Break your life in half.
Do one part for money.
Do one part for passion.
Break your life in half.
Do one part for money.
Do one part for passion.
Today I got invited to join again the improv group that I was in last year. I waffled over whether or not to do it. I'm better at sticking with what I do well and staying in my lane. But I decided to do it. For however long I'm there, I'll be confident. It's important to stretch yourself. I'm stretching.
In 2009, I wrote and self-published "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?" It's a 10,000-word longform investigation of how the Great Recession impacted the adult movie industry. It was written for a specific publication, but I ended up publishing it myself. What I've written here is sort of an addendum or annotated-ish version of it. (Of course, this is how annotation should be done, but nobody asked, so I figured I'd do it myself.)
I wrote "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?," a longform piece on the Great Recession's impact on the adult movie industry, in 2009. [I decided to take out the specifics regarding the publication for which it was originally written, since I'm trying to be less of an asshole, which is working only intermittently and mostly unsuccessfully.] With a question -- How did the Great Recession impact the adult movie industry -- some experience -- I'd been writing about the porn industry since 1997 -- and a plan -- as mentioned previously -- I got on a plane and got off it in Los Angeles. I spent a week there, doing interviews, and visiting sets. Then I got on another plane and went home. I don't recall when the idea for the title came to me, but it is obviously a redux of the title of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, which is about a dance marathon during the Great Recession and the great lengths to which people will go in order to survive when survival seems nearly impossible.
When I first went to write the piece, I believe I spent time doing what I describe as "writing it wrong." Oftentimes, I don't get the voice, initially, or the point of view, or I get anxious about how someone might respond to the piece, so I play it too safe. I think I spent maybe two weeks "writing it wrong," before mostly tossing that version out (or perhaps it was entirely), and then starting all over again. In my experience, it's best to lead with what my shrink would describe as what's "hot" -- which is to say, the piece of the story that generates the strongest emotional reaction within you. The moment in Los Angeles that had impacted me most significantly was when I visited a man who showed me an extremely graphic and emotionally complicated porn scene on a laptop. Obviously, I'm tough to shock or offend or even vaguely stir, but this footage was beyond the pale. It had been directed by someone in the industry who was widely disliked. The man who showed me the clip asked me not to identify him, and I wasn't entirely comfortable identifying the director, so that opening scene -- "Outside, a woman whose hair has been dyed the color of cherry Kool-Aid is smoking a cigarette on a narrow balcony overlooking a half-empty parking lot" -- is written somewhat in the abstract, although details bring it alive. By the time I sat down to write, I had a copy of the clip of the scene itself, so I was able to watch it again later and render the actions and dialogue accurately: e.g., "Absolute whore, right?" The heart of this scene within a scene -- it's probably worth nothing that in the real scene in my writing (i.e., we're sitting in a living room watching a porn movie), nothing actually happens, and all the action takes place in the porn movie itself -- is the idea of someone breaking someone else. I chose this scene as the opener because it showed how challenging conditions had become for pornographers and performers, and I wanted to really home in on how "we" (what people in the industry call "civilians") merely look on passively while people struggle. As I write: "There can be no mistake. This is when he breaks her."
The second section begins by going back in time, so you get how I wound up in this place: "It had been a long time since I first set foot in the adult industry." I'd visited my first porn set 12 years earlier, so I wanted to go back and explain: how the industry had changed, how I'd ended up hanging around on porn sets, and give readers a better understanding that this is an industry with a long, interesting history. The third section, which is more like a subsection of the second section, focuses specifically on the first porn set I visited. That was "Flashpoint," which was made by Wicked Pictures, and which featured seven people having an orgy on a firetruck in a parking lot. Since it had been a dozen years since I'd been on that set, I paid to rewatch the movie online (I'm pretty sure they sent me a copy years ago, but I'd long since lost that VHS tape), so I could get the details right. I wanted to bring to life what it's like to be there: surreal, fascinating, interesting. "'What’s a FIP?' I whispered to the nearest porn writer. 'A fake internal pop' was the answer." My hope as a journalist is to play Virgil to the reader's Dante. I'm not a fan of this sort of gotcha, giving funny looks to the camera journalism. I don't care how "terrible" or "great" you think your subject is. If you get in there and tell me what to think, I never have a chance to think for myself. (Also, every subject is interesting. No thing is "terrible" or "good." Interesting things are complex and should be rendered as such. I don't see the porn industry as "good" or bad," and to discuss it as such would be the height of lazy, stupid journalism. Porn is complicated. It is my responsibility as a journalist to render it as accurately as I can, and let the readers draw their own conclusions.) In this section, I get more at what's behind my interest in porn: "Despite the smoke and mirrors—the fake orgasms, the unreal bodies, the cockamamie premises—something else altogether lay behind the curtain." In other words, in porn, I suggest in this piece's thesis, we see ourselves as we truly are.
The Wide Shot
Arguably, I should've started the entire piece with the first line of the fourth section: "In the late 19th century, California State Senator Charles Maclay stood atop the Cahuenga Pass that runs between Los Angeles proper and the San Fernando Valley and, of the pastoral landscape that lay before him, proclaimed: 'This is the Garden of Eden!'" If this was a movie, this would be your wide shot, a vision of the grand, sweeping San Fernando Valley in all its sprawling glory, panoramic and once pastoral. If I had the opportunity to write the piece all over again, I might start here. Since I'm older now, I'm probably more likely to start slower and less inclined to reach out and throttle someone in the lede, as I did. This section is short and conveys how the Recession impacted the entire landscape, not just porn: "'FOR SALE' ranch-style houses and bloated McMansions; 'FOR RENT' strip mall stores and closed gas stations; 'FOR LEASE' warehouses and empty gravel lots." If this was TV, I'd call this B-roll of the Valley as a kind of post-economic collapse dystopia.
The Medium Shot
The fifth section, again, functions as a kind of subset of the fourth section. Now that we've seen the Valley in all its expansive beauty, I place myself in a car, heading west, going deeper into the Valley in order to go to a set. To note the obvious: SCENE. No one wants to hear what you think. They want to feel what you feel. This is action: the car is moving, I am driving, the road unfurls before us. Now we are moving together, looking for the center of the action. We find it in a house on a hill. It was a really wonderful location, from a journalistic standpoint. A big house, rose bushes, weirdly decorated rooms. The house is interesting because it is not being used as a home, it is being used to make porn, and it is doing so not in a production facility but next door. Somebody once told me that I write about the ordinary in the extraordinary, and I suppose that is correct. There are senses in here, and a sense of creeping, spying, being somewhere we're not supposed to be: "I step into the foyer. It’s cool and quiet." There's boring shit, like a foyer, but then there's a door with glory holes cut into it. Where are we? Some kind of fun house? Let's explore it together. I've pulled you out of judgement (thinking) and into exploring (feeling). That means this story is something we are sharing. (Or, put more roughly, I've made you complicit.) This scene features Jim Powers, one of my favorite porn directors to interview. At this point, I'd been visiting his sets for nine years, I believe. Jim is always doing something crazy, and he certainly was on that day as well, making scenes in which robots -- or dildos attached to machines -- were having sex with girls. There were stained couches and a ceiling swing, and Jim's mad scientist approach to making porn is always contagious. I make it clear that porn has changed, and in no small part due to technology. "[T]he mecha-dildo thrusts robotically in Hunter’s direction, its engine whirring softly." The star of this scene is a young woman named Ryan Hunter. She appears to be conflicted about her role in porn, and there's a difficult scene in which Jim needs Hunter to do something, and Hunter seems unsure how she feels about that. At one point, the sex machine accidentally gets kicked into overdrive, nearly goring Hunter, who bursts into tears. This scene is tricky. These are people, but at the same time, this is business. Is this exploitation or survival? I'm not going to tell you. I'm going to let you decide for yourself.
The sixth section -- now a scene within a scene within a scene -- features Jim, who is something of a quote factory, complaining about how content piracy, the recession, and various other factors have made it much harder for him to make money in porn. Jim complains about how the bolts keep falling off the sex machines. "[W]e're just living in piles of shit," Jim observes of the state of his business. A redhead appears at the door to do the next scene. A double-headed dildo awaits her. This is the sausage factory, and this is where you get to see the strange process of exactly how porn sausage gets made.
This seventh section is a classic vignette of me on a porn set: I wander. This is micro: "a copy of Deepak Chopra’s The Return of Merlin, the back cover of which promises readers 'the resplendent peace that each of us enfolds within our own hearts.'" Is this funny? Probably. It is contrast. There's nothing less interesting than reading a one-note. There's also a fun exchange in which I try to interview the guy who owns the house, and he's too distracted because he's trying to hit on one of the girls. "'So,' he asks her, 'you choose the machines over me?'" The recession has impacted gender, as well; now men must compete with robots for pussy.
Here, I interview Hunter. The eighth section consists of Hunter and I talking at a table. This is after her sex scene. She reveals her history with drugs, her desperation over money. This isn't meant to be archetypal of the female porn star; it is but one example. (There'll be another later, and she'll be quite different.) Hunter also articulates the anxieties of the common man/woman in the post-Recession era: She is financially imperiled, and she is trying to survive. Ergo: Who are we to judge her? Are we not her? (She's not Other, she's us.) She indicates she's thinking about escorting, which has become far more prevalent in the years since, so it's a nod towards a piece of that transition into what the biz will become. (More ... entrepreneurial, if you will.)
The Overhead Shot
I step outside, hear the thudding of helicopter blades, and, lo' and behold, there's an LAPD bird circling overhead. Not passing by. It's taking a look. "Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the helicopter turns tail and leaves, heading for the Hollywood Hills, the great divide between Hollywood, where the real stars live, and the Valley, where the porn stars reside." The lesson for journalists in the ninth section is: Serendipity is your BFF.
I think this tenth section is the shortest. The PA washing dildos in the kitchen sink. Nuff said.
The Sit Down
The next day, I meet Jim at his offices. He makes me get there early. *shrug* Here you get quite a bit about Jim. He's very over-the-top, sort of like a circus ringleader, and I've always felt sort of inexorably drawn to him as a subject. He has never failed to deliver. And because we're talking about porn in this story, it's important to include some of the filth. So, let's look at the bookshelf: "The bookshelves are lined with rows of binders, their crudely rendered titles scrawled upon their spines: 'Black Snake Boned,' 'Escape from Women’s Prison,' 'DP Virgins: The Classic Years,' 'Fuck Pig: The Movie,' 'Garbage Pail Girls #1,' 'Mouth Meat #6." We learn how Jim got into the business. This longer scene isn't afraid to stretch, as Jim stretches himself and those around him: "Equal parts freak show, horror movie, and Russ Meyer-on-crack, his X-rated visions are deranged, demented, mind-boggling expeditions into the dark, unexplored continent of human sexual perversity. Fascinating, horrifying, and amusing—oftentimes all of those things at the same time—Powers’ celluloid world is one populated by midgets, bald chicks, and crazed men outfitted with monster-sized papier-mâché phalluses which spew torrents of goo onto the naked bodies of supine women, movies in which everyone has sex all of the time, and in which, most of the time, no one appears to win." Welcome to mystique de la merde. We're pigs wallowing in shit. "In this canon, the real subject is not human sexuality but humanity itself. The products that Jim produces are videotaped vivisections, studies in which homo sapiens lie upon the operating table, the director is the doctor, the camera is the scalpel, and the only question worth asking is, How far will we go if we are pushed to our limits?" Jim reminds us that he's just one more businessman trying to make money. He recalls the good old days -- "'It was like the last days of Rome,' he says wistfully. 'We were in the vomitorioums.'" -- and decries the new era -- "'Everybody talks about content,' Powers bemoans, disgusted. 'What the fuck is content?' he sneers." What journalist among us has not voiced the same complaint?
The Long Arm of the Law
This twelfth section is about the history of obscenity in Porn Valley, and I believe this one took me the longest to write. I'd watched the whole thing play out over the years -- from Bush's anti-porn strategy to the indictments and convictions -- and I finally got a chance to write about it here. "What fresh hell would the Bush administration bring?" The Obscenity Prosecution Task Force! The War on Porn! At the end of this section, I indicate Obama would likely not crackdown much on porn, and he certainly didn't.
We return to my conversation with Jim in the office. More abstractedly, I'm drawing a link between Bush and his buddies and this pornographer sitting in front of me. These groups are inextricably conjoined, despite their mutual dislike. Possibly because we were in the more formal setting of Jim's office, he was a bit less colorful than he can be on set. And he was being a little nonchalant. I listen for quotes when I'm interviewing, and something was missing. I think I asked Jim what he dreams about at night, in an attempt to prod him, which I think he took to mean, How do you sleep at night, which isn't a question I would ask, and he took that and ran with it. "'We are helping these girls! Anybody that comes into this business, for the most part, is a broken toy.' He leans towards me, earnestly attempting to make himself understood. 'We’re giving them a place where they can make money, and get by, so they’re not standing on line in a welfare department. Thank God for people like me!' He bangs the desk." Jim doesn't exactly see a rosy future for porn. He equates his situation to the plot of "Rollerball." Jim notes of "Rollerball"'s dystopic vision of the future: "'People still went to watch gladiators in the future … to see if they could persevere.'" The internet has change the medium, not the interest. "'Pandora’s box has been opened,' Powers observes darkly. 'The Internet did that.'"
The fourteenth section is short. And another "wandering" episode. I meander through Jim's warehouse, where I spot a giant vagina costume hanging in the gloom of the rafters. “'You’re always welcome on my sets, Susannah,' Powers calls after me as I walk out the door.'"
The Scene of the Crime
This section is a stomach-churner. It starts with a scene I didn't witness. I met Jim years ago because he used to let me visit his bukkake shoots. This scene takes place at a gukkake shoot, where someone robbed the gukkake: "'It just goes to show we're in a recession and people are taking desperate means.' It was one more sign that hard times had hit Porn Valley." More importantly, this fifteenth section includes the most notorious incident in the entire 10,000-plus words of this piece, and it is the one people who've read it most frequently mention to me. It is the "sperm omelet." (Someone on set used the phrase, and I dutifully wrote it in my notebook.) The woman who'd eaten the sperm omelet was at the shoot with the robococks in the house on the hill, so while I wasn't at the gokkun, I got to meet the girl who'd eaten the sperm omelet. (Jim said it was her idea. She said it was Jim's idea. You figure it out.) She had red hair and described herself to me as "an attention whore." Here's a bit from our chat about the sperm omelet incident: "I asked Emerson what the experience had been like. She took a moment, then replied matter-of-factly, 'I like that I set the cum omelet eating record.'" Porn: The quotes just write themselves. The redhead was doing great financially and gave me hard numbers. The following week, she'd be making six grand doing a gangbang and a blowbang. "'I'm doing this to afford my starving actor lifestyle,' she told me, and smiled."
The Health Issue
The sixteenth section is about porn, HIV, and condoms. It is too short and not enough in depth. If I had this to do over, I'd go deeper on this. It includes a question that wouldn't get answered for years (last year, actually). I'd been asking people if they thought porn would one day die, if porn stars would someday be replaced by pixels. And it's an interesting thing to consider in the context of the health issue. Digitize the business, and you negate the risk. But then ... it's no longer human.
The Bottom Line
On my last working day in the Valley, I visit a set where a male and a female porn star -- James Deen and Tori Black -- are doing a scene. I pass Rocketdyne to get there. The set is classic, in that there are various rooms with three walls, and each is a set pretending to be something it isn't. Because the director -- who goes by Quasarman -- is a smart ass, there's more joking around. The shoot is for an interactive video, and I ask Quasarman about the title. "We were going to go with 'Existential Musings of a Porn Star,' but we thought we’d dumb it down," he cracks. "If you want to have sex with Tori Black and don’t have chloroform, this is your next best option." It also bears mentioning that writing about people having sex is no easy task. I mean, what are you going to say? I watched the sausage slide in and out of the sandwich? The ceiling had a hole in it and so did my brain? It was a rare moment of beauty that reminded me of swans mating in the woods and music played softly? Sex scenes happen several times in this long piece, and I deal with it primarily by being clinical and/or mechanical. I also use humor. You can also use imagery. "Deen plows away at his costar like the man whose assigned task is to dismantle the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner" is my contribution to the genre. I'm trying to capture this very intimate physical act, but the crew is totally bored and you're trying to stay engaged and wondering if you're going to get a parking ticket.
In the dressing room of that set, I hang out with Black and take some photographs of her. I'm not a photographer, but I think the shot I took of her at the mirror is the one I like the best. It shows how complicated being a woman -- and being a woman in porn -- can be. There's her, and there's her reflection, and there's these images of different faces hanging on the wall. Who is she? I then mosey over to where Deen is hanging out. He gives me sort of the master quote on porn and money, as far as men are concerned: "If I was a billionaire, I'd still do porn." That said, he isn't making much per scene. When he says, "My job is contingent upon my dick working," you get a sense that this is a tough career choice. Oh, you want to have sex with women for a living? That's a nice fantasy. But you probably aren't up to it, buddy.
The nineteenth section is this story's last. I suppose it is the part that I like the least, and the one I would be most interested in rewriting. It ends with bukkake, and the DoJ, and something a pornographer once told me: "If people didn't want it, it wouldn't be made." This is my other core point about the porn business. Frequently, the business is treated like it's something different, and its performers are considered to be Other. But the argument I'm making here is that porn isn't about them or their business -- it's about you. It's about a group of people who are contracted to act out other people's fantasies that for one reason or another can't be realized. Why we demonize people for acting out what we want is beyond me. If we negate what they do or the choices they've made, we're projecting our sexual pathologies onto them. And nowadays, the situation is all the more acute, as people no longer feel the need to pay for porn, and pornographers, performers, and everyone else in the business are left holding the short end of the stick. You value what you do. You think it has worth. But you deny those who work in the porn business the ability to make a decent living because of your own guilt and shame and self-loathing. That's America: a self-aware human that denies its true status as a beast.
I came home, like I said, and wrote one version of the piece, and then I wrote this version. I submitted it to the editor, and then, as I recall, I didn't like the feedback I got. If I remember correctly, there was talk of it being run as a series. And that wasn't going to happen, as far as I was concerned. So, in a fit of pique that everyone could've lived without, I withdrew it. I spent six frustrated, depressed months shopping it around to various publications. Mostly, editors didn't bother responding. A few did, and declined. Why? I don't know. I seem to remember that it was too seedy for the papers and the ladies' rags, and the men's pubs had their designer pants wedged too far up their ass cracks to dig it. Finally, I decided to publish it myself. At the time, I found that choice humiliating and frustrating. I had spent all this time working on something that I thought was really good and really important, and people just didn't give a shit. So I got the amazing DC-based artist and designer Chris Bishop to build a standalone site for the piece and illustrate it. And when I finally self-published it, I think it was October. The day it launched, I was so frustrated that I walked into the tiny kitchen of the one-bedroom apartment in which I was living, jerked back my head and rocked onto my heels, and slammed myself forward and rammed my head into the cupboard as hard as I could. I was at my wit's end. But then, something happened. I got a headache. And people read it. People appreciated it. People linked to it. Over time, it reached hundreds of thousands of readers, and it grew a long tail. Readers seemed to especially appreciate that it was self-published. It ended up getting on several best of lists. Six years later, the fact that a Pulitzer Prize-winner had read it years ago got me invited to spend a month at an amazing nonfiction writing residency in upstate New York. I love the piece like it's a child, one that I gave up and shared with the world. It isn't normal. It isn't traditional. It doesn't have one main male character. It's graphic. It lacks a traditional "plot." It's not that ever popular true crime. It never got nominated for an award in part because it wasn't produced by a machine. It was a thing that I made. And you can make things, too.
[Don't read this part if you're a man: If you're a woman, and you write longform journalism, or you want to write longform journalism, please, please keep writing it, and keep publishing it, and keep trying to make it your career. It matters. You matter. I know it's hard with all these fucking asshole male editors picking their junior versions of themselves to publish their shitty true crime or jerk off to a vision of manliness pieces, but I want you to know that I'm with you, girl, and I see you, and I hear you, and I want you to keep going. This is really hard. I'm still struggling. But you're not alone. I don't know you, but I'm cheering you on, because this is the important stuff; the short stuff, the garbage stuff isn't worth your time. Go long, girl.)
I'm working on a longer post. Come back tomorrow.
Do not hide in your hole. Be in the world. Bear witness to nature.
"Flogging the Freelancer" is a blog post a day on freelancing in the gig economy. Browse the archives here.
On book proposals ...
A good point amidst this drivel:
"During his presentation, he stressed thinking of your proposal like a business plan—because, really, that’s what it is."
"Flogging the Freelancer" is a blog post a day on freelancing in the gig economy. Browse the archives here.
In December of 2015, my monthly traffic for my Forbes blog was 63,469 total monthly visitors.
In January of 2016, my monthly traffic for my Forbes blog was 130,154 total monthly visitors.
The most popular post in January was: "See Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Custom Guns Created by Jesse James."
Here's the first line: "Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are box office gold, and they’re armed with a pair of Cisco 1911 firearms that were created by infamous customizer and reality TV show star Jesse James."
To date, the post has 57,310 views.
I got the idea for the post from RECOIL magazine's Instagram page. RECOIL's editor had instagrammed extensively from SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, including a photo of the Jesse James Firearms Unlimited booth.
I did some research online and ended up at the JJFU Tumblr page, which features the custom 1911's James made for Pitt and Jolie and includes photos of the pair of pistols, as well as the story behind them. The guns are especially interesting in part because Pitt's is engraved "BIG PAPA" and Jolie's is engraved "MAMA KNOWS BEST."
That said, the post would not work unless I was able to use, with permission, the photos of the firearms.
I emailed JJFU and asked if I could use the images. JJFU responded, including full-size versions of the images.
I wrote the post, adding in some relevant information -- Pitt's support of the Second Amendment ("I got my grandfather's shotgun when I was in kindergarten"), an old rumor subsequently dispelled by Pitt that he had built Jolie a $400,000 shooting range on their French estate, how James left Hollywood and ended up in the gun manufacturing business -- and hit publish.
Why was this post successful?
It was visual.
It was about celebrities.
It was about guns.
And after the post went live, JJFU promoted the post on social media.
Thanks again to Jesse James and JJFU for the use of the images.
"Flogging the Freelancer" is a blog post a day on freelancing in the gig economy. Browse the archives here.
A Self-Analysis of Blogging During the Month of January
# of Posts: 30
Positives: Only missed one day
Negatives: Self-indulgent ramblings of a nonsensical person who occasionally, halfheartedly tries to be helpful
Conclusion: Need to rethink this
I wrote a Forbes post about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's 1911's custom crafted by Jesse James:
In 2014, Pitt, who was born in Oklahoma and raised in Missouri, shared that he grew up with guns:
“There’s a rite of passage where I grew up of inheriting your ancestors’ weapons,” said Pitt. “My brother got my dad’s. I got my grandfather’s shotgun when I was in kindergarten.”
I spent the first half of the day feeling vaguely anxious.
I was forgetting something -- but what?
Even at the manatee park, where I leaned over the fence, and watched the thick bodies of the sea cows surface and submerge, their tough hides scarred with propeller grooves, their heavily-breathing noses peeking out of the water making the whole place sound like a call center for dirty phone callers, I couldn't keep trying to remember what I wasn't doing.
It wasn't until I got home, a small manatee finger puppet in hand, that I realized what it was.
I needed to blog.
You: Creative, affable, well-intentioned. Bipedal. Humanoid.
Doubt Monster: Hostile, unclean, ill-mannered. Globular. Origin unknown.
Challenge: You sit down to create. The Doubt Monster extracts itself from the hole in the floor, drags itself across the carpet, and fondles your ankles. Progress stalls.
You: "Doubt Monster, go away."
Doubt Monster: Unintelligible.
And so it goes, you and the Doubt Monster. It climbs into your lap and tries to stick its fingers in your mouth. You push it away, and it flails on its back while mewling plaintively. You take a break, and it leaps up into your chair and bangs on your keyboard until it breaks both the B key and the L key. You push it out of the chair, trick it into going in the backyard by luring it with a piece of overripe sandwich meat, and knock it into the man-made lake. You watch as the bubbles surface, then stop. You go back inside, you lock the door, you return to your work. Is the Doubt Monster alive? Is the Doubt Monster dead? Who knows. For now, it is not where you live.
There's a really lovely piece in today's WSJ: "The Power of Daily Writing." It's about a man who's been journaling since February 24, 1964.
His first entry began:
“I have decided to be a writer. I will it, thus: I am a writer. Now—by definition if for no other reason, writers are distinguished chiefly by the fact that they write. I must write—two hours a day until I finish school.”
On day 27 of my endeavor to blog every day this year (I already missed one day, but, oh, well), I've found the process to be most beneficial.
Here are a couple tips I'm learning along the way.
Do your writing early in the day. It's easier to access the unconscious that way. You will tend to write faster, better, and from the heart. As the day goes on, your willpower to resist revealing yourself grows stronger, and you lose your connect to the dreamscape of your psyche.
Make it matter
There's no point in writing every day if you do so without bravery. Write about things that make you feel imperiled. Make a fool out of yourself. Confess secrets. If you never risk anything, you're not evolving, and if you're not evolving, your wasting your time on this planet.
Yesterday I posted a comic I drew on a dry erase board hanging in the garage. The comic took me maybe 20 minutes to do, and after I photographed it, I erased it. That allowed me to create, but in a way that seemed to use a different part of my brain. Because I write so much, seeing something externalized visually was newly cathartic. Also, I thought the comic was sort of embarrassing and crudely done, so it was good to share it, despite its lack of perfectness.
I was having a hard time getting started writing today so I went in the garage and made this on the dry erase board.
In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. —Camus (via Clayton Cubitt)
About five days ago, I stopped eating sugar. I don't eat a lot of sugar, or sugar-like things, but I stopped it altogether. It was making me crazy, having all that crap in my system. Now I feel about 50% less insane.
Since, my dreams have been much more vivid. In most dreams, I'm dying. The cancer has returned, the cancer is in my heart, death is inevitable. The dreams aren't about "cancer" or, really, "death," for that matter. They're about dying. In the dreams, I'm always managing the process of my mortality.
The project upon which I'm spending most of my time is focused on a kind of resurrection. You go into your past, you dig up the bones, you sift through the dirt for whatever you've lost. You mourn, you wonder, you move on to the next hole. You get tired from the shoveling, but it seems like some part of it is worth it: the shedding, the unpacking, the letting go.
I went and saw this Halston show today. Obviously: very fly. The thing that struck me, being in proximity to the pieces, is how relevant they are to what we're doing. The acronym: KISS. Translation: Keep It Simple Stupid.
Tragically, I forgot to blog yesterday. Originally, I set out to blog 365 days this year. Yesterday, I failed to do so. Although, after setting my goal for the year, I realized it was a leap year, so I can still blog 365 times this year. Regardless, I failed in the consecutive department. Disappointing.
Relapse is part of recovery
I guess addicts use this to differentiate between I AM WINNING and I AM FAILING. The truth is that you're probably doing either neither or both at any given time. I figured I would probably forget or fail to blog at least one day this year. And that's exactly what happened. It's not an anomaly. It's an inevitability. Accept it.
Success happens when you set yourself for it
I set myself up to fail. I didn't automate my blogging. I didn't pick a daily time to do it or pick a daily time by which to do it by. A couple times, I almost forgot. A pattern emerged of nearly not doing it, and I didn't act quickly enough to change the pattern. If I'd decided to, say, blog every day right after I woke up, or blog every day by noon, or had the word BLOG tattooed to my forehead, I wouldn't have fallen from my consecutive days perch after 21 days.
Meditate on mindfulness
I've had a good amount of success in the past from meditating. Just 10 minutes a day, prone wherever, thinking as hard as I can about nothing. This is a way to give your mind a break and reset itself so it doesn't go careening off the side of the road and run into a tree and eject you into a lake. I resumed meditation today. I will meditate 10 minutes a day. You should, too.
I've become oddly obsessed with automating shit in my life lately. Oddly because I'm not a robot, and I mostly think the whole quantification hack zone is a bog of absurdity. That said, I've had wild success improving my credit rating over the last several years in part due to automation. In 2010, I actually didn't have a credit score. I didn't have credit cards, and I guess this just meant I was not even in the credit zone. But in part because I went from paying bills late to auto-bill pay, I now have a credit rating of like 758 or something. You know, it changes a little, but it's somewhere around there. How great! How unlike me. Credit card companies now up my credit limit. Who would've thought such a thing was possible.
In any case, for the last couple weeks I've been walking around trying to automate other shit in my life. For example, last year was a real failure in terms of body management. Like, I worked out inconsistently and I followed a good diet inconsistently and I did these exercises I have to do inconsistently. This isn't good because I don't want to get sick again, and it means sometimes I feel like shit and sometimes I don't, but mostly it means that I feel like I don't have any control over anything, most importantly the meat within which I'm encased. So this week I prepaid and prescheduled some Pilates classes, and I'm hoping that will help. I also walk. Which is better than you'd think. If you can manage to get yourself out of the house.
Thanks to my friend Damon Brown for mentioning this blog in his Inc. column recently: "5 Simple Ways to Kill Procrastination Today." I was entranced with this line by James Clear: "Find ways to automate your behavior beforehand rather than relying on willpower in the moment." Willpower is like trying to harness the wind, so I guess I'm trying to take the guesswork out of everything. But I have to say, I am currently failing at taking the guesswork out of writing or creative production, which feels like herding chickens, only the chickens are made of words, and they are covered in a thick sheen of Crisco. In addition, I failed to get a Forbes post up last week. Admitting this is me trying to shame myself into getting it done.
I almost forgot to blog today. In fact, I was in bed when I realized I had not yet blogged. So I got out of bed to blog.
Some days, I write a "B" in ink on my left hand to remind myself not to forget to blog.
I'm blogging 366 days this year. It's only day 20, and I have 346 more to go. (It's a leap year.)
It appears that I've been following Rule #12 of Manifesto of a Doer, which I discovered on This Isn't Happiness today.
"Sprint. Rest. Sprint. Rest. Human's get more done in bursts followed by rest. Getting things done isn't about who does the longest hours, but who does the smartest hours."
Lately, I've been very, very smart.