Talking To Writers

It was said that writing is the most solitary of artistic endeavors. I cannot remember who said that.

Was it that guy at the bus station? No, he had some interesting (and gross) proposals for me but no real insight. Probably someone at a coffee house. Notions like that flow heavily in a coffee house. Starbucks, yes, but even more so in local coffee houses, where people will pin you down into a black hole conversation of “no corporate coffee!” that is so dense that not even insight can escape.

Now that I think on it, it had to have been in a coffee house.

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What size would you like your conversation about the horrors of capitalism that you can’t politely escape from?

If you ever find yourself inside a coffee house, first of all you should ask yourself how you got there. Did you escape from a kidnapping? Was it a fugue state where you suddenly awoke to the smell of dark roast? Is this all a dream? And if so, why is the coffee so expensive?

Now that you are inside a coffee house (whether of your own free will or not) you will see writers everywhere. Choose one and talk to them since you’re in a dream anyway or hiding from your abductors. It’s easier to hide when it looks like you are there with someone else.

The Forbidden Questions!

By the way, now is a good time to encourage you to never ask a writer “what is your process” or “where do your ideas come from?” You will never receive a satisfactory answer to either of these questions.

I imagine it is one of those “polite” questions that one asks but don’t really want to know the answer to.

In the United States, the most common of that type of question is “how are you doing?” Americans ask “how are you doing” all of the time, and we never want to know the answer. It’s part of the social contract.

If an American asks you how you are doing and you really want to annoy them, answer them honestly and with great detail. They will never ask you that question again.

Anyway, “what is your process” or “where do your ideas come from” are both total wastes of your time. So in the interest of totally wasting your time, I am going to answer both questions.

What Is Your Process?

Every day, I get up and think “I am going to write something!” Then I don’t. But I am thinking about it! Which does exactly nothing at all. But isn’t thinking about doing something the most productive doing nothing at all?

No?

You’re probably right.

Anyway, my process is metaphorically crapping on a page and then smearing it around to see what patterns emerge. Writing isn’t pretty. Neither are some metaphors.

Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

Sweden.*

Learn anything beneficial? No, I didn’t think so.

Honestly, it’s probably best not to ask writers anything about the writing process. They’ll have opinions about it, and they will tell you these opinions. In coffee houses.

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Loudly.

So What Do We Talk About?

It’s not easy to have small talk with a writer. Once they mention that they are a writer, they sit there waiting for permission to talk about it like a dog with a Milk Bone balanced on its nose waiting for permission to eat.

An exception should be made for poets. Ask the poet what their process is or where their ideas come from. The answer is often entertaining. The thousand-yard stare they give you while they try to work it out is like watching an eight year old trying to do long division in their head.

If you find a poet who has figured out their process and where their ideas come from, run. Karma will get them someday and you don’t want to be in the blast zone.

Please keep in mind, any question you answer from a writer may end up being used somewhere. Writers are crows who collect shiny objects to line their nests. There is always some part of them that is recording the conversation.

Most of all, relax. Writers are more afraid of you that you are of them. Just find a topic of conversation that is interesting to everyone.

For instance, how are you doing?

 


* Needless to say, no… my ideas don’t come from Sweden. Or indeed from any Scandinavian country. I wish they did! Since most of my experience with Sweden comes from visiting IKEA, I imagine that ideas from Sweden are tidy with trim lines, are somewhat easy to assemble, are sometimes missing pieces, and are not built to last a very long time. 

Also, ideas have meatballs with lingonberry sauce that are better than they should be. 

3 thoughts on “Talking To Writers

  1. Good post. It’s so true about storing those fascinating little nuggets we get when we speak with someone. Whenever someone says something ridiculous or just “out there” in terms of craziness (and thankfully, I seem to be a magnet for wackos) I jot it down in my memory or my notebook and feel that if they said it in front of me knowing I’m a writer, that I’m allowed to use it. 🙂

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