ross but in the style of Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko.

Send me an email if you want a painting.


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Be the Verb (Writing) not the Noun (a Writer)

On episode 320 of Scripnotes, screenwriters Jon August and Craig Mazin fielded a question about calling oneself a writer. They urged those who write to identify with the verb (writing) and not the noun (being a writer.)

 

Here’s a my take on that distinction:

 

At its best, “writer” is the title you get to claim when you write consistently. It’s a statement of one’s habitual action–the noun describing one who does the verb. There’s a difference between calling yourself a writer because you write and claiming the title because you think of yourself as the kind of person who writes. It’s like the difference between being sober and that one Tuesday when you weren’t drunk. 

 

Writing is something we all do all the time. And maybe that’s why we feel like we need to label ourselves in the first place. Everyone writes emails and text messages and to-do lists. Many jobs involve writing, from teaching to law enforcement. Fewer jobs and day-to-day tasks call for singing or painting.  

 

Writing can take you to remarkable places and see you paid hansomely for your talent and hard work. In his infamous memo, David Mamet writes of the financial rewards awaiting anyone who can tell a good story on screen: (Capitalization his)

 

“WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.”

 

Neil Strauss recently tweeted that writing is his own form of cryptocurrency. As the volume of words he produces grows so does his wealth and financial security.

 

Neil Strauss on Twitter

I’ve got my own cryptocurrency. It’s called writing. I just write words, and each one is magically worth money. It started out at .05 cents on the exchange, then $1, now it’s past $3 a word. The total volume of words is now in the millions.

That said, writers get paid for writing not for being writers. The only exception to this rule I can think of is the guy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s who secures a pity patronage from a sugar mama who doesn’t much care if he writes or not.

 

The urge to be a writer can lead to all sorts of intellectual dishonesty and corner cutting, says William Gaddis. The “Fantasy of wanting to be a writer,” he says, can blind you to the actual work of writing which can be “sheer drudgery.”

 

Being a writer is a dream peddled by gurus, overnight success mongers, seminars, workshops, and MFAs. Writing doesn’t require a degree, a scene, or anybody’s permission. Jean Genet wrote on toilet paper in a French prison.

 

Writing, as Ryan Holiday points out, is a means to an end. It’s a way to communicate. His advice to anyone who wants to be a writer: find something to say.

 

The joy of writing comes from the intrinsic pleasures of worldbuilding, making something, communicating your deepest truth, finding an outlet for your feelings, expressing yourself, playing with words, telling tales.

 

The joy of being a writer, comes from telling people you’re a writer, getting your ego stroked, getting other parts of you stroked by people who think writers are impressive.

 

Writers feel threatened and discouraged by a world in which everybody writes. If you’re serious about writing, you’ll welcome company, competition, and mentorship, in what can be a very lonely activity.

 

Writers focus on acting like writers. They drink and tell you that all the great writers died drunk. They dress like characters in Wes Anderson movies and sometimes even wear berets.

 

Writing, on the other hand, invites you to approach the blank page with a sense of possibility and a willingness to discover your self and your world.

 

Friday Roundup

“Evenings: See friends. Read in cafes.”  –Henry Miller

 

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week, besides trying to make a dent in my “unread” bookshelf to make room for Christmas presents.

What I’m Reading

Swimming on the Hot Side” an article by David Goodwillie about divers who work in radioactive water.

 

Snow in fiction and poetry over at The Millions.

 

Walter Mosley’s This Year you Write your Novel.

 

A friendly reminder from WritingRoutines.com. Required reading if you tell yourself you don’t have the time to write.

What I’m Listening to

Leonard Cohen while I reread The Book of Longing

 

What I’m Doing

Working smarter. Writing requires deep work, not long hours.

 

Working with The Contribune, which was founded by my neighbor from middle school.

 

Watching Bogart in In a Lonely Placea classic of film noir and, if you look closely, a big influence on Californication.

 

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12 Christmas Gifts for Writers

A version of this post first appeared on Broke Ass Stuart

Writers are hard to shop for. Our tools are simple but we can be hopelessly picky about them–I don’t know how many white legal pads I’ve re-gifted–we already have all the books, and the things we really want you might not be comfortable buying (cigarettes, absinth, laudnum.)

Money is best, but let’s face it, we probably owe you money.

If by some Christmas miracle a writer managed to make it on to your good list, here are a dozen gift ideas–some of which might actually make them more productive.

 

Writing Software for Grownups

Microsoft Word is the Huffy bike from Wal-Mart of word processors; it’s a fine place to start, but you need to upgrade when you’re ready for long distance.



Scrivener is the real deal for real novelists, and an affordable alternative ($45) to Final Draft 9 for screenwriters.

 

Scrivener is for big projects and all the notes, outlines, character sketches and miscellany they entail. It uses ‘cork boards’ for outlining. There are daily word count targets based on your deadline It has space for illustrations and maps of your story world. There’s a template for multi-part novels. Anna Karenina could’ve fit neatly into Scrivener’s Russian doll of folders.

 


When you’re project is complete, Scrivener lets you compile your work into a variety of manuscript and ebook formats.

 

Single Serving Coffee Makers

Coffee is pretty much a performance enhancing drug for writers.For a writer on the road, or a digital nomad, the pour-over is the most practical and delicious way to brew up.

pour over hand drip coffee

The AeroPress is another highly portable, if slightly ugly, option that lets you go full nerd and control every aspect of the brewing process for a custom cup. There’s actually an international AeroPress competition, and you can find the winning recipes online. Asser The Coffee Chronicler has an in depth guide on how to use your AeroPress. 

 

Both of these methods brew a superior cup to traditional coffee makers. They also cut down on that bitter acid taste, which makes way for all those notes and flavors claimed by the coffee bean package.

 

Leuchtturm Notebooks

Leuchtturm notebook

For the luddite on your list, Leuchtturm is the last word in overpriced European notebooks. Smooth paper, solid construction, Leuchtturms come in three sizes and many colors. Ruled, dotted or plain. Get this,  they have numbered pages and table of contents, perfect for organizing journals and projects.

 

An Audible Membership

audible logo

Audiobooks are the actual best. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive AF. With an Audible membership, you get one free audiobook every month (or more depending on your plan) and a discount on any additional books you buy.

 

A Door that Locks

 

You can’t buy inspiration, the muse doesn’t honor gift certificates, but you can give the gift of a writing space that invites inspiration. Like leaving out cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer, there are things you can do to welcome the muse.

dylan thomas writing shed boathouse

On no budget, that could just mean surprising your writer by cleaning her/his desk. Buy a plant or a new lamp.

 

Working with a little more cash? Have your local locksmith put a lock on the study door; maybe upgrade the desk or chair. You could even remodel the study, rent your writer an office, or build a writer’s shed like Roald Dahl or JK Rowling. For the obstinate procrastinator put a lock on the outside of that shed’s door like Dylan Thomas’ wife put on his.

 

Special thanks to my friend Cheyne Kohl– Producer behind Underground Tracks, in Busan, South Korea–for this suggestion.

 

 

The MStand

 

The mStand by Rain Design inc  is a robust metal stand that turns your laptop into a desktop.

m stand

It will literally save your neck by putting the screen at eye-level. Pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse for an uncluttered minimalist work space.

 

Fountain Pens

I’ve reviewed a bunch, at prices ranging from $1.50 to $150. Whether someone actually writes with this or it’s just a symbol of the craft, you can’t go wrong giving a writer a nice pen.

 

Ordinary Pens

Charles daly Irish lifeboat pen cup

My bouquet of G2s

Good old fashioned ballpoints and roller-balls are great stocking-stuffers. We especially like to get these from people who have a habit of stealing our pens.

 

 

 

FREEDOM (app.)

The Christmas classic Love Actually closes on the Beach Boys tune ‘God only knows what I’d be without you…’ That’s the song I would dedicate to the Freedom app.

Freedom: Internet, App and Website Blocker

Easily block websites and apps on your computer, phone, and tablet with Freedom. The original and best website and internet blocker – Freedom blocks distractions so you can be more focused and productive. Freedom works on Mac, Windows, iPhone and iPad devices – Android coming soon. Try it for free today!

Freedom blocks your computer’s access to the internet. You set a timer, how many minutes or hours of ‘freedom’ you want, and you’re off the grid. Freedom can’t be switched off or overridden in any way before the timer runs out. In the words of Neil Gaiman, it ‘makes your computer something that’s never heard of the internet.’

 

LEGO Death Star

There’s nothing like legos to get you creating and problem solving on a different wavelength. If you’re going to slack off, this is one of the most productive ways to to do it. In the documentary 6 Days to Air the South Park guys show off their legos, which they use as an outlet when they’re creatively stuck.

lego death star

There are obviously less expensive sets, but the death star is just badass.

 

Red Ryder BB Gun

red ryder bb gun

Made famous by A Christmas Story, this iconic plinker makes an epic desk toy. It’s not so powerful or loud that you can’t use it indoors. Set up a paper target, on the other side of the room, with a shoebox to catch the BBs and practice your marksmanship when the words aren’t coming. Just don’t shoot your eye out.

 

A Writer’s Retreat

vermont long trail

My Osprey pack for company, somewhere in Vermont, 2016.

Design a getaway for/ with the writer in your life, whether it’s for a week in the country, a year in Thailand, or just a day at home with your phones switched off.

 

 

Bonus: Hunter S. Thompson Burning a Christmas Tree

Hunter S. Thompson – The Burning of The Christmas Tree (A gonzo binge)

www.HunterThompsonFilms.com

 

 


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DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. All Amazon prices and availability are subject to change, and only current as of the time of publication of this review.

I Wrote 52 Posts in 2017, here are my Favorites

I was all over the place this year, literally and figuratively, usually in a good way. I lived in Spain for a while, spent my first fall in New England since before college, and took a few extended trips to Montréal. I started two longer projects (one fiction, one non) and got my first byline in a major newspaper.

 

In total, I wrote 52 blog posts and articles this year, an average of one a week. Here are the highlights:

 

I wrote about Las Fallas, the fiesta that sounds like a war zone and Monomoy, Cape Cod’s desert island for the Boston Globe Travel section.

 

My most read, most emailed, and most popular post on Facebook was one I wrote about visiting the Marine Corps museum with my dad.

 

The one that got the most reTweets was a blurb about a meteorology lecture on the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I remember writing this on a morning I didn’t feel like writing. It was my idea of a compromise, and I never expected much of a reaction. You never know.

 

Another hit on Twitter, and one of my all-time favorite interviews, was my conversation with noir novelist Sarah M. Chen. We talked hardboiled fiction, irredeemable sleazebags, and Redondo Beach’s pulp legacy.

 

Montréal was good to me. It’s where I started blogging regularly after a bit of a dry spell. I covered an art exhibit inspired by Leonard Cohen, and I wrote about the city’s “potluck culture” for Roam Magazine.

 

I reviewed some fountain pens.

 

I also posted some flash fiction. My favorites are “Midnight Cereal,” “‘Rubbers’ are ‘Erasers,'” and “Enter Contempt.”

 

See you in 2018


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Friday Roundup, “From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads…”

“All Rhodes Scholars had a great future in their past.”

–Peter Thiel

Part of the reason I title these “Friday roundups” is that I’m accountable to post throughout the week. If I don’t, my recent articles will just be a string of Friday Roundups.

 

What I’m Reading:

Zero to One Peter Theil. The startup manifesto in which he takes a big dump on traditional education and tracking. This one hits home. He could be talking about my experience of formal education when he writes, “Students who don’t learn best by sitting still at a desk are made to feel somehow inferior, while children who excel on conventional measures like tests and assignments end up defining their identities in terms of this weirdly contrived academic parallel reality.” It was painful and discouraging to be the former. But today, I’m so glad I wasn’t the latter.

 

Some titles from Image Comics. It was my first time actually buying comics at Newbury Comics. (Boston people will get it.)

 

What I’m listening to:

My Song on repeat while I work this week is “Temptation” by New Order.  It’s the one the girl in Trainspotting is singing while Renton is going through withdrawal.

 

You’re right, David, “Life on Mars” is Bowie’s best song. If you’re in NYC and want to learn more about Bowie’s relationship with the city, check out the David Bowie walking tour.

 

Mark Manson’s audio articles are great for “reading” while you’re on the move.

 

What I’m doing:

Typing all weekend after a brilliantly distracting trip to New York.


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