Why Every Writer Should Rent a Studio

Photo of my studio

A few months ago, I made the decision to evict a long-time roommate from my home: writing.

Don’t get me wrong: I think he’s a great guy, and he’s very important to me, but he’s just so damn clingy! He’s always demanding we hang out, even when I’ve got other things to do, and it’s hard to make him understand my life doesn’t revolve around him — especially when I have a hard enough time remembering that myself.

But when writing is in my home, it’s impossible to escape him. Whether I’m watching TV, playing videogames, or eating dinner with the SO, he’s always there, hovering in my periphery, and rambling on about his newest awesome idea. It’s like, dude, I get it: you’re going to build a media empire, topple George R.R. Martin, and take the world by storm. Fine; we’ll work on it; it’ll take a while to get going. But in the meantime, for fuck’s sake, will you shut up about it? We’re tryin’ to watch Gilmore Girls over here!

In May of this year, I laid down the ultimatum: writing needed to find his own place. Not his own computer, not his own time-slot, not a home office: a studio, like the kind enjoyed by painters, photographers, and sculptors. So together with some friends, I rented a room at the MakeSpace, a local arts collective that hosts studio-space out of a ramshackle three-story on Third Street in Harrisburg. I told writing he needed to go there, and stay there, and when he wanted to hang out, call first.

And it’s done wonders for our relationship.

My feelings of guilt and anxiety have dropped, productivity has soared, and I’m finding that writing is no longer the nagging asshole he once was; he’s actually really tolerable in small doses. Now we schedule our visits in advance. We’re coworkers. I show up, punch in, and we get down to business. And when it’s done? I knock him out with a shovel, handcuff him to the desk, lock the door, and leave him there.

If you’re a writer, here’s why you should do the same.

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The Invisible Man

This one’s been sitting on my chest for a while. Friends and family have heard this rant a million times, and I’ve just recently delivered a truncated version of it on Twitter (which I’m sure I’ve done at least a few times before).

There’s a strain of common logic among writers, readers, and all who fall between which goes something like this:

“Good prose is invisible. The best writing is that which is unnoticeable as writing, in which a reader can become completely immersed and totally forget that he or she is reading a book at all. The author scrubs all traces of artifice from the work. The writing is an invisible channel that exists between story and reader, and nothing more. Prose which calls attention to itself is amateur. Good prose is invisible, and all prose should strive to be so.”

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Ten Pitches So Bad The Asylum Rejected Them


(Note: this is the only shitty listicle you’ll ever see on this blog.)

I would kill a man to write for The Asylum.  That’s not hyperbole: I would straight stab a guy, in cold blood, with a shank carved from the back end of a toothbrush, if doing so would get me in an elevator for thirty seconds with an Asylum executive.

For those of you who don’t know what the Asylum is, this article from the Pacific Standard ought to help paint a picture.  Basically: they’re “the guys who made Sharknado” — and just about any other schlocky Hollywood mockbuster, Syfy Original creature-feature, or straight-to-redbox slasher flick you’ve ever scoffed at while looking for something to watch.  These guys are a nuclear-powered super-mill of low-rent knockoffs, and they know it, and they embrace it, and goddammit, I want to be a part of it.

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Check it, y’all.  So there’s this site called NoiseTrade.  Here’s how it works:

  • Author posts free stuff.
  • You download the free stuff, in exchange for an email address.
  • Author uses the email address to offer you more stuff, in the future, if you liked the first stuff.

That’s it.  No strings attached.  Free stuff for the cost of an email address.  You like the stuff, maybe you buy more stuff in the future.  You don’t like the stuff, you unsubscribe from the emails.  Bing bang boom, e-communism in action.

To that end: Deep Sounding is now free on NoiseTrade, forever.  I figure it’s like dealing heroin; I’ll hook you with a taste.


True Detective

So look.  Everybody and their grandmother is talking about HBO’s True Detective; which, having aired its final episode tonight, has firmly cemented itself as a work of television perfection.  But I’m not interested in doing that dance*.  I don’t feel like recapping the premise (it’s great), or the visual direction (it’s stellar), the genius of the dialogue (it’s genius), or the performance of Matthew McConaughey (which, holy fucking shit).  I have ZERO fucking interest in one of those abominable “recap” articles, which serve no purpose I can identify.

What I want to talk about is purely story-structural.  It’s something I need to get off my chest about True Detective, as a writer, which I’ve not seen anybody else express.  I want to talk about how True Detective is an act of genre- sleight-of-hand, which exists within the framework of one kind of story, while carefully being another.

(If you’ve not finished the show, bla bla bla spoilers etcetera.)

(And if you haven’t seen True Detective, you’re a jerk, and this post will mean nothing to you.)

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A Father’s Gift

About a week ago, I took a trip to New Hampshire, to climb Mount Washington for the eighth or ninth time in my life.  It’s a yearly ritual for my family, and it’s one that never fails to get me all nostalgic and sentimental.

This week, in preparation for fall, I set myself to the long-put-off task of cleaning up my horrid fox-warren of a room, the nooks and crannies of which look like an episode of Hoarder’s.  In the process, I found a letter I haven’t seen in almost ten years, since just after my dad died.

It feels surreal to type that.  To think that it’s been almost ten years since he went.  Almost half my life I’ve now lived without him, and yet he looms in my memory as large as the mountains he taught me to climb.

It’s odd, then, that I barely remember this letter.  I read it yesterday as though for the first time; a message from beyond the grave.

There are parts of this letter I don’t care for.  There are parts of it that hurt to read.  But it’s a beautiful, direct communication from him, and the writing is surprisingly strong.  Or maybe not so surprisingly — after all, he did always want to be a novelist.

Perhaps it can serve as a kind of closure.  I wrote last year that I was standing at a kind of crossroads in my life, and I don’t feel less at a crossroads now, but I suppose I must be.  The next chapter of my life is fast approaching: as an artist, as a craftsman, and as a man.

I can think of no better send-off.

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