Los Angeles, CA
BTreotch recommended a podcast from a Texas sports radio station that included an interview Chuck Klosterman, one of my favorite contemporary writers. He has an amazing grasp of music history, sports, and popular culture. His versatility as a writer and journalist landed him many envious and sweet-ass gigs. Many moons ago, I spotted someone on the subway reading Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto. The titled fascinated me and I found a copy at Strand a few days later. I've read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs three or four times since then, with some essays over a dozen times, and it still holds up today as my favorite Klosterman book, along with IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas.
Random side note...I know two guys who look like Chuck Klosterman.
One of the co-hosts of the show inquired about Klosterman's writing process, specifically how he comes up with the ideas to write about. Klosterman admitted that was hard question and did his best to answer, but that's a complicated and complex issue. Inspiration is not something that can be easily described. Sometimes it's all around, other times it's drought.
On most days, I can't afford to sit around until inspiration strikes. On the best days of the year, I'm jumping out of bed and sprinting to the laptop. On the worst days, it's a grueling mental battle and I have force myself to write. Even if the words suck cowballs that day, I gotta get through it. Everyday. No matter what. That's one of the secrets. It wouldn't be a chore if I was fired up or passionate about something to write about. But on the bad days, it's rough.
When I go through stretches of inactivity, my problem is that I give up before I even start typing the first words. That's when the confrontation of fear takes place. On the uncourageous days, I feel like shit because I hate wasting time. That's when I do something to find inspiration or jump start the creative area of my brain. Usually a little weed and John Coltrane do the trick, but on the bloody awful days, I have to dig a little deeper and find inspiration elsewhere.
Books are a good start. I hope that inspiration will jump off the pages and smack me in the face. When that doesn't work, I turn to music. It's no secret that I write with music on in the background. Like peas and carrots. If that doesn't work, I give the cinema a shot, particularly documentary films.
If that doesn't work, I go slumming for inspiration on the TV. I put on the History Channel and watch WWII-themed programs and wait until Hoarders comes on and I watch in a stoned glaze at the excessive clutter and filth inside the disastrous homes of hoarding addicts. That show, and others like it, became the inspiration for a few hundreds words of verbal diarrhea here on Tao of Pauly. It also inspired a short story about hoarders titled... Everest.
I'm reading Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis, which details the shallowness of LA -- a subject very similar that I'm interested in because I'm writing a novel about the shallowness of LA. Instead of getting spooked or jealous, I'm excited to read it and get a grasp of his take on the same city. I always sit down and write up notes and random bits of dialogue after a read a few sections of Imperial Bedrooms.
Anyway, traveling and people are valuable inspiration jump starters. Travel stories write themselves. My problem is that sometimes I was traveling too much and didn't have enough time to write about what happened. It took a while, but I found a happy medium where I write less and live more, because at some point, I'll have to shut out the world and withdraw while I write about those experiences.
So if I'm not writing, I better be living.
Friends are amazing launching pads for inspiration. There's no coincidence that some of my closest friends are the ones who inspire me the most. I could say that Matisse is a major influence on me (I often try to write like he paints), but I have never met the guy. He's been dead for a while now. But I see my friends as much as I can, which is amazing because I can interact with the very people who get me fired up to write. Those are the ones who also get me back on track when I'm headed toward an catastrophic derailment -- whether it's life, work, or writing.
In the end, you just have to start typing.
And you have to write a lot. A shit ton. Because you never know when that perfect groove is going to pop up. On magnificent days, you're running right out of the gates and hit the groove 30 words in. That's what we're looking for, that moment when all those internalized thoughts make an effortless transition onto the pages. On the craptacular days, it takes you 3,000 or more words before you even get warmed up, but that's part of the hassles of writing. Some days it's not there and you won't hit the groove because you don't have enough time to keep plugging away.
It's a queasy feeling when you keep falling short. But when you hit that groove, you never want to stop.