Every artist has their own way of working — tools and techniques they’ve honed over years of practice. We each figure out what works for us, what we need to do to pull an idea out of the recesses of our minds. Every artist faces obstacles and self-criticism along the way and being productive means figuring out ways to dodge the arrows the monkey fires at us as we settle down to work.
Some people start work at the crack of the dawn, while the monkey is still groggy and unable to put up a fight. Others work late at night when the monkey is exhausted. Some have stringent rules for how they work, what pens, what software, how cool the room, how hot the coffee. Some plunge into work like lemmings off a cliff; others fret and bustle about, sharpening pencils and brushing lint off their smoking jackets.
It’s fascinating to learn about the processes we each devise, but there’s no one correct way to proceed. Each person’s monkey erects a different set of road blocks and each of us has to figure out our own way to navigate around them.
One of the cool things I’m discovering about making this podcast is that it’s a great excuse for meeting people I admire and asking them all sorts of questions about their private doings. I happen to discover that one of my favorite novelists, Jonathan Carroll was following me on Twitter so I tripped all over myself to invite him to join me at the microphone.
What a treat! We talked about how he starts a novel, why writers need to read, how the wrong day job can leech your soul, what it was like to grow up in an intensely creative family (his dad was a screenwriter who wrote The Hustler (what a flick!), his mom was a star on Broadway, his half-brother is the genius composer Steven Reich), what it’s like to read your own books, how to judge an artist’s work, how to become friends with your inner creator, and the joys of writing books by hand.
Here’s the episode:
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What’s your experience with your monkey? How has it affected you, and how have you overcome it? Record your Monkey Tale at dannygregory.com/monkey.
Jonathan also pointed me to this great video of Francis Ford Coppola showing the manuscript for The Godfather: