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Chris Answers Questions About Writing

People often ask writers about their daily schedules, hoping to get some nugget of advice that’s going to help them finally start or finish the novel they’ve been planning. I totally understand where this question is coming from, and I ask the same question of anyone who manages to exercise on a regular basis. Writing can be difficult, and a different perspective or the right advice can sometimes make it easier.

I’m the kind of writer who really likes to tell stories (often conflicting) about the things that I do and don’t do — so I have fun with this question. I never mean to mislead anyone or give out bad advice…I think the things I say make sense…for example: “write without pants on before 6am, edit with pants on after 6pm”. But, take everything I say on this matter with a grain of salt, because I’d be some sort of crazy robot if I actually followed my own advice half the time.

There was an article I read recently where someone tried to actually follow the routines that various authors claimed they followed…but he wasn’t willing to follow through with Hunter S. Thompson’s supposed routine and so the article was sort of lame.

At any rate, I make up stories about how I write, and here’s the latest installment, with some other fun questions and answers too. This is from Nancy Christie’s series of interviews called One on One: Insights Into The Writer’s Life.

Howl.com

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by startups,

        weakened caffeinated bloated,

hunching themselves over glowing screens at night looking

        for a syntax error,

filthyheaded coders burning for the algorithmic

        connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of Steve,

who overworked and malnourished and burned-out and tired stayed up typing

        in the fluorescent wired-ness of south park warehouses sitting

        in the sacks of Herman Miller contemplating Java,

who bared their brains to VCs on Caltrain and saw

        Torvaldsian angels stammering at conference room tables

        powerpointed,

who eased through universities with curious humor

        improvising Yahoo! and ebay among the

        networks of war,

who dropped out of the academies for startups & committing

        hurried code to be the first to market,

who packed into unadorned rooms in moscone, stuffing their

        totebags with t-shirts and listening to the Guru with

        the laser,

who lost years working for equity marketers in Austin

        with a half-baked idea,

who ate pizza at meetups or drank microbrew at Google

        Numbed, wasted, or killed their minds night after night

with HTML, with CSS, with servers, earbuds and

        endless javascript,

insufferable meetings with clients and lawyers in

        the open workspaces of Brannan & Bryant,

        interrupting all the motionless focus of code between,

Mountain Dew rush of flow, laptop white fruit LCD wakes,

        jolt nerves terminal blinking cursor shell, bourne again

and configuration files in the remote innards of Linux,

        irc rantings and kind opers and faqs,

to recreate the systems and bonds of pre-Internet humans and

        stand before you victorious and heroic and bursting

        with pride yet secretly fretting over the next update

        to the library that binds together his fragile code,

tech and sales scheme in Time, unknown, yet putting down in readme

        what they need to fix post ipo

and rose disillusioned in the elastic pants of freelancing in the makeshift

        home office and uploaded the suffering of crushed dreams

        into another lorum ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur

photoshop mockup that failed to “pop” enough

        and the incessant client change requests inciting their

        own souls to threaten to leave for a thousand years.

* with apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl

Maybe I’m America’s 2nd Next Best Bartender?

Last weekend, a reality show called “America’s Next Best Bartender” had a casting call in Sacramento. As someone who is interested in booze production, serving, and consumption, I decided to go and see if I was America’s Next Best Bartender material. There was also some prize money attached to the title, which also helped persuade me to try out.

I have no idea what's going on here.
I have no idea what’s going on here.

The day started at noon, with a line of 20-30 people and some paperwork, followed by a lot of waiting around. This was my first reality TV casting call, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I could tell from the outfits and the over-the-top “attitude” that nearly everyone else there was a professional reality TV contestant.

Imagine, if you will…

Me (thinking): It just struck me that I’m the oldest person here. I hope there isn’t a dance competition as part of this thing. These seem like nice enough people, but they’re pretty loud. Am I not loud enough? Well, I’m sure my knowledge of bartending, beer, wine, and spirits will be far greater than any of these kids and I’ll get to be on this show. Do I want that, though?

Almost everyone else (very out-loud): Hey! Let’s get pumped up! Woooooo!

At around 2:00, I was called in for an interview with the producers and asked why I want to be America’s next best bartender. I said I didn’t care too much, actually, but I thought it could be fun. And, also, I like to drink. They told me to come back at 5 for the 2nd round.

I went back to my office, worked a little, prepared some snappy answers to the questions they were sure to ask (how about: “What qualities make a great bartender?”), and returned at 5.

After waiting for an hour or two in the crowd of other contestants (the 2nd round, oddly enough, seemed to be larger than the first round), I was called in for my 2nd audition, or interview, or whatever.

They asked me if I see myself as “The Parent,” “The Coach,” or “The Underdog.” I had no idea, except that I know I’m not a coach or a parent. I bumbled around a bit and then asked “what do you mean?” They asked me if I’d be able to handle the pressure and I assured them that I’m not afraid of anything, and I’m especially not afraid of being on a TV show.

There were no questions about bartending, or even about what the primary flavor in Galliano is or what’s in a Perfect Manhattan and what should it be garnished with. Ah well, I did well enough that I was invited back for the after party and casting announcement at 10:00.

I brought 3 of my nerdy friends with me to the party and we waited and people-watched. I drank a Gimlet, a couple beers, and some horrible shot from a test tube. The show producers watched the crowd of contestants from a balcony over the dance floor, and I thought my cool and aloof demeanor was sure to win me a spot on the show.

Oh boy was I wrong! At midnight, the chosen ones were called to the stage, one at a time, to dance around. Pretty much every one of them would have been my last choice for someone who would (in my opinion) make a great bartender. These were loud people who could dance and weren’t afraid to take their shirts off (but leave their neckties on, oddly enough) in a club.

I left the after party feeling relieved that I wasn’t picked, but a little disappointed as well. I’d be curious to see what this show ends up being like, but I won’t watch it, because I can’t stand and don’t understand reality TV.

How Writing a Book and Alcatraz Ruined My Health!

Last year, I wrote a book and an online course about mobile web apps. As you know, writing is generally a pretty sedentary activity that happens to go well with booze. Writing is also really hard work (mentally), and so it’s important for a writer to reward himself frequently with ice cream and various other snacks.

In spite of all these factors pulling me towards completely ignoring my health, I did make some attempts to be fit and forty early in the year (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that last year was also the year I turned 40). I registered for a 5k race and for a swim from Alcatraz, both of which helped me to focus on my training so that I wouldn’t die or get eaten by sharks. The problem, however, was that once the races were over, I felt like I didn’t need to exercise ever again. And, so I didn’t.

I think you can see where this is headed–writing and the successful completion of amazing feats of physical endurance have wrecked me! I’ve gained about 30lbs in the last year, and I have way more clothes that don’t fit now than I have that fit.

And so, like so many people with lame excuses for why they’re fat slobs, I’ve decided to start turning it around. I don’t have the guts to post a “before” picture of myself, but I’ll let you use your imagination. I look something like this:

Boss Hogg

And so, here I go! Stay tuned for updates!