Monday, 18 February 2008
Ariel Gore’s Guide to Being a Lit Star
I’m just back from Amerikay – land of you-can-do-it positivity and supermarket sized book shops. I had a lengthy browse in Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and in Barnes & Noble and found many, many books I wanted to buy. But books are expensive and I already have about a hundred unread ones on my shelves, so I allowed myself only two. One of them, by Ariel Gore, has a gorgeous cover and a long and sort of embarrassing-to-buy title: How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead – Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights.
I have only read part one so far, but I like Gore’s style. She knows what poverty is like and she knows what success is like; she works hard and she gives realistic advice. She is the positive mentor you wish you had. This is from a section called ‘Embrace Your Genius’ where she encourages writers not to copy their writing heroes:
‘You see this vibrant and vulnerable planet in your own strange way. You draw connections that make you wonder if you’ve lost your mind. Your fears are specific.’ I always encourage my students to be true to themselves, use their own vernacular, life views etc. You can move on from that, but it’s a great place to start to find your ‘voice’ and personal obsessions.
Gore also thinks writers need boring day jobs to free up the mind-space to write. I agree with that. My first serious leap into writing happened when I had a mind-numbing sales job. After that I took on a series of literary related posts (what I thought would be ‘dream jobs’) but they turned into nightmarish scenarios of fund raising, bitchy colleagues etc. A job that leaves you time and brain-power for writing is the best kind.
For more on Gore (poetic!) see her blog at Ariel Gore