How to Spend your Money

Much has been written on how to make money. Here’s a word on how to spend it in service of your work. 1.  Recognize, please, that at the heart of any creative undertaking is a gamble. 2.  So, put aside your dream, all fuzzy and fantastic, and set the cold, hard plan. State the goal […]

How to Write an Opening Line

In an effort to learn from my betters, I’m always on the lookout for a great opening line, and the daily news never disappoints. This is how one of my favorite writers—Michael Kimmelman, art critic for The New York Times—started a front page story earlier this month. By at least one amusing new metric, Michelangelo’s […]

The Need for Authenticity

I met a young Indonesian man once who worked in the dining hall of a cruise ship and who had an unusual talent for remembering names. Eight hundred, even a thousand at a time—he never made a mistake. If the computer, with its near endless capacity to store and retrieve the tiniest bits of information […]

The Danger of Silence

A controversy is brewing at my alma mater. It concerns a video, five minutes give or take, fabulous music, wake you right up and carry you along, the faces of youth with you—but it puts the college in, um, quite a light. People are weighing in all over the place. Drink, drugs, money, sex, entitlement, […]

Getting it Right

The writer Joan Didion and her late husband John Gregory Dunne had an expression for when a work was successful.  They asked each other: Did the author “get it right?” The line jumped out at me, for that is my measure as well and the only question that matters. The language, the structure, the content, […]

A Writer Goes to a Party

With some regularity, a writer—any creator, really—has to get out of the chair and into the world, or what he or she has to contribute will fail to interest anyone for very long. An invitation to a party is one such opportunity, but some writers, so used to working alone, find excuses not to attend. […]

The Clause for Immortality

Some writers pick up the pen to fulfill one hope above all: the wish for immortality. That’s a distraction, even for a daydream, even if for the grandkids. Consider it a flamingo. And, as a rule, it won’t work either. While a writer may think, in that heady moment of signing a contract, that a […]

The Cutting Room Floor

I just finished a new essay, my eleventh, and though I say this about every essay or story, it was a devil from the beginning. This one concerned matters of faith, sticky moments, and my father’s death. Any one of these subjects is hell for an essay and I had tripled up my misery. I […]

A Little Dose of Presumption.

In the mix of skills needed to write, a little dose of why not? of course, I can do this is a valuable addition. Once in a while, you’ll have to speak about your work. Maybe you’ll have to defend it, or sell it. And as the first, reasoned and unequivocal champion of your own […]

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