Charles Daly

Writer

Tag: Writer’s block (page 1 of 11)

5 True Crime Podcasts

I’ve been obsessed with true crime podcasts lately. Because they’re so much fun, because serial killer stories are more uplifting than current events, because I’m doing research for a top secret fiction project I can’t talk about yet.

 

These are my favorites.

A Killing on the Cape

“You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.”

ABC (20/20)’s investigation of the murder for which every man in the small town of Truro, MA was a suspect at one point. Look no further for your Serial fix.

 

This one’s fun for me because it takes place in my backyard.

 

True Crime Garage

“Be Kind, and Don’t litter.”

Just a couple of guys drinking beer in a garage and talking about crime. The depth of their research is unreal. They’ll devote six, seven hours, over three parts, to a case if that’s what it requires. They revisit cold cases with new developments and bring in the occasional expert from the online amateur detective community.

 

My Favorite Murder

“Stay sexy. Don’t get murdered.”

The Pumpkin Spiced Latte of crime podcasts, this one will make you feel a little less weird about listening to serial killer stories for entertainment.  Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark break up the gory details of the case at hand with basic AF interjections like “what the actual fuck?”

If you’re already up on the killers they discuss, it’s not likely you’ll learn anything new, but it’s worth tuning in for the banter.

All Killa No Filla 

“Dead Funny.”

The U.K’s contribution to the all female true crime podcast sub-genre–for which the audience is huge apparently. Rachel and Kiri deliver the same mood-lightening tangents as their sisters across the pond at My Favorite Murder but with a bit more research.

It’s super charming and adorable when they correct their various Britishisms for a global audience. Like in the John Wayne Gacey episode when they say Gacey was “leathered, I mean drunk, I mean hammered.”

Dirty John

“Where other people saw red flags, she saw a parade.”

Hailed as “the best true crime podcast since serial,” by NME, Dirty John tells the story of the scumbag of the century and the woman he duped.

This is a production of the L.A times. Like NPR’s Serial and ABC’s  A Killing on the Cape, this one benefits from serious journalism and the resources of a major media company.

 

The Why…

Joe Rogan,  absolutely kills it at sharing something every day. His podcast is one of the most popular on iTunes, and at over a thousand episodes is among the most prolific. Part of what makes his output possible is that his show is largely unedited, taking the form of free-flowing conversations that can go on for two to four hours.

 

The Joe Rogan Experience doesn’t have the production value, the narrative structure, or the cool synth interludes of a Serial or This American Life, but it isn’t encumbered by the editorial or production constraints that force those shows to work on seasons like television programs. Rogan has true creative control over his platform and the result is a space where compelling and controversial figures can talk about whatever the hell they want.

 

In my own blog-smithing, I’ve taken a lesson here, because, for the longest, time I was held back by the urge to be a certain way or write a certain kind of post–all authoritative, pseudo journalistic, and, in my worst moments, life-coachy–rather than let this outlet develop organically into whatever it’s going to be.

 

So, today, I set out to write a post about the big “why?” behind all this putting oneself out there stuff. I wanted to reiterate the cliché but very true advice that life’s to short not to make stuff and share it with the world–if that’s what you want to do with your short time here. It should come as no surprise that there’s no shortage of voices online saying just that.

 

I thought about doing a listicle of lesser-known sources advising you to follow your passion–or, in Ryan Holiday’s case, follow your purpose. Instead, I settled on a single clip from episode #972 of the Joe Rogan Experience that makes the simple case for why you might want to stop “wasting your life in the 9 to 5 rat race” and how to do it.

 

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(By the way, if you’re keeping score re: Joe’s output, #972 was released on June 7th, 2017, and he’s now on episode #1037. That’s one episode ever 2.3 days. Imagine how productive he’d be without all those edibles…)

 

“People with Real jobs are so mad at us right now…”

Be a Minimalist

Another loaded milenial word… But Rogan is talking about priorities. Sort out what’s important to you and make it a priority, because you don’t have much time. Quit trading your living hours for “stuff.”

 

Make Enough Money

Nobody’s advocating starving. It’s about knowing what enough means to you and not busting your ass to earn more than that when you could be spending that time having an experience or working on something meaningful.

 

Rogan’s guest, Ari Shaffir suggests working on a tugboat in Seattle for a few months to save up for an adventure.

 

Take a Gap Year

In Europe, they have the same expectation that college is the next step after high school, but they also have a culture of taking time off. Parents don’t freak out when their kids want to go see Thailand before the show up to University.

 

A too-easy and totally untrue criticism of world travel is that it’s a luxury. Bullshit. You can join the peace corps, you can get a job overseas. My first job out of college was teaching English in Korea. Half the Americans I met there were sending money home to pay off student loans. When I left, I was freaking out, wondering how I could afford to live in the States. It was cheaper to keep traveling, so I moved to Spain.

 

You don’t have to be a child of privilege to travel or quit your job to follow your bliss, but you do have to reevaluate your priorities.

 

Get out of the Nine-to-Five Mindset

Rogan and Shaffir unpack the absurdity of sick days, vacation days, and the 40 hour workweek. Nothing original here, but it’s funny to hear Rogan make the case in his old-timey boss’ accent:

“Nine-to-five, nine-to-five, nine-to-five, morning, Bob; morning, Sam;  nine-to-five…could you imagine?”

 

The clip ends with a transition to a new rant about the tactical virtues of whipping your dick out in a fist fight.

 

 

 

 

5 Documentaries on Showing your Work

For inspiration on how to show your work , or to just get fired-up about the creative process in general, check out these five documentaries that take a look at the journey, the sweat, and the drama behind the finished product.

 

Oasis: Supersonic 

 

Supersonic chronicles the hard work and brilliant musicianship that would catapult Oasis to superstardom and the clash of egos and sibling rivalry that would be their undoing.

 

Depending on how you look at it, this is either a cautionary tale or a study in what you can get away with if your work is absolutely fucking brilliant.

 

For more studio craft and less tabloid buffoonery, check out the hour long Oasis: Definitely Maybe, a generic but interesting rock doc on the making of their debut album.

 

The Making of South Park: 6 Days to Air 

If there ever was a treatise on the power of deadlines to unleash creative productivity, this is it. Each episode of South Park is written, recorded, and animated in just 6 days. Far from a sweatshop, the South Park Studio is full of laughter, and the sort of goofing off that’s vital to creativity no matter how tight a deadline you’re on.

 

South Park’s co-creator, Trey Parker, relates the self-imposed crunch his team finds themselves in every week, “There’s a show on this Wednesday, and we don’t even know what it is.” They put out episodes not in spite of this ambiguity, but because of it. You get the impression that it would be a very different–and probably less special–show if they gave themselves more time. The void is part of the process. Something to keep in mind if you’ve committed to share something every day.

 

This one will make you feel lazy and, hopefully light a fire under your ass.

 

Funky Monks

 

Available in full on YouTube (below,) Funky Monks is a black-and-white fly-on-the-wall view of the making of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik: the one with “Under the Bridge” and “Give it Away” on it, the one that would make the Chili Peppers a band your grandma has heard of.

 

The band was living in their producer, Rick Rubin’s, mansion/studio at the time. Things get pretty fratty, but you can see the value of living in the same space as your work in progress.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: “Funky Monks” Uncut Full Documentary (1st Edit Uncut with bonus footage)

Use of this video is for “Fair Use” for Educational purposes showing different recording techniques, the creative process and is for comments on Artistic Content. There is a bit of an issue at the beginning of the Video at 0:00:10 – 0:00:36 as it was eaten by my VCR during transfer.

Abstract: the art of design (Netflix series) 

 

Each episode features a designer talking through and demonstrating their craft. It’s filmed in a way that gets inside the voice of its subjects and feels like a creative product all its own, not just a documentary about creatives.

 

The series includes New Yorker cover artist Christopher Niemann, Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, and designers of cars, sets, and buildings.

 

Hearts of Darkness: a Filmmaker’s Apocalypse

hearts of darkness filmmakers apocalypse francis ford copalla

While her husband was shooting Apocalypse Now, Eleanor Coppola kept home videos and audio recordings of his work. This started as a way to keep herself occupied while adjusting to life in the Philippine countryside, where the family had relocated for the duration of the project.

 

Everything that  can go wrong goes wrong: a hurricane wipes out the set, people get malaria, Coppola burns through all his Godfather money and everything he can borrow, Brando throws tantrums over his body image issues, and the Philippine Army Helicopters–hired for the film–fly away in the middle of a shot on orders to go fight actual rebels.

 

Copolla’s private rants, which Eleanore recorded without his knowledge, are cringeworthy yet familiar to anyone who’s ever felt over their head on a creative project.

 

Fiction Abortions

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while and you saw my recent post about starting a novel, you might be thinking: what about the one you were re-writing last year, or the one you drafted in 30 days?

The answer: those are in the bin.

I’ve written and thrown away three short novels:

 

The first was a plotless, soju-drunk travelogue set in Korea and Japan which I put out of its misery after three drafts.

 

The second was a humorless coming-of-age story that I would have called “literary” as a nice way of saying it wasn’t about anything. That one went through 11 or so drafts and some feedback from family and friends (cringe) before it slept with the fishes.

 

I even wrote a spy novel, which took about 21 days. I had just read a bunch of books on plot and screenwriting and decided it would be easy to whip together something sleek and plot-driven set in the places I had traveled. It didn’t work, but I got one scene out of it, I’m going to use elsewhere, that made the whole thing worth it.

 

I’m sharing this so I don’t have to feel doomed going into the novel I’m working on. There’s a persistent voice that tells me that I’m 0-and-4, and asks why this one should be any different. This is my way of silencing that voice.

 

Rather than crossing my fingers, hoping nobody finds my old posts about the writing and rewriting process, I want to own those false starts and abortions. I’m glad I wrote them, and I’m glad I threw them away. I’m glad I didn’t self-publish work I wasn’t proud of, and I’m glad I’m stepping up to the plate again.

 

If I finish the one I’m working on and put it out in the world, it will only be because of all the work I’ve done up to this point: the stuff I put out there and the stuff I binned.

 

*If you’re the sort of person who gets offended by abortion quips, it’s very unlikely you’ll enjoy my writing. Have a nice day. 

Show Your Work!

 Yesterday’s blog post started as a long caption on Instagram, under a photo of my writing tools. I was sharing my stoke over starting a new novel–in the only way I can since I won’t say what it’s about until I have a draft–but I was also answering a prompt from Austin Kleon’s handy little book,  Show Your Work! In this guide to putting your stuff out in the world, Kleon dispenses powerful and simple advice like “share something small every day.”

 

 

Show your Work by Austin Kleon share something small every day

 

Yesterday, I was doing just that—as I am in with this post. Both days I felt like I had nothing to say, and I’m sure I’ll have to slay that dragon again tomorrow. What got me writing was letting go of the need to create from scratch, opting instead to document what’s right in front of me.

 

In the third day of writing a novel, I don’t have any creative writing that’s ready to share. But I can talk about my process, my tools, my creeping insecurities, and the books on my nightstand—including the one that inspired me to write this post in the first place.

 

Kleon offers specific advice on how to do this:

 

“Once a day, after you’ve done your days work, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process that you can share. Where you are in your process will determine what the piece is. If you’re in the very early stages, share your influences and what’s inspiring you. If you’re in the middle of executing a project, write about your methods or share works in progress. If you’ve just completed a project, show the final product, share scraps from the cutting room floor, or write about what you learned. If you have lots of projects out in the world, you can report on how they’re doing—you can tell stories about how people are interacting with your work.” (Kleon, 48.)

 

He also shares a graphic outlining what to share and what not to share:

 

Austin Kleon show your work share something small every day

And that’s the problem: I sort of conflated sharing with oversharing, as if showing friends and followers where I work is the same thing as a selfie-reel or pictures of my lunch.

 

At first glance, that attitude might seem profound, like a humble stand against the self importance and the vapidity of social media. But really, it’s just control freakery in disguise. Part of sharing one’s stuff is letting it go. I don’t dictate the terms of how others experience my work. I don’t get to micro-mange their response. And that’s a good thing, because the response to my post was better than anything I could have arranged for myself:

 

I connected with some new writers, who must have found me through the hashtags.

 

A buddy of mine asked to be a character in the novel—he doesn’t know he already is.

 

One friend noticed the crime writing hashtags and asked me all about that genre—something she didn’t know I was into. And she, in turn, told me about fantasy writing and world-building, something I didn’t know she was working on.

 

Another friend, who I haven’t talked to in a while shared what he learned about long projects from his marathon training. We ended up talking about his next race. (What up, Pete!)

 

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t gotten over myself and put my scrap of the day out into the world.

 

show your work by austin kleon

 

“We off That.” Don’ts for Writers in 2017

Jay-Z’s “Off That” is a concise guide to what was no longer cool as of 2009: everything from baggy clothes and Timbs (Timberland boots,) to fighting in the club and telling your girl you love her.

We writers could use a similar style audit. With all the wackness being perpetrated in the writing game today, it’s time for a little perspective. Here’s a writer’s list of “don’ts” for 2017.

The Word “Just,” we off That.

Remember Marissa Cooper on The O.C? She had this tick where every time she needed to express herself or work through a dilemma she’d start by saying “It’s just…” in a breathless voice. It was part of the reason some people were happy when she got killed off.

That’s what you sound like when you send an email “Just checking in…,” or “Just following up…,” or “Just wanting to know…”

Just stop it. Get to the point, say what you mean, mean what you say. The word “just” damages your credibility.

Continue Reading at Medium, and follow me if you’re on there too. 

50 Things to Collect when you Read

This post has since been reposted by Thought Catalog

  1. Favorite quotes
  2. Gorgeous prose
  3. Bad prose
  4. Lines that make you laugh
  5. and cry
  6. Lines you wish you had written
  7. Scenes that make you wonder how the hell this book got so popular
  8. Place names
  9. Character names
  10. Obscure words (the word for a collector of words is sesquipedalian)
  11. Words you derive the meaning of from their context
  12. Moments when you know what will happen next
  13. Moments where you thought you knew and were surprised
  14. Moments that made you put the book down
  15. Where you were, who you were with, what was going on around you while you were reading (See Proust, Swan’s Way)
  16. Recommended further reading.
  17. Settings
  18. Drinks mentioned
  19. Drugs mentioned
  20. Number of drinks taken (This has been done by readers of  The Sun Also Rises, and in a British Medical Journal study of the James Bond novels and films.)
  21. Bad sex scenes. (The Literary Review puts out an award every year for bad sex in fiction.)
  22. Language that just wouldn’t fly today (again, see Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.
  23. Lines that will make you sound smart.
  24. Feelings you’ve had your whole life you’re only just finding the words for in someone else’s work
  25. Words of comfort
  26. Words that disturb
  27. Words a good friend needs to hear right now
  28. Moments that make you say “I could have thought of that”
  29. References to historical/ current events. (I recently found a scene in Watchmen based on an obscure and brutal prison riot in New Mexico, the details of which I DO NOT recommend Googling.)
  30. References to other works of literature and art
  31. Outright theft of other works of art
  32. The sources of later references
  33. Parallels and cross pollination to other stuff you’re reading
  34. Moments that make you see the limits of verbal storytelling
  35. and moments that make you believe there are no limits
  36. Questions for the author
  37. Questions for a character
  38. Questions for yourself, the reader
  39. Food mentioned
  40. Brand names
  41. Celebrities and historical figures name-dropped
  42. Scenes that were better/ worse in the movie
  43. What you liked
  44. What you hated
  45. Notes on an impossible sequel
  46. Who you’d cast in the movie
  47. Life lessons
  48. Songs mentioned
  49. Books mentioned
  50. Number of times a given word appears (David Foster Wallace does a hilarious take-down of John Updike in which compares the number of words devoted to the description of a golf course to the very few words describing the end of the world for which the course is a metaphor.)

 

This post started as a brainstorming session with The Imperfectionist.

 

Friday Roundup

“He traveled in order to come home.” 

–William Trevor 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showing Up, By the Numbers

If you do three morning pages  every day, you’ll write 273,750 words every year (assuming 250 words/ page.) That’s Crime and Punishment plus Lord of the Flies, all before breakfast.

 

Writing three hours a day gets you to 10,000 hours of practice in ten years. A decade will go by fast if you’re living the kind of life worth writing about. Graham Greene wrote 25 books in a lifetime of three hour days.

 

Just three pages a day for a year is over a thousand pages. You could still draft a novel in a year writing just one page a day.

 

Will Self measures his output in “Conrads.” One Conrad is 800 words.  At a rate of one Conrad per day, you can write a short novel in under 70 days.

 

Friday Roundup — I Think You’re Fat

“If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.”

–Leonard Cohen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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