In my recent interview with Chris Bower, he mentioned a David Mamet quote but couldn’t remember it precisely. He was kind enough to hunt down the quote in question and I’ve included it here.
Do you try to put in five or six hours a day writing?
I try to do as little writing as possible, as I look back on it. I like to talk on the telephone and, you know, read magazines.
And sit in your office and forestall writing?
Yes, and sometimes I like to do the opposite.
Whatever happens, you get a lot out for somebody who doesn’t write a lot, or doesn’t like to write.
I never saw the point in not.
But you just said you spend a lot of time trying not to write.
That’s true. But the actual point of being a writer, and doing something every once in a while mechanically, I just don’t see the point in it, and it wouldn’t be good for me. I’ve got to do it anyway. Like beavers, you know. They chop, they eat wood, because if they don’t, their teeth grow too long and they die. And they hate the sound of running water. Drives them crazy. So, if you put those two ideas together, they are going to build dams.
Listening back to this interview, I learned that I giggle and say “yeah” too much and my voice is kind of annoying. So I apologize ahead of time on those fronts. Fortunately, Bower does most of the talking and manages to compose himself better than I. Warning: this starts abruptly …
The first minute or so of this recording involves the hot button topic of transcription. Despite what I say at the interview’s start, I decided a full transcription of our chat was not in the cards, but I’ve included some choice excerpts below.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
“It wasn’t until I was in college … that I had to catch up to my own idea in my mind of who I was. It wasn’t until I went to West Virginia … when I experienced absolute loneliness for the first time … I found myself completely culturally isolated … my Midwestern-ness revealed itself in a major way … I was left with this idea that maybe I should write for real.”
“When you really get serious about writing … it’s really an act that can only take place in isolation.”
“Writing the first draft, that’s the fun part.”
“I’ve never been a Ray Bradbury type.”
Do you think writing can be taught?
“You can be technically better, 100% for sure.”
“You have to have utter confidence in what you’re doing.”
“In my (Creative Writing MFA) program … you got to see different versions of what you could become … A major part of it is the amount of time you get to spend on yourself.”
About My Other End of the Universe
“I don’t think it’s an accident that a lot of these stories have to do with adolescence and families. I think there’s something in the form that lends itself to this … This may be a little more of an authentic way of telling a story.”
“Our memories are so flawed that a lot of our most important ones aren’t even ours.”
“(A computer malfunction) made me care about a line.”
“When I’m writing a poem I feel like I’ve just gotten away with something.”
“The only reason this is a poem is because my computer’s broken.”
“Once you start filling things in, you have to fill more in … It wouldn’t be the voice of Al, the narrator … He wouldn’t have told a proper story of the family … As a writer I would have never been able to stop … This isn’t just a story told in fragments, this is how this guy thinks … He was trying to recreate his life with a lack of photographic evidence.”
Bower and co-author Margaret Chapman will be reading at one of my favorite independent bookstores, The Book Cellar in Chicago’s Lincoln Square, on Wednesday, Nov 19 at 7pm. Pick up a glass of wine, do some Christmas shopping and hear them read!
Bower and co-author Meg Pokrass will be reading in San Francisco in January – details to follow!