I'm on a self-imposed solo "writer's retreat."
I also did this two years ago, and with a specific charge: I had to finish a new screenplay I had been toiling with, because I was convinced that I was one period of isolation away from being able to hold the script for a brilliant-yet-also-commercially-viable script in my hands. And it worked. I completed some 70-80 new pages in 3-4 days. I got to the end. I typed those two glorious words, "FADE OUT," printed it, pierced it with two brass fasteners and headed home.
There was only one problem: the script sucked. Even when I spent virtually the next 12 months revising it, it still sucked. It was a great premise without a great story. And it centered on an interesting idea for a character who, once actually living on the page, was a waste of the alphabet. I had chosen to work on that script because when I described the premise to people (an odd one for me, because it was science fiction), it made their eyes light up. "That's the one you have to write," they would say. And so I listened, diving into sci-fi movies and literature, bowing at the altars of Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft--even finally watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" (on my iPhone at the gym; don't hate me). After the retreat, I devoted every Friday of an entire year--a huge sacrifice of otherwise billable hours--to revising it. I could never get it to work. I still don't know what it's really about, or what the hell to do with it.
So here I am, in the same cabin in Minnesota, sipping coffee by a fire, again convinced that I need a "period of isolation" to write. But this time, I have a different approach (obviously, since I'm wasting an hour this morning writing about the experience instead of living it). There are no hard deadlines. There's no specific project. I brought my computer, a notebook and pen, a guitar, and two books: James Joyce's Dubliners and a collection of Raymond Carver short stories--because "The Dead" is the only piece of literature that screams "genius" to me and compels me to read it periodically, and because there's just something about Raymond Carver that speaks to me ... not necessarily the subject matters, but the style, its precision.
If this retreat does have a goal, it's a broad one, and one that I find hard to articulate. It has something to do with trying to figure out whether or not an artist lives inside of me. This is a big issue for me, as I've always identified myself as a creative person, but only on the middling level of "craftsman," never "artist." Art is serious business. Art comprises depths that I literally cannot fathom. The question I seek to address has something to do with the way I just described myself. Is that a bunch of self-deprecating bullshit, or is it a truth that I simply need to embrace and stop feeling guilty about?
If, as a creative person, I seek to create nothing but what I find "fun" and "natural," then I do what I did last night when I arrived here: I take out my guitar, compose a rhythm in GarageBand, spontaneously pound out a simple riff, build some parts around it, save it, share it and hope people like it. As for writing, I write things like what I'm writing right now. Thoughts, essays, travel journals. If I'm truly moved, I lapse into poetry, but that usually requires being in Ireland. Rarely do I truly "feel" like writing a screenplay, a short story, God forbid a novel.
Should I see this as a sign of what I should truly be doing? I could, except that it's never enough. If I go down this road too long, I inevitably run up against some other piece of superior creativity, or "art," that moves me, and that I find far more complex, emotional and meaningful than anything I've ever done. And I find myself longing to do THAT. I become convinced that whatever THAT is (a Raymond Carver short story like "Cathedral," perhaps, which I re-read this morning) is completely accessible to me. The only reason I don't go there is because it's frightening, and it's hard. I could be THAT, and in some ways I'll never be happy with myself until I achieve THAT, so maybe I should just go face the fear (and the work) and do it, as if I can.
Except for this: There's that word, "achieve." Why do I use that word in describing this creative version of White People Problems that I struggle with? That word says "ego" to me. That word says "obligation" to me. That word says that there's something from the outside that's also driving this. Where does my expectation of any of this come from? Is it truly from within, in which case I would say that it's something I need to face ... or is it originally from without, some expectation I felt at an early age from my father, directly or indirectly (in which case I might just need to let it go)?
My father, to his credit, never placed THAT particular pressure on me or anyone else. He wasn't concerned with his children being artists; he was concerned with them being educated. But when I looked at his writing, which I did in depth when compiling his works for a book I presented him on his 70th birthday, I felt the same issue. My dad was fundamentally a writer, but he ended up in high-level academic public relations. He "naturally" wrote short stories. He did a masters thesis on John Dos Passos. I remember him re-reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past for fun. In the basement. With a baseball game on the TV.
I feel like my dad wanted to be a writer, but he chose the more practical route and journeyed, as so many writers do, from journalism to PR. He clearly wanted to be married, wanted a family, wanted a "normal" life. He was deeply traditional in that sense, and must have decided that to have both, something had to give. And to his credit, he made it work. He didn't sell out. He didn't become some corporate PR flak; he did his job well in the atmosphere he most believed in (Catholic liberal arts academia), at a place he truly seemed to love (Notre Dame). Did I sense some bitterness about that decision? Did I feel a sense of "sacrifice" in my dad's gait, his expression, his drinking? Or am I reverse-projecting? I honestly have no idea. My father didn't carve out time to write novels and short stories. He didn't go on writer's retreats. He was perfectly content to read spy novels and The New York Times. His sole literary expression was the family Christmas letter, which was the perfect merging of everything he valued in his life.
What's that perfect merging for me? It could be exactly what I'm doing, and so perhaps my job is to stop looking over my shoulder, thinking that I should be doing something grander, something deeper, and to realize that my feelings of artistic inadequacy are an illusion--the undisposed byproduct of some kind of weird childhood guilt. Or perhaps that's completely wrong. Perhaps what I need to do is take that vision over the shoulder seriously, explore it more fully, realize that it's okay to see myself as an artist, and not have to choke on that word when describing my self.
Friday, November 21, 2014
I'm on a self-imposed solo "writer's retreat."
Posted by Marc Conklin at 12:07 PM
Friday, August 22, 2014
One observation a day on Twitter, for 365 consecutive days. In alphabetical order (according to Excel):
4 in the morning should never be seen.
|"A girl, how
exciting! What'd you name her?" "Edith." Is something
I will never hear in my lifetime.
"Alumni" is often used as a singular word, even though it's actually
the masculine plural.
"Breaking Bad" is about one man's capacity to change for the
worse. "The Wire" is about society's inability to change for
"Free Nelson Mandela" by The Specials is the most danceable
song ever written.
"Global warming is a hoax perpetuated by monied interests" is the
"Gay? I'm so not gay! YOU'RE GAY!" of the climate change debate.
"Honesty" is not always the same as "crassness."
"Hope" extrapolated always refers to the hope for immortality,
and therefore always disappoints.
"Hot mess" has very quickly become an annoyingly overused
"How's your day going so far?" is the service industry's new
meaningless conversation-making statement of choice.
"I am a liar" is the mobius strip of statements.
"I am the danger" was great. "Say my name," not so much.
"I have three years to live" sounds better than "I have three
Septembers to live."
"It's a cold day so global warming is a hoax" is the "I don't
have a gay kid so gays shouldn't marry" of the hyper-myopic
"Monuments Men" was first billed as a comedy. The new ads
strain to make it look like an action movie. This spells trouble.
"Riders on the Storm" did a very good job of sounding like rain.
"Tall Kitchen Garbage Bags" can describe tall bags for kitchen
garbage, garbage bags for tall kitchens, or kitchen bags for tall
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a stunning visual achievement,
which is different than being a stunning movie.
"Which is more difficult to conceptualize in the universe: infinity
or an end?" is the most interesting question I've heard in a long
ball actually hits.
A disproportionate number of bands' truly best songs are the last
tracks on the album.
A huge percentage of the American economy depends on people making bad decisions.
A light rain never used to cover your car in soot.
A sound infects many current pop songs that can best be described as "Disney African." See: "Roar," Katy Perry; Imagine Dragons, All.
"Dynamic," "zesty," "tangy" and "melty" are the four most meaningless words in the English language.
Accountants always bitch about the very obtuse and complex IRS rules that keep them in business and determine their value.
All dogs have Stockholm Syndrome.
All extreme statements are bullshit.
All people believe three things about themselves: they are busy,
they don't watch much TV, and they're a good driver.
All products ultimately sell a false belief in our ability to overcome mortality.
All vintage clothing shops smell the same.
Alternative anything derives its value and identity from the very
thing it exists in opposition to.
An appetite is like hope.
Anchorman 2 is so thoroughly and expertly pre-promoted, I
feel like I've already seen the movie.
Andrew Bird looks like a cross between John Oliver and Luke
Apple Stores aren't just a customer service clinic; they're a PhD
Approximately 64% of all movies include the line, "Let's get to
Approximately 75% of the experts interviewed on public radio
begin their answers with the word "so."
As an American person, I'm sick to death of politicians referring
to me as "the American people."
At a certain point in winter, the ice in the streets starts to look
At its root, the theme of every story is Death, and the subtext of
every conversation is "I'm terrified."
At last night's Oscars, a visual effects artist thanked the actors
for adding life to his effects. #DefiningMoment
At some point, saying "you're welcome" in response to "thank
you" acquired a tinge of arrogance.
Atheists and believers both ultimately embrace the concept that
something can exist without being created.
Autofill makes me about 30 percent less efficient.
Barack Obama begins a lot of sentences with, "We need to
work hard to make sure ... "
Barney Miller was a great show.
Baseball is the only place where we accept "flied" as the past
tense of "fly."
Bill Maher has an increasing habit of smacking his lips to
punctuate a point.
Black Friday is bullshit.
Block parties are really side parties.
Brazil nuts always taste like mold.
Brooks Whelan should recreate Bill Murray's "I don't think
it's working out for me on the show" speech. Seriously.
Budget deficits are lower than expected. Climate change is worse than expected. Yet the Right beats the drum on one and questions the other.
Buzzfeed is the new Myers Briggs.
Capitalism is amoral, yet we spend all of our time arguing
whether it's moral or immoral.
Cats love fish but hate water. This makes no evolutionary sense.
Chances are, your best piece of writing is the thing you wouldn't
dare show anybody.
Chris Parmelee has the strangest body in professional sports.
Christmas is over, and you realize it was all just a manipulative trick to make you forget how much cold, snow and lack of sunlight suck.
Classical music performances attract more coughers than any other live event.
Climate change denial will go down as the biggest mistake our species ever made. Except that there will be no one to learn from that lesson.
Color-blind people mostly have trouble with reds and greens. So we put those colors in out traffic lights.
Compared to when it started, SNL seems to have twice as many cast members and half as many shows.
Conspiracy theorists flatter the organizations they view as evil by assuming them capable of executing their evil so well.
Coughing when you have sinusitis is a little like sneezing when you have a bloody nose.
Creativity is born out of limitation. #140Characters
Curious is the creature who can land a rover on Mars yet still spills his drink whilst checking his watch.
Dance is a conversation spoken in a language I can't understand.
Death is bullshit.
Denial is essential to living.
Despite the fact that members of the religious right nearly always quote the Old Testament, they are called Christians and not "Leviticans."
Dogs are totally dependent on humans to feed them, and that must really suck. But it's part of the deal they made.
Doris Kearns Goodwin loves the word "buoyed."
Driving ability has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. And everything to do with height.
Edginess is overrated.
Even with the sound off, you can tell that daytime TV hosts are paid to act stupid.
Every eclipse is "the last one we'll see for 200 years."
Every packaged, processed food is a delivery vehicle for salt, fat, sugar, or some combination of the three.
Every profession depends on the continued success of the very thing it opposes or corrects.
Every state has a Springfield.
Every time there's about to be an awkward speech in a movie, the speaker will tap the microphone and get feedback.
Every woman's least-favorite word is "moist."
Everyone has a country they secretly wish they were from, an era they secretly with they were born in, and an age they secretly still are.
Ferns are alarmingly pre-historic-looking plants, and "pre-historic" is an alarmingly nonsensical word.
Flying is safe because the incentives are perfectly aligned.
Football is the primary impediment to a second civil war.
For some people, "believing" is something you do in the face of strong evidence. For others, it's something you do when there's no evidence.
For some questions, there are no good answers. Like, "So what made you want to become a Nazi war reenactor?"
For some reason, a person becomes 15 percent more attractive when they're behind a service counter.
For some reason, banks still have buildings.
From a dog's perspective, they don't go for "walks," they go for "sniffs."
From a pure branding standpoint, ISIS is a better name than The Islamic State.
From the moment we first grasped our mortality, the entire history of the human race can be seen as a quest for greater comfort.
Gale didn't deserve to get shot.
Gangsters of the 1930s wouldn't have been nearly as interesting without the nicknames.
Given their obsessive frequency of self-identification, I can only conclude that NPR's target audience is Alzheimer's patients.
Goalies yell a lot.
Grocery store lemons have seeds. Grocery store limes do not.
Guys just aren't named "Vern" anymore.
Half of what Walgreens sells makes you ill. The other half treats the symptoms of your illness. #brilliantbusinessmodel
Headlines didn't used to be manipulatively suspenseful by leaving out key antecedents. And then this happened.
Heart disease is the global warming of illness.
Hell is a Michael's store.
I can't be friends with guys who spit in the urinal.
I can't look at fog the same way since watching "The Mist."
I don't know anyone who doesn't still call it "Kinko's."
I hate it when I'm trying to hang out alone in my car in a parking lot, and some jerk pulls up next to me to do the same thing.
I hate people who lack consciousness. I love people who lack self-consciousness.
I hate people who say PEEnalize.
I have not heard anyone talk about Second Life in at least two years.
I have now made 219 consecutive daily observations. #meta
I still feel guilty when I walk into the neighborhood coffee shop carrying a scone from the place next store. Like I'm cheating on them.
I still think that if I click on a paid Google search result, it's going to cost ME.
I think we all know what a credit card CVV number is by now.
I used to do a lot for weddings. Now I do a lot for funerals.
I was not put on this Earth to do yard work.
I'm guessing that if you recorded a dog's bark and played it back to him, he wouldn't say, "Man, I hate the sound of my own bark."
I'm only even remotely content when I grade myself on a curve.
I've always had a refrigerator light. I've never had a freezer light.
I've never heard the term "water refugee," but I suspect that I will in my lifetime.
If a prescription drug fails once, it's a failure. If an alternative medicine works once, it's a success.
If an idea is comforting, that's a good indication that it's also not true.
If anyone has invented a doohickey for coffee shop tables that adjusts them to warped wooden floors so they stand flat, I haven't seen it.
If corporations are people, then a helluva lot of them are welfare queens, tax evaders, deserters, cheaters and takers.
If every male on the planet received a full-body massage at least every other month, there would be no war.
If Hopper paintings were only about loneliness, they wouldn't be so artful.
There's an odd comfort in the loneliness. A certain contentment.
If I could, I would live less of my life in the subjunctive tense.
If it weren't for me, we'd never go anywhere. If it weren't for her, we'd never get anywhere.
If Jon Stewart says something I've been thinking, it's cathartic. If some annoying guy in a coffee shop does the same, I'm filled with hate.
If man descended from apes, then why do evolution-denying mouth-breathers still exist?
If the cosmos is infinite and motion is relative, then Earth is the center of the universe and the sun revolves around it.
If there's a linguistic version of a black hole or Mobius strip, it's this: "irony."
If we found out we weren't alone in the universe, it wouldn't solve the problem, just be a bigger group that was alone.
If you were plopped blindfolded into a big church-basement reception, you wouldn't know if it was a funeral or a wedding.
If you're on a treadmill and you don't want the woman next to you to think you're a perv, you shouldn't watch Boardwalk Empire on your iPad.
In corporate America, "ante" has became "table stakes": "This is a commodity business, so we need to go beyond table stakes messaging."
In general, funnier people come from colder places.
In life, as in coffee, I do not take cream or sugar.
In many ways, Florida is a very cold place.
In your 20s, you think you know it all. Your 30s, you realize there's a lot you don't know. Your 40s, you realize nobody knows anything.
Inconsistency of belief is lazy. Rigid consistency of belief is dangerous. And also lazy.
Individually, people are smarter than you think. Collectively, they're dumber.
Informal criticism that removes the first person singular changes the meaning. "I like it" means one thing. "Liked it" means another.
It doesn't matter.
Okay, yes it does.
It doesn't matter how realistic or "dark" you do it, when you dramatize something for TV or film, you automatically glamorize it.
It gets really exhausting seeing every opportunity as a chance for failure.
It is now apparently mandatory that every dramatic TV series feature at least one three-way.
It isn't fair.
It makes no sense to thank someone for their message when you haven't even heard it yet.
It used to be "The Ukraine," now it's just "Ukraine."
It's a fine line between giving up and letting go. Or maybe one is merely a rebranding of the other.
It's a thin line between love and hate, but it's a fine line between stupid and clever.
It's always about the money.
It's always jarring to see a movie that dares to show what America--and Americans--actually look like.
It's extremely difficult to define the difference between an observation and an opinion.
It's extremely hard to say "licorice wristwatch."
It's February 21, and my kid still has Halloween candy.
It's hard to know when tough parenting is imperfection or wisdom.
It's harder to watch someone who's watching someone in pain than it is to watch the person in pain.
It's not going to be okay.
It's pretty much about walking, talking and eating.
It's really odd that American institutions of higher learning also serve as minor league sports franchises. http://t.co/XESepzmaYm
It's really odd that human beings make sounds with their throats to communicate what's in their brains, and can understand this.
It's somewhat amazing that the concept of a "starting pitcher" still exists.
Jeremy Messersmith's "Tourniquet" is and will be the catchiest song of 2014.
Jimmy Carter is the greatest president that people refuse to embrace.
Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake make everyone else on SNL look like an amateur.
Jimmy Fallon's monologues are slowly getting more Leno-esque.
John Belushi was svelte by today's standards.
John Dillinger looked a lot like Christopher Guest.
Jon Stewart and Bill Maher never talk about each other.
Jon Stewart's favorite word is a French term I can't find anywhere, apparently meaning "tiny bit," that sounds like "sooSAW."
Kindness matters above all else.
Life is a dangling carrot.
Life is a mashup.
Liquor stores, dry cleaners and funeral homes never go out of business.
Living a fear-based life is exhausting.
Memories are most effectively conjured through the sense of smell, yet there is no social network to share the olfactory.
Michael Sam is infinitely braver than the NFL.
Millennials have two things in common: an amazing perception of and intolerance for inauthenticity, and a near-obsessive love of poop jokes.
Minnesotans' accents grow thicker with cold weather.
More often, I prefer to be where nobody knows my name.
Most airports have runways next to large bodies of water, as if to give the pilots an extra little challenge.
Most comedy films that eventually become huge franchise hits start with a film that isn't a hit at all.
Most good things in movie comedy have Chicago roots.
Most people who spout "personal responsibility" believe in it for everyone but themselves.
Most people who work in film are frustrated musicians.
Most problems between two people begin with eye contact. So do most solutions.
Most sportscasters say "inertia" when they mean "momentum."
Movie and rock stars are always shorter in person than we expect. But losers and nobodies aren't any taller.
Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky [than Bob Dylan]. Well, that covers just about everybody.
My guess is that even the most devout, transubstantiation-believing Catholic celiac still avoids taking Communion.
My seemingly original discovery that Michael Ballack and Matt Damon look alike is not so original after all. #GoogleKillsMySelfEsteem
My thumb hits the 'i' instead of the 'o' more than 50% of the time.
Netflix has succeeded in semi-quietly changing its logo. Which is quite an accomplishment.
Never once have a heard a guy say he'd pick Ginger.
No matter what Pandora station I set up, it will inevitably play The Shins' "New Slang."
No one ever points out the relative absurdity of using the brain to understand the brain.
No one plays the victim card better, and is less deserving of it, than Fox News talk show hosts.
No sport requires a more diverse set of skills from offense to defense than baseball.
No study has ever been done on why sports radio hosts consistently fake stutter on the word "I."
Nurses are ironically fat.
Oceans are pools of mortality and eternity.
Often when Jon Stewart makes a joke, he moves his mouth at the end w/o saying anything. There should be a name for that.
One of the greatest (and least recognized) TV episodes of all time was the "Rosieland" episode of M*A*S*H. http://t.co/vVU77Na1yC
One of the rarest sights on Earth ... is the sight of a construction crane actually moving.
Ordering coffee in MN carries the illusion of asking permission: "Can I have a 12-oz Sumatra?" "Sure!"
Oswaldo Arcia has a certain John Belushi quality.
Ozzy Osbourne actually covered John Lennon's "Woman."
People interrupt each other more than ever, and say goodbye less than ever.
People usually hate the sound of their own voice, but they seldom hate the smell of their own farts.
People who champion accountability and personal responsibility will do anything to abdicate personal responsibility for the environment.
People who drive on the left side also walk that way.
People who use their first and middle initials seem much more credible as quotable sources.
People who work at flower shops are never in a bad mood.
Proof that Bob Dylan is from Minnesota: "Don't Think Twice" is actually one of the most passive-aggressive songs ever written.
Ricky Rubio looks like Ringo Starr.
Rush might be a more polarizing band than Steely Dan.
Ryan Suter looks like Charles Lindbergh.
Set off any chain reaction and wait a couple billion years, & people will say that the present is so unlikely that there must be a God.
Seth Meyers looks way more comfortable sitting down than he does standing up.
Shy people who routinely keep their opinions to themselves are never referred to as "inspoken."
Significantly more people make a living being entertaining but wrong than boring but right.
Smart phones are a lifesaver for introverts at big conventions.
Smoothies are bullshit.
Society comprises Unconditional Givers, Conditional Givers and Unreciprocating Receivers, creating stability and stagnation.
Some believe the world is safer. Others think it's more dangerous. No one wants to believe that it's exactly the same ... and never changes.
Some day we'll find it hilarious that it took 5 guys to do FOX NFL pre-game and halftime shows.
Some people waste half their lives bitching about customer service.
Sometime in the past six months, more people started saying "step foot in" than "set foot in."
Sometimes flossing feels like gum rape.
Sometimes, a river runs over it.
Sometimes, tragedy is comedy + time.
Somewhere along the evolutionary timeline, natural selection chose "disappointing but interesting" over "reliable but boring."
Somewhere along the line, "disapprove of" and "should be impeached" have become synonymous in the American political consciousness.
Sports talk radio guys in Minnesota have an affect where they fake-stutter the pronoun "I" at the beginning of sentences.
Starbucks would make even more money if they charged by the syllable.
Stating that your corporate mission is "to be authentic" is a self-negating prophecy.
Stretch your arms. That's Earth's lifespan. Take a nail file swipe over one finger. What comes off is all of human existence. #BillBryson
Taran Killam's Matt McConaughey is amazing.
Tea Partiers believe that gov't is so ineffective ... that they should run it and take their salaries from taxpayers.
Ten years from now, we'll definitely wonder what was up with all the damn beards.
The 40s are when men either figure it out or lose their fucking minds.
The best coffees come from Kenyan beans.
The best name ever for an Irish whiskey is this. http://t.co/nst0Lo6KAz
The carpeting in doctors' offices is almost as atrocious and the nurses' patterned blouses.
The Catholic Church is the only org where the leader can say "women will still be barred from executive roles" and be called "progressive."
The color change from season one to season two in Breaking Bad is super-noticeable ... esp b/c they show the same scene.
The colorblind can't tell green from red, yet you never see the headline: "Colorblind Driver Runs Stoplight, Crashes."
The confidence-blowing peer-comparison that Malcolm Gladwell writes about is exacerbated by the competitive condensation of the internet.
The definitions of tenacity and insanity are the same: "Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result."
The different way @BryanCranston moved his body in Breaking Bad's flashback scenes might just be the most impressive pat of his performance.
The earlier the poop joke, the worse the SNL.
The entire history of human existence can be seen as a quest for greater and greater comfort.
The fact that dogs sometimes walk in a circle as they sniff each other's butts is funnier than the fact that they sniff each other's butts.
The faster the TV refresh rate, the flatter the image, the more ridiculous dramatic dialogue appears to be.
The final episode of "How I Met Your Mother" got more viewers than the final episode of "Breaking Bad."
The five words we always need to hear also make up the biggest lie we tell ourselves: "It's going to be okay."
The greatest contribution that smartphones have actually made to society is making aloneness in public a lot more doable.
The hard line now only handles telemarketers and emergencies. Neither are welcome.
The hardest thing to find on a coffee shop menu is "coffee."
The hardest thing to teach your kids is how to question every authority except your own.
The idea of a woman hosting The Tonight Show is on no one's radar.
The language used in NFL draft coverage ("shuttle speed" ... "he can peel off the edge and get skinny") is the most ridiculous of any event.
The least effective way to get someone to calm down is to tell them to calm down.
The least-appreciated trait in a President is the ability to avoid bad things and/or keep bad things from getting worse.
The main difference between little girls and little boys is that little girls scream a lot.
The main reason we don't take history more seriously is that we always imagine the people in it moving in comically fast motion.
The merger of iPad cash registers and unrealistic tipping expectations is a very bad thing.
The moment you recognize yourself as having "talent," you begin comparing yours to others ... and feeling that you never have enough.
The more expensive the coffee shop, the less likely they are to bring you your coffee.
The more I watch the World Cup, the more I find myself saying "draw" and "nil" in casual speech.
The more you zoom out, patterns emerge. The more you zoom in, total chaos.
The most beautiful thing a human being can do is sing.
The most concise self-negating phrase in the English language is "be authentic."
The most embarrassing thing I can admit is that I've never seen "Purple Rain."
The most enduringly polarizing band of all time is Steely Dan.
The most overused word in ad agency circles today is "curate."
The most prominent male atheists are Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. The most prominent female atheist is a woman who died in 1982.
The new Brendan Benson song "It's Your Choice" sounds a little like Boston's "Long Time" slowed down.
The older you get, the more you look forward to going to the bathroom as "me time."
The one failing of the Irish is that they still haven't learned to combine the hot and cold water spigots.
The one fiction we all accept is the idea that money has value.
The one thing you never hear about a great man of history is, "He was nice to everybody and never did anything wrong."
The only notion more depressing than the idea that humanity is getting worse is the idea that it is incapable of change.
The only person on Earth who might have more overall talent than Justin Timberlake is Prince.
The only thing I'm confident in is my complete lack of confidence.
The only way to silence a conspiracy theorist is to ask him exactly what he'd need to hear to convince him that there wasn't a conspiracy.
The opposite of empathy isn't hate or judgment; it's voyeurism.
The Oscars are like Notre Dame football. Their enduring popularity seems to stem from the fact that everybody hates them.
The people truly worth listening to are middle-aged adults on their deathbeds.
The poets and philosophers are wrong. The comedians are right.
The quality of a modern movie is inversely proportional to the amount and volume of musical score.
The reason "mystery" has always been a solid genre is that we're born into one.
The same people who say "weapons don't kill people, people kill people" are keenly interested in disarming Iran.
The same people who think that guns don't kill think that welfare checks make people lazy.
The simple truth is that everything is more complicated than we'd like to believe.
The single best way the NHL could increase excitement and expand its audience is by making regulation four on four instead of five on five.
The surest sign that one person is about to bitch about another person is when they start by saying "I love him to death."
The surest sign that someone is about to tell you a long story is when they start with, "I'll give you the short version."
The surest way to know exactly what someone means is if they use the phrase "it's almost like ... " before it.
The thing is, I don't want to do ANY of this.
The thing you most pride yourself on is actually your biggest weakness.
The things we most like to hear about ourselves are the things we least often say to other people.
The three most meaningful words we ever hear are "I love you." The three most meaningless are "void where prohibited."
The Winter Olympics are the only thing whiter than an Eagles concert.
The world's most poorly packaged food is lox.
The worst accent you can hear while abroad is a Long Island one.
The worst customer service experience I ever had was with US Bank. Today.
There are few greater sights in life than your dog running full-steam toward you.
There are few things in the world more disturbing than the movement of Gerard Butler's mouth when he talks.
There are many tests for measuring intelligence. There are none for measuring consciousness.
There are more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe. And we think we're special.
There are two kinds of Republicans: Wall Street and Walmart.
There is absolutely no reason to have 8 rental car companies all selling the same thing.
There is no cable station that simply plays the same videos MTV played in the 80s 24 hours a day.
There is no drug on the market designed to increase a person's empathy.
There is no effective difference between watching "Django Unchained" and watching Quentin Tarantino masturbate for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
There is no greater intellectual irony than climate deniers who accuse others of "agenda-driven science."
There is no more miserable-looking human specimen than the NHL hockey coach.
There is no movie called "Arbor Day."
There is no such thing as stillness.
There is no TV show for silver-painted street performance artists to compete to determine who can move the least.
There is not a single creature on this Earth who fears me.
There is nothing better for the human mind, body and soul than walking.
There's a certain Bill Murray expression that no one else can do. Sad, happy, lonely and looking to score all at the same time.
There's always idiots.
There's entirely too much ironic plaid inside ad agencies.
There's no Oscar or Golden Globe for Best Male Screenwriter or Best Female Cinematographer, but we don't question Best Actor and Actress.
There's something incredibly beautiful about the way as aspen leaf wavers in the wind.
There's something truly menacing in the particular hind-leg bend of a German Shepherd.
There's no such thing as a deep falsetto or a microwave that cools food. Somehow, these two things must be related.
This story is a sci-fi screenwriter's dream. http://t.co/JvJBqriorY
Three words I have yet to hear together: "unmanned passenger aircraft."
Tom Cruise has serious bags.
Triscuits have slight notes of skunk.
True Detective is really just an extended buddy movie. A really, really fucked-up buddy movie.
True Detective is the most unlikely truly optimistic TV show ever made.
Two things experienced much more by people a century ago: the random death of their children, and the pervasive smell of shit.
Vladimir Putin looks like a worm who ate a snake.
Voter ID legislation is an incredibly effective invisibility cloak for racists (see: religion and homophobes).
Watching Clinton and Gore shows the superiority of emotional vs. crammed-fact communication.
We fund a lot of terrorism by buying gasoline. And we call our gas stations things like "SuperAmerica."
We will have a female president before we have a gay one. But we will probably have a gay president before we have an indigenous one.
We'll never understand the human brain, because we'll always be using the human brain to try to understand it.
We've reached the nadir of our affair with suspenseful, pronoun-heavy, social media-oriented headlines ... with THIS. http://t.co/ALvKDiKw29
What we need is comprehensive clean energy reform. What we have is "Ghost: The Musical."
When evaluating the human race, I find that I possess sympathy and contempt in equal measure.
When flight attendants speak over a plane's sound system, they frequently, inexplicably, stop mid-sentence and then continue.
When it comes to public service ads, the British are way harsher (and better): http://t.co/cC4siiv0Qw
While watching any kind of home video, immediately upon seeing a strip of bacon on screen, the viewer will say, "Bacon."
Wii music makes great massage music.
William Goldman's "nobody knows anything" statement is both true and, by definition, self-negating, which makes it both false and more true.
With its unsustainable # of characters, Mad Men has seen a dramatic dilution from season one to now that's like going from Scotch to beer.
With the legalization of pot in Washington and Colorado, thousands of new jam bands are just beginning to form.
Without fail, on every vacation I will be tempted to buy a hat.
You can never find "Moonlighting" in syndication.
You can tell when two characters in a movie are going to eventually kiss by how they're framed when the scene begins.
You cannot parent without fear.
You hear a lot more 7th chords at a Protestant funeral service vs. Catholic.
You never hear someone say, "Man, that pedal steel player sucks!"
Posted by Marc Conklin at 9:28 AM
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
I started this blog as a think-out-loud tool for myself, and I've slowly let it slip into neglect (the fact that it's on Blogger and not Wordpress is a dead giveaway). Why did I sacrifice long-form thought on the altar of social media snark and snippetization? Who knows, but just this morning, I decided to go back and read my opening post, "When I Grow Up." And several things hit me.
First: I wrote that piece seven years ago to the day. Second: the feelings I expressed are as relevant today as they were then. And third: Despite the fact that I've since written a screenplay that actually turned into a distributed film starring an Oscar-nominated actor ("Memorial Day"), I still ultimately value a collection of travel writing more than anything else I've written. And I haven't contributed to it in almost 10 years.
On April 30, 2007, I wrote:
I'm glad that I sent Future Me that message seven years ago. But now for the task at hand: to answer four questions about writing.
On that front, I'm working on two screenplays. One is a historical drama covering St. Paul's gangster past--a wonderful Prohibition-era story yet to be told, as St. Paul was one of a handful of gangster "safe havens" in the 1930s. The other is a script called "Pulling the Plug." This is a dark comedy about a family who has to pull the plug on someone twice: once when he falls into a coma, and then again when they realize that he's programmed his social media accounts to dish the family secrets after he's dead.
Why do I do this? I think it's because to this day, the only book that has ever made complete sense to me is Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death, which I read in high school. I would since add a newer book by Ajit Varki called Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind. Light reading, eh? The point is, all meaning, all humor, all inspiration comes from the fact, fear and denial of death. So why not just tackle it head on?
I've written long-form journalistic pieces when the subject has interested me. But mostly, I write screenplays. Why? Because I tend to think cinematically, and there's nothing like seeing something go from your head to a big screen ... and witnessing people laughing or crying at what you've created.
This article is part of a "Blog Hop," started by Ellen Barone and continued by my friend, fellow Ireland study-abroad-program-mate, and award-winning writer and photographer Kristen Gill.
Posted by Marc Conklin at 1:15 PM