SPAM of the Week: Married but Lonely

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Every day I empty my SPAM folder I’m amazed at the fine and interesting headlines. Take this one:

You Won’t Believe How Many Married Women Go Online to Cheat

Wow! How many married women go online to cheat? Do tell!

Her name is 99playdoll and she wants a little piece of me. Here’s a little news about 99playdoll.

guess the term nymphomaniac could apply to me at times. I enjoy the kind of sexual fun where you just absolutely exert every drop of energy you have and after climaxing, you’re exhausted, sweaty and panting for breath because you’ve given it all you’ve got . I don’t get into really wierd and extreme things like sadism and masochism. 

She sounds lovely. She also said, “Dont care about race, just anyone who is looking for an erotic vibe.”

Looks like 99playdoll is an equal opportunity nymphomaniac.

Thanks, 99playdoll, you made the inaugural SPAM of the Week!

Hey, folks, want writing tips fed to your email? Even want a first edition signed, personalized copy of Six Weeks in Saratoga? Just throw your email in that Smart Bar up top. It’s just that simple!

Godin’s ‘Dip’ for Writers

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I listen to Brian Koppelman’s podcast, The Moment, every week. I’ve read a bunch of books written by Seth Godin. So when Koppelman interviewed Godin on The Moment my iguana brain almost hemorrhaged.

Koppelman brought up Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). It was a formative book for Koppelman. I bought it on my Kindle. I read it in an hour on a Tuesday. Then I read it again on Wednesday. In my extensive morning journaling, I wrote for a few days on the Dip as it applies to freelance writing.

Let’s first define the Dip as Godin writes early on:

If you learn about the systems that have been put in place that encourage quitting, you’ll be more likely to beat them. And once you understand the common sinkhole that trips up so many people (I call it the Dip), you’ll be one step closer to getting through it.

Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.

Godin also writes, “The Dip is the set of artificial screens set up to keep people like you out.”

It’s only natural to read these things through your own subjectivity. It got me thinking what the “artificial screens” to being a freelance writer and author. Here’s what I know from living in the Dip.

  1. Low pay/No pay
  2.  Low pay that doesn’t arrive on time
  3. Low pay that doesn’t arrive at all
  4. Having to chase down payment
  5. Rejection
  6. Loneliness
  7. Lack of validation/appreciation
  8. Killed stories
  9. Constantly having to hustle

There’s probably more, but you get the gist. Another point to consider—and what Godin makes you ask—is: Am I in a dead end or am I in a Dip? Here’s my Dip:

My Dip. Pretty, isn't it?
My Dip from my morning pages. Pretty, isn’t it?

If it’s a dead end, you need to quit yesterday. I’d say most reporter jobs at newspapers are dead ends. You have to leave the newspaper to get a promotion or you need to be a hard core freelancer like my friend Brian Mockenhaupt. At least in that instance you can pick your spots. That’s how the great Michael Paterniti did his work.

In order to recognize if you’re in a Dip or not, you need some form of validation. You need to have talent. Work ethic is a given, but you need to have some talent and that talent needs validation while in the Dip. That validation gives you the strength to remain in the Dip and lean into it, to push through it to the relative bounty on the other side.

I’ve known countless writers and colleagues who gave up. The Dip killed them. The Dip filtered them out and now there’s less in the Dip for you and for me.

While in the Dip you need to publish something of merit at a higher profile magazine or literary journal. Or, if you pitch a high profile magazine (and get rejected) and the editor is nice enough to reply, he/she needs to say a positive thing or two about your pitch. When you get these micro victories, you know it’s a matter of time.

Blogging doesn’t count. Self-publishing doesn’t count. The former is good practice for connecting and for getting words down; the latter is a shortcut (however, if you somehow prove to sell tens of thousands of copies, then you can tell me to shove it. And God bless you!). There must be an external validation to justify remaining in the Dip. It’s ugly in the Dip. It’s dark down here. I mean, it’s dark. It’s grim. At least my Dip is grim. My Dip is the freakin’ Hunger Games. If yours is better, can we get coffee?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of quitting. In the last two weeks our Civic needed $691 worth of repairs. Our Accord needed $600. Our dogs needed semi-annual checkups for $430. I’ve thought about quitting today. I’m thinking about it right now.

The people on the other side of the Dip? Talk to them they tell you the same thing: Write every story like it’s for a Pulitzer and query like hell. Turn work in ahead of time. Make editors’ jobs easier so they come to you in the future.

I’d add another thing: Have fun. Have fun while writing. We could be shoveling coal or pumping septic tanks. When you have fun with this crazy craft, it shows on the page. Don’t be self loathing (I’ve been guilty of that. That’s bad, bad practice.). Don’t complain. Have fun. The more fun you have, the better equipped you’ll be to get through the Dip.

A great sister book to The Dip is The War of Art. I’ll write about that another time.


Artist Gary Panter on Drawing…and Writing

Hey folks, I’m giving away signed first editions of Six Weeks in Saratoga. I only have a few left, so if you want one, I need you to sign up for the email list. Then I’ll reach out to you for contact information and how you want the book inscribed.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I came across a great quote. Actually, the quote came across me. I subscribe to the great Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter. He shares great stuff he stumbles upon every week. Here’s a quote he found from the artist Gary Panter:

You might want to draw more realistically or in perspective or so it it looks slick—that is possible and there are tricks and procedures for drawing with more realism if you desire it. But drawing very realistically with great finesse can sometimes produce dead uninteresting drawings—relative, that is, to a drawing with heart and charm and effort but no great finesse.

Many writers are technically sound, but their writing is flat. Their grammar and vocabulary are nice, but there’s no energy behind their words. They’re not having fun. They’re trying to show you how sharp their sentence structure is.

Only writers will care about this. Even then, not many will give a damn. 

For me, I want to see that the writer is having fun writing a book or essay (Within reason. There is a matter of tone. You don’t want to be seen as having fun when profiling a murdered man or woman).

The problem, sometimes called the MFA Voice, comes from a writer full of skill, but lacking soul and energy.

My suggestion? Just turn it loose. Go waaaaaaay to one side. Overcompensate. Be so uncomfortably something else. Then, when the pendulum swings back, you may find a voice.


Writing Lessons from an 85-Year-Old Sushi Chef

My scribble from Jiro's wisdom in the opening minutes of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
My scribble from Jiro’s wisdom in the opening minutes of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”

Written by Brendan O’Meara

What can an 85-year-old sushi chef teach us about writing? Turns out a lot.

I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show (a great podcast, by the way) and Ferriss and Ramit SEthi spoke about documentaries they liked. Sethi said Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Sethi loved the singular focus of the central figure, this man named Jiro.

I had some time this afternoon to fire it up and I couldn’t stop watching. In the first ten minutes Jiro, the main sushi chef, said:

Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your work. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret to success and is the key to being regarded honorably.

This is pure genius.

The man follows a strict routine every day that doesn’t change at all. He seeks improvement every day. His wisdom is so applicable to writing that I had to share it. I’ve been guilty of falling out of love with writing and complaining about it. I’ve been better the last few months because I specifically focus on the work and try to block out everything else. It’s helped and Jiro’s philosophy calcified that stance.

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Beautiful stuff.