There’s an interview with Neal Pollack over at the AV Club where he reveals the sales numbers for his books (as he summarizes, “Ten thousand copies appears to be my threshold”) and talks openly and honestly about his career, and how “celebrity” and buzz don’t automatically translate into sales or money. Everyone who aspires to a career writing books (particularly fiction) should read it.
I was trying to turn Alternadad into some massive multimedia empire. And it failed! [Laughs.] I totally fucking failed! Instead of doing what I did well, which was write, I was trying to cash in big time and become some mogul… In the end, I was kind of dizzy because I wasn’t doing what I set out to do, what I dreamed of doing, which was be a writer. Instead, I was just a salesman trying to sell some ill-conceived idea of a lifestyle.
The piece is part of the AVClub’s “Money Matters” column, where “creative people discuss what they’re not supposed to: the intersection of entertainment and commerce, as well as moments in their lives and careers when they bottomed out financially and/or professionally.”
It all reminds me of Lynda Barry’s advice: “The key to eternal happiness is low overhead and no debt.”
“1. Ignore deadlines.
2. Take criticism badly.
3. Burn bridges.
4. Hate yourself.
5. Trust no one (especially not yourself).
6. Sabotage all of your personal relationships.
7. Drink heavily.
You might not get a lot of respect as a writer, but the crippling self-doubt and soul-crushing poverty make it all worth it. “
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
1. You must write at least two sentences every day. They do not have to be good sentences.
2. It does not matter if you’re a good writer. You must, however, give voice to the things inside of you that clamor. If you are brave enough to do this, you will begin to say things that people need to hear. Even if this only happens once, even if just one single person takes one single thing from the things that you have said and it inspires them or challenges them or changes the way they see the world or themselves or other people, everything will be worth it.
3. Allow yourself to be responsible for both the best and the worst things that you’ve written.
From Henry Miller on Writing, his 11 commandments:
1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5. When you can’t create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it — but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
Anne Lamott in one of 9 essential books on reading and writing.