20 Jan 2011

January 20, 2011

John Berryman said: “A young artist should cultivate an extreme indifference to both praise and blame, because praise will lead to vanity and pride will lead to self pity, and both are bad for artists.” But then, a few years later, John Berryman jumped off the Washington Avenue bridge, so it’s a little hard to take his advice seriously.

This morning, a couple at Starbucks set their umbrella in the chair where I usually sit. I found a new seat and waited for them to leave.

One teacher told me I was good at public speaking, I should pursue public speaking. One teacher told me I was good at math, I should pursue math. One teacher told me I had an attitude problem, I should straighten out. One teacher told me if I couldn’t learn to tuck in my shirt I would never get a job.

Also: Inspiration is bunk. Who has time to sit around and wait for inspiration?

I heard about this school in Brooklyn where the kids make all the rules, decide their own classes, call meetings when they want to discuss things. There are no grades. If the kids want to play video games all day long, they can make that happen. Apparently the students go on to do pretty well for themselves. Probably end up the type of people who would ask a couple at Starbucks to move their umbrella. Confident and all that.

I was talking with a friend today about originality, about how it’s really just imitating enough different sources that your work seems original.

Here are my sources: Dave Eggers, Stephen Elliott, Lydia Davis, Ira Glass, Nick Flynn, J.D. Salinger, Billy Collins, Don Miller, David Foster Wallace, Joan Didion, Samuel Beckett, David Mamet.

Also, I don’t really ask for advice anymore. And I don’t tuck in my shirt.

Sorry this didn’t turn out better.

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