Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind.
Charlie Kaufman in his (now very famous) BAFTA speech as part of the 2011 Screenwriters’ Lecture Series. Discovered via Bitch Magazine’s recent interview with the ever-wise, ever-creative Rookie Mag editor Tavi Gevinson, on the future of Rookie and teenagerhood.
More: An incredibly moving excerpt from the speech was turned into this 2012 short film by Eliot Rausch and Phos Pictures: What I have to Offer. And, the entire BAFTA series via iTunes podcast is here, much of which is lovely and inspiring and important for writers of all stripes and colors.
Filed under: Media can be therapeutic. And in the ever-forward, way-too-fast cycles of discovery, we have to remember to revisit the best of it often.
It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.
Members of his staff — most of them young and working on a newspaper for the first time — referred to him with varying degrees of affection and apprehension as “Oz the Great and Terrible.”
Mr. Rensenbrink referred to himself as a “working hippie,” shaped by counterculture values and a blue-collar work ethic. He was, by most accounts, a tough boss.
The Aquarian Weekly, headquartered in various northern New Jersey storefronts and warehouses in its 44 years, has outlived most of its underground cohort. After The Village Voice and The San Francisco Bay Guardian were taken over by corporate newspaper chains in recent years, The Aquarian claimed to be one of the last independent alternative papers in the country left standing and one of the oldest continuously published ones.
Mr. Rensenbrink, who died on Nov. 6 in Grants Pass, Ore., at 81, received offers over the years from chains looking to buy The Aquarian, with its circulation of 45,000. He said no each time. By the time he retired in 1999 and moved to Oregon, he had arranged to transfer ownership to an employee cooperative. The co-op has been publishing the paper — in print and online editions — ever since.
He’s a fascinating man with a fascinating legacy. The Aquarian Weekly staff write about meeting and working with him in this tribute on their site. Worth reading.
Every time somebody says to me, “It’s so impressive how you manage to get writing done despite being on Facebook/Twitter/etc. all the time,” I cringe. I’ve been hit by a backhanded compliment. I’m surfing, tweeting and emailing — leaving my digital prints everywhere and probably picking up some nasty computer viruses — while serious writers are working pristinely, heroically beyond the clutches of the Internet.
Jonathan Franzen found the Internet such a threat that he disabled it by plugging an Ethernet cable into his computer with super glue. The philosophy behind this act of almost rageful vandalism seems self-evident. Compared to the hard work of writing, the Internet gives an easy way out. Before, the writer took breaks for things like coffee, cigarettes, drugs — items that each have natural limits in the human body. But now, you’re basically working in an intellectual red-light district where, at any time — every three seconds if you want — you can dip into the constantly replenished streams of email/Facebook/Gawker/eBay/YouTube/Instagram.
But why would a person write to Redbook extolling the great beauty and virtue of Eva Longoria? I have my own set of favorite actors… but I can barely imagine composing a sincere tweet about them, let alone writing multiple paragraphs and then sending them to a magazine for publication. That’s even more true in an era in which it’s so easy to do one’s gushing online, using less formal language. What compels an enthusiastic reader to let Entertainment Weekly know that this year’s fall TV preview was the best ever?
Ruth Graham, Meet the People Who Still Write Letters to the Editor, The Awl.
To answer the question, Ruth Graham interviews four writers of recent letters to the editor in People and Vanity Fair. While this is by no means representative of any kind of trend, three out of four of them are over the age of 60 and three out of four are or have been writers of some sort. Read about them here.
FJP: Here’s a personal thought on reading comments in print vs. online. I generally read about 4 magazines in print per month. I don’t subscribe to any, I just pick up what looks interesting at the train station when I’m visiting my folks. I always stop and read the letters section, both the letter from the editor and the letters to the editor. I do this because when reading in print, I feel I need to orient myself and get a grip on the identity of the publication in hand. It feels like a respectful thing to do. I feel compelled to perform this act of respect because holding an entire issue of a magazine in your hands makes you feel the weight of the effort that went into it. Perhaps it makes no sense, but I want to reciprocate.
The content of these letters to the editor are hardly ever more insightful or intriguing that comments people leave online. Yet because they get an entire printed page, I spend a few extra seconds pondering them than I would something online. And particularly because I’m a child of the age of millennial voyeurism, it’s a strange feeling to read letters to the editor in print and not get to internet stalk the people who wrote them. So, this Awl piece is a fun read. And something I’ve always been curious about. —Jihii
Somewhat related: A NY Times Magazine piece from last weekend on the history, future and quality of comments.