« The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe

Episode 191: Ghost Writers in the Sky

2021-03-16 | 🔗

While you will doubtless find this particular episode, chapter, or installment to be interesting, fascinating, or provocative, you will also learn something about the importance of choosing just the right word, term, or expression when attempting to write a memorable tale, story or yarn.  After that, Mike picks the enormous brain of Alex Abramovich, a ghost writer you’ve never heard of, who writes best-selling books for people you have.  

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Hey guys, I this is episode number one. Ninety one of the way I heard it this was ghost writers in the sky, ghost writers in the sky, not to be confused with ghost riders in the sky the two made famous by Johnny Cash once upon a time. You know the one right. An old girl look went right now, one dark and windy day. The original version of this was actually number gonna stand Joe. Once upon a refugee rested, ass he went along is where you stand recorded, enough. Forty eight or early forty nine. I think when all at once, a mighty heard of red eyed cows who saw after that Berlin lives, did it and then I think, being Crosbie did it, twelve record. It finally got its way to Johnny Cash and that's when I heard it
pull out through the ragged scar end up a cloudy draw. Great too, has absolutely nothing to do with this podcast. However, We won't be talking about ghost riders to but rather a talking with a ghost writer, a very accomplished ghost writer here, probably never heard of because that's how ghost writers role their anonymity, is their stock in trade. But this one happens to be a friend of mine. His name is Alex Abramovich aside from working on books for people like Jane Patterson and coordinate, love and Nicky, six and dozens of other famous people, I don't think I'm allowed to mention he was so kind enough to collaborate with me. A couple of years ago, as I attempted to organise the book, you ve been listen two into a series of semi cogent chapters now to be clear. I did right. Every word of this book myself, including chapter thirteen which you're about to here right now, a chapter that-
was deliberately overwritten for reasons. I hope you'll find self evident when you listen to it anyway. I invited Alex onto the podcast for couple reasons. First of all, I miss the guy he's been sequestered in Brooklyn for the last year and like a lot of new Yorkers, he is no doubt climbing the wall but he's also a really great resource for anybody who has ever wondered what it's like to write a book. If you think maybe it's something you'd like to try, you should listen to our conversation. He provide some really terrific advice for anybody who has ever imagine what it might be like to sit down, and try and put your thoughts onto a piece of paper, invaluable advice for like Mr Right, the sky, it all starts right now, and right now. I may right after I suggest to you that power,
A job on soup, recruiter, dotcom, slash row is a bit like hiring a really good ghostwriting. Why hell, because when you posted job for free bits, precluded outcome, life row. They do the work for you, your posting, is immediately sent to over a hunt? different job sites and zip recruiter then sends you only those responses that our good fit. They do all the work for you, then If you decide which of those kids it's you. My one interview, zip recruiter will invite them to apply for your position with personal email from you an email that you don't even have to write an email. That decision which is you from the competition and believe me, there is a lot of competition out there right now for talent. The result for I, twenty five employers who post a job for free at ziprecruiter dot com RO find a quality candidate in twenty four hours
zip recruiter, dot com, Slash r, o w e I've tried myself more than once they work there. Are the smartest wait, a higher, zip recruited? I com, slash. Well, that's the way I heard chapter, thirteen call it what you will. Peter stood dumbstruck in the doorway of his bathroom searching for just the right word. Ghastly came to mind, followed and Particular order by gruesome, grizzly and graphic there on the bathroom Floor sitting in a puddle of his own blood was Peters uncle. Sir Samuel Romilly moments earlier The two men had been in the study going over the treasure House, Peter had been working on then Sir Samuel had risen from the couch walked into the bathroom, picked up a straight razor and dragged the blade across his throat.
Dear God, cried Peter ass. He ran to Sir Samuel side. What have you done? The answer was self evident Samuel Romilly had severed his carotid artery along with his windpipe heart, broken by the death of his beloved wife, which occurred three days earlier, the poor man had the state of bottomless grief or was it some? more than grief despair. Perhaps devastation despondency collar you will. The mental anguish had been more than Sir Samuel had been able to bear, and Peter could only watch, as is on we'll try to scribble his final thoughts onto a piece of bloody stationary. My dear he wrote I wish he couldn't find the right words. He sat there instead staring at the blank page bleeding all over the bathroom floor moments later he D
in his nephews, arms Peter was no longer dumbstruck. He'd moved on to traumatized nonplussed astonished, gob smacked. He did what he always did when the chaos of an unpredictable world threatened to for well him. He walked back to his study, opened his treasure house and started writing. Two years later, sitting alone in the gloom of his parlor Peter, was once again searching for just the right word. Was he depressed, probably with the schizophrenia, grandmother, a paranoid mother, a bipolar sister and overly anxious daughter, and of course A suicidal uncle Peter knew that Melancolia ran in the family, but to what degree was he afflicted? Was he disheartened or merely down in the dumps
was he disenchanted dismayed were demoralized? Would he succumb the same darkness that had claimed his uncle call it what you will, but as Peter pondered the precise nature of his Malays, his on we his Langer and lugubrious city. He couldn't help but notice that the wheels on the carriages passing by his window appeared to be breaking the laws of physics, at least that's how they looked through Slats of his partially opened shutters interesting after much. Observation and careful thought he concluded. That his eyes were retaining an image of the spokes for a fraction of a second. Through the slats in the shutters had interrupted the rotation of the wheel, thereby creating the illusion that the spokes we're moving backward, that wasn't just interesting. That was intriguing titillating, maybe even beguiling,
call it. What you will Peter was definitely onto something so once again, he reached for his treasure house, which was considerably thicker than it had been two years earlier, he began to write a detailed analysis of what he had just observed? He called it explanation of an optical deception. In the appearance of the spoke of a wheel, seen through vertical apertures, not exact, We the title of a best seller, but then Peter wasn't writing one. He was just trying to make sense of the chaos in an unpredictable world. The result, hundreds of scholarly papers on countless natural phenomena, in this case a detailed explanation. The defect in the human retina. They came to be known as persistence, a vision, a principle that
planes the illusion of motion, a principle that lead Peter to fabricate a prototype, a prototype with a shudder similar to the shutter that hung in Peters Parlour and an aperture, more to the window from which his shudder hung. Now, I could just say that's the way I heard it and direct your attention two tinsel town where the name of the man most responsible for creating the motion pick, Your camera is honoured today with a star the Hollywood walk of fame. I could, but I won't because, ironically or perhaps, paradoxically, or better yet unjustly Peters name isn't there, Nor is it in the halls of NASA, even though Peter invent the slide rule a mathematical through that enabled us to get a man on the moon. Nor is it on the act furs of London, even though Peter find a way to purify English.
Drinking water, nor is it on the facades of hospitals, even Oh Peter was primarily responsible for the development of general anesthesia, Peters name isn't on the cover of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, though huh grids of scholarly papers. He wrote on countless natural phenomena can be found therein no fewer than, hundred thousand words written by Peter words that help explain the chaos of an unpredictable world the point is we don't remember this prodigy this polymath, this pan Sophic for his incredible list of accomplishments. We remember him for his incredible list of words. Finally, the list of words he compulsively compiled to combat the depression that perpetually plagued him words whose early Aceh Blood began as a unique form of therapy, but whose all
congregation, went on to become it upon the compilation of rhetorical replacements that went on to sell no less than forty million copies over the next two centuries. I refer, of course, to the indispensable direct three of dialectical, determination that was destined to dramatically increase the word count of every term paper. That's ever been written, altered opened, while helping millions of aspiring writers prove conclusively that liberation, almost always a noise. Talking about an unparalleled linguistic lineup of syntactical substitutes, a crucial compendium of etymological option, a singular source of all things. Synonymous conceived in serendipity and dedicated to the proposition that no crossword puzzle should ever go unfinished. Call it what you will that tome on
bookshelf wouldn't be there today, but for the grief stricken uncle who died? Searching for the right word, the melancholy nephew who never stopped collecting them a remarkable election that Peter Roget called his treasure house or, if you prefer Latin, is the source. A while ago, now, on a flight to Baltimore the same fly. I am now. In fact, I stumbled across an Atlantic article about Roget. It was not what you would call complimentary. The article was written by Simon Winchester, whose work on various documentaries for the history and discovery channels. I've had the pleasure of narrating. Few Winchester wrote a terrific book to about the making of the Oxford English dictionary. The professor and the madman. I'd recommend it. In fact,
I just did, but I was surprised to find that, putting it mildly or gently or reticent, Winchester was not a fan of roses. The Sars in Winchesters view Roget did more to discourage good writing than encourage it. According to the Atlantic Good right has little to do with finding them. Word and everything to do with the brave employment of the war words that one already knows. Our literary powers are born. Winchester wrote not out of no and mediocre suggestion not out of lexical shopping list, but out of passion, fought and intensity of feeling is when just right beats me with her without Roche's help. I would know how to write novels. I wouldn't, begin, but I do right these stories and from time to time I must confess my search for limos used.
Compels me to consult the innumerable and countless multitude and myriad infinite, incalculable and unknown possibilities that Roget affords. In fact I did when I wrote Roget story, which begs the question, was the tale really diminished less minimized or small, and in some way, when I started to lean on that linguistic crutch. What about my captain up there in the cockpit? is he cheating me out of an honest flight by relying on the auto pilot by the same token, that I cheat on my time since this year, by relying on the sucker in support of a little machine. I call the calculator. Whatever the answers are good on you, Simon, for protecting the integrity. The probity sanctity of the writers, craft and profession, but let's you're too, for those who have pulled themselves up by their own intellect
will bootstraps while conceding that sometimes it's ok just ask for some help. As I do, and breathe it is Alex. Abramovich. A writer, a ghost writer, a philosopher, a man covered with a lot of hair, blessed with an enormous brain, a wicked sense of humour and in a very difficult interview. Simply because Alex tell me if I'm wrong, but as a ghost writer you're really not allowed to talk about ninety percent of the stuff. I'd like to ask about drew near by there's a juicy campers out, so we wait where my bad
one the doubts that Opera Winfrey Nina plant last night with her subjects, but you'll get something out of me. I bet when it came down to Oprah. Were you honestly, we flip the coin. I mean it was that close, but in the end we just thought for the kind of interview that we want to bring to the listeners this pod castors, there's really only one way to go, and that's a Alex Abramovich, as it is great to see you again, you are you. Ok, everything, good yeah, we everything's gonna make the same decision with you. I was down to your and our prime, along with you, remember, I'm not sure how to talk to you about what I went through a couple years ago. Putting this book together. It was nothing like. I imagined I appreciate help on it. I would have me
can do more in it had I had my druthers and I would have started with the crazy, convoluted map that you put together that showed the connections between the stories I had written and the possibilities that could become this book. So was that part of the plan or readjust completely make stuff up, as you went and be honest, how how difficult am I to collaborate with yeah? Well, that's a difficult question to answer, because the truth is that it was may be the best professional experience I have had in Europe your pleasure, but there's there's not much of an audience for that sort of thing you're a it's. It's rare first, you know usually when people work with with a ghost writer above doktor, it's because there
and I d as or they ve got a long list of accomplishments, but there are not necessarily writers, and- and this was one of those weird situations in which you know I was teemed with a writer- I turn off. You knew at it at the time. I think you had your suspicions that maybe you were right are interested in one or two, a minute yourself, so it in my experience what what ended up with us is. It ended up looking much more like a writers room than ah you know than some of the collaboration amused too and that that was tremendous, tremendous fun. It was fun. You know it was fun because I I dont fancy myself a writer. I love to write and, as I told you, I think, on the day we met my my biggest fear and trying to write a book was to screw up my hobby.
Didn't want that to happen, but I also didn't wanna mail it in and, as we discussed ad nauseam short cuts led to long delays. You know if you're going to hire a ghost writer. Logically, what you wanted to do was let that person right your book right talk with that person, collaborate and then just go away. Let that person do with it But I I couldn't do that, but I still needed help now. You are you a second not stay out of my way for a minute? What, but you know what I mean we
I am glad now that some time has gone by you look back at it and conclude that by and large it was not only fun but rewarding in that way. It was very much like a micro cosmic version of dirty jobs. Dirty jobs is hard work and for a long time I didn't realize how much fun I was having. But enough time goes by. You look back and you realize. Oh, it's not what I thought it was its different and better and surprising. Most every decent thing. I've ever worked on has a component of that to it. I want to ask you what is more rewarding to sit down and write your own book, as you have done, bullies of friendship, terrific reed,
or sit down with. Somebody like gay oblique, this out of him not allowed to say it, but like a Courtney, love were in Nicky six, where some of these other people you ve worked with. Is it more gratifying to help them get their vision on the page where you are so the question. I mean it's it's more gratifying and in some ways to work with others, certainly more fun and less lonely, but also united. It takes up a taste one of the pain away in any takes you you're, not sitting there like, like you, do with your own work, poring over all of the mistakes made in all the things you have done differently I was sick of John last second guessing dude sex I'm guessing right. I mean it either makes you better or it destroys you, what is it most likely to do in your opinion, given those
why I need an in my limited experience of one, what it forces you to do at a certain point to learn how to let go otherwise, you you'll be lose your mind and you let the thing be. What what it is which, depending on how you look at it, is either up a broken by a broken male version of what you hoped it would be or something that surprises you, and hopefully you know the lights you and the end. What one thing that I'm pretty sure I know that writing is. Is that if you have the capacity to surprise yourself, while you're doing that, you might be able to surprise and delight the reader so to a point? You want to not know where you're going, and you want to leave room for his mushroom, possible for four happy accidents and as long as you know that Alex forgive me bad spoke, but- and I am sorry, but if you're gonna hit me with that level of wisdom, you, I didn't say anti wise well it's very wise, but no, no
Look I've been saying a version of that all of my life, my favorite comedians, are not the ones who try to make me laugh there. Ones to amuse themselves. First and foremost, might my favorite writers I give me the sense. Maybe it's just imagine, but it's the sense, the writing to please themselves. Likewise, singers, any artist right if, if job one to satisfy them. It makes it easier, as somebody in the audience I think, to go along for the ride. Maybe yeah I did. I would hope so, but also to get to that point. Where you're you know, you're ripping light, speed and end and delighting yourself are doing what Eddie than Helen could do with a guitar. I mean what audiences and seeing as the is that I mean forget ten thousand hours, it's it's hundreds of thousands of ours, of intense concentration that it takes to be able to leave all that at the side of the stage and go out there and
reform is one of the things that I like about. Writing is that it is its super performative. That's all that it is their performance and experience. You try to give the reader, but others about, as you have a certain degree of control that you might not have if you were actually physically standing on stage, not a certain degree of control total can RO total control, but is your saying only a Europe wide because you had total control of the limits of your own capabilities, which are not infinite right, of course, but in a relative world, if you're a writer, you know you get all the credit and you get all the blame, it's you you know, even if you bring in help it, it doesn't matter that that thing between the two covers once you once you let it go. As you said earlier, it's not unlike the baseball that the pitcher releases it's gone. It's out there and it's gonna stay out there for time and memoriam and whether you got it right or whether you didn't whether you said
what you meant or whether you fell short, it's all there forever and that awareness, I think for me anyway, and I bet a lot of other people knowing that can can paralyse you or it can get you off your ass and get you busy. It just depends on what kind cards, you were dealt in, how you play them, why? I would agree with that, and I would also say to answer your original question that went when you look back on it right for yourself or working with other people. One of the differences, for me has been when I look at my book. The peace that I've made with that is that's the best book that I was able to write, given what I have to work with and my the Ladys at the time being modest. I just that's what it is for for better and worse, and I am happy with it. I like that book. I hope
People like it, but it's a lot easier for me to look at. You know your book which, which I had my hands, and that too and say that's a good book. That's a great book on really happy to give out the somebody for Christmas your father's day, it's easier for me too to accept that in love with a partly because it's in your face on the cover, not mine, but it's easier to take pride in in a way that makes sense they make complete sense. One thing we can talk about if you have, if you want that's a little bit to the side of your question, is, I only know one other person who does what ideal Dan peep and bring her youth spoken with.
Who yourself who helped prince? Well was going to write princes memoir help. Prince right is my more than three months in that process. Prince died and then ended up producing on a very good book that wasn't a memoir, but was the closest longer come to having princes memoir said Dan, and I got together sometimes and talk about this very weird work that we do and, and none of us came up through the ranks of ghost writers and I'm not sure that their there are such ranks, but I know that one thing people negotiate for when they, yet when they, when they get their agents in layers in the room, is for writing credit on the cover and that something that I have always tried to avoid it. So in an inferior I would give up tempers
did my fee you so that you would stick my name on the cover by my senses. If you're, a ghost writer, you should be a ghost whose writing you shouldn't have your name anywhere on the cover or anywhere on the box. So with I am writing with I'm working with Nicky Sex on a memoir. Now call First, you six. Of course the famous was drummer basis from basis yeah if you are not a zoo, flouted premises, I thought tawny. Tommy leave is his ease, I'm illegal equally, equally famous but Nicky, whose birth name was a friend Verona, were telling the first the story, The first twenty one years of making life which which carries him up to one team, changing, is named name to Nikki. Sex and right before forming motley crew in forty years ago. Now, how is that possible
and you know that book if all goes right will be called the first twenty one by Nicky, sex and Frank, Frankfurt and- and that makes me happy because it's funny, even if only a few people get the jug before they got to the end of the book, accordingly, lives. Actor credit for say that back to credit, because that's to import the closer to an end, right to the heart of this. You know I always say in my industry that the only time people move faster in Hollywood, then when they're trying to get away from the blame is when they're trying to go towards the credit you know I argued for years and really I don't. I don't see myself as a particularly self absorbed person. I I am to a degree, but it was important made it to see a created by credit on dirty jobs, because it was my idea, you know we're. So I told myself in
and I started from George Clinton and starts Turkle and a bunch a bunch. Otherwise there are no new ideas, but but in this community of ghost writers And I know there are many in this world where nobody really allowed were encouraged to take credit who's. The best who's, the best go Strider you know of, and can you even say who is well, she is
you are allowed. There are plenty of books had to pull off myself. That will say idea a wreath of Franklin with David rats: there's a guy named David Wretch who lives in taxes who writes every other book by a musician, and these are the writer. I think the gold standard is Andrea Legacies memoir. The first time that I go strode anything goes writings, a weird word for this. It wasn't quite ghostwriting, but the first time that I worked on a book that someone else had their name on it. I did a couple bucks for a James Patterson who had never done a drug crime before he had done his thrillers. And ass, for others are great, but there were a couple of true crime box that I worked with with Patterson, and I didn't know how to do it and when I didn't know at the time was that there is really no way to do it. You just do it like so many things so
I went, and I read Andrei out Disease Memoir, which I will say is phenomenal, did he call wrote with sportswriter, whose name actually is not on the cover? Four relate reasons to minor. I think I might I got my the ever. There were where I rented acknowledgements Andrei August. He said I didn't write the spoke as other. I wrote the book and he didn't want his name on it, and I thought that was classy its class and look the interesting sidebar. I got off the phone two weeks ago with Andrei accuracy who called regarding our foundation and wanted to get involved, and it was really resting talking to him and hearing. You now say that a guy's competitiveness him and, as you certainly know that world you and I might think we're compare.
If we have an understanding of what competition means, but at that level I dont think its anything. The average person can relate to it so important for an athlete at that level to give credit where its due and to recognise it when he sees it, and so it must have been very strange for a guy like Andrei. To be told by somebody who's much more talented than he in that, and that at that they write, leave my name off element of one of my favorite, namely for production company elemental if my name off, but I just think it so interesting what you do. And also Alex a reason. I wanted to talk to you and part of the reason I hired you was because I got the sense very very early on you. You are tortured artists and I say that with respect but you're. Also, a tradesman you to me
You approach the craft of writing in a very similar way that my granddad approached Billy House that a lot of other tradespeople. I know, look at a job, you know, you're, a workman and and and I I don't say that with any insult either it's it's a great combination of tortured artistry and an brute diligence, diligent man and your diligent writer, and I just think that a lot of people don't think of writing in terms of a craft or a trade. They see it as a talent and if you have any thoughts on that would be a perfect moment to share the talent, doesn't hurt, I mean, maybe until it as it only takes
so far, and then you know you, you need other stuff on a matter. How talented her creative, I am. I think I have a natural advantage and that my father as an engineer, my mother, was a musician and, to a certain extent I have those things mixed up in me. So I can mean a play scales and make things on pretty, and animals are very interested in making sure that whatever I make a structurally sound and await bearing structure. So I'm always stress testing my sentences and my paragraphs in my chest yours and are the is every word carrying its own weight and these in this sentence, but I I mean I'm flattered by the craftsmen comparison. I think, if, if if what I do is build good tables and good cherish, there's there's nothing more than want an end and if anything, my ideal for those tables and chairs is gonna, be shaker. Furniture where it doesn't happen doesn't need too much ornamentation that's right. Right is the thing that it does. You said so
earlier. You set a couple of plus I memorable things and I actually jotted. This went down because I thought I thought it was terrific and it goes to the tradesmen beat. You said MIKE when you're writing stories. I can't tell you how to do it, but you'll know it when you do it. Because when you write the last sentence, you'll hear something in your mind: go, but the union flick, your fingers, you said Snick S and I see K. It'll it'll, like the the sound a box, makes that's perfectly made when you close, it doesn't go clap, it doesn't go, but it doesn't go funk. It goes Snick and when the last sentence of a story does that it means you, somehow landed the plain and that made perfect sense to my brain and I've been listening for that sound ever.
The aim is, to be perfectly honest I ass the sun attributes said he spoke about that. I said that clickable sudden snapping shot like a well may box right and that that site that I Please remember that, and I always remember that only piece of writing advice that I ever got that I held onto unremembered was my friend Many years ago, my friend Alex Ross. The music critic had also been reading gates and he had been reading gates's essays and he said, look here's a really interesting thing: you'll read two pages of the and he doesn't use a single adjective and then on the third page, how use one or maybe he'll used to and they go off
a bomb, because you ve been so starved for them, and you didn't know you were missing them until you stumbled across them. You know my favorite moment with the AIDS believe it or not happened and dirty jobs. I was sexting chickens with some asian chicken sectors up in Iowa and they didn't speak a lot of good English, but we had these coffee, Cannes in front of us and we were squeezing the poop out of these little checks. You know and the air was full of dandler and Twittering ambiguity, very much like a german porno. You know and dumb just when it couldn't get any weirder. I I looked at this ninety year old asian man, who probably couldn't understand what I was saying and I quoted a line from a crazy Jane talks to the Bishop, which says a woman can be proud and stiff, went on love intent, but love his pitched. His mansion in the place of extra
for nothing can be whole or soul. That has not been rent and them again me trying to amuse myself and pass the time while sexting chickens somewhere in the heartland. Looking back at it years. Later when an error in the middle of the night was a moment of extraordinary pride because it all it went Snick all of a sudden, between a language I didn't quite understand the damned or in the air, the tittering of the baby, chicks. The coffee can filled with their excrement and Yeats. The world started to make a little bit more sense. Zappia follow things continue.
Together, like that. That reminds me of something Larry Flint late, lamented Larry fled the publisher hustler, who just died. You grew up on a farm. You, nobody said about growing up on a farm filmy. Anyone it grows up on a farm and tells you had never had sex with a chicken is lying You know I'm pretty sure. A few years earlier, Doktor Seuss wrote something similar in that unforgettable pop up fair or foul. Maybe my might adventures down for maybe there's a pop up back in our future as well you know what I would do a pop up. I was absent we do a pop up with you. I think we're gonna live to see the the mighty matter. Imagine them opening is opening up a coffee table back in the mighty map pops up or that there is no right, the bridge and how bout a pop up book of
Bridges will not be amazing. A bee, unbelievable now would be thick, but every time you turn a page, a miniature bridge appears and under it is either an epoch. Poem about in nearing or building or just some straight up? Biographical information about the construction of the structure that would be these are the amazing reproaches are sort about through three men in Europe are a day we ve got the mighty MAC way at the Brooklyn bridge. The golden gate- sinners Wendell, it's in there is, while I'm I'm I'm for. I can see looking at my window right now. I can see the Brooklyn Bridge and if I turn that way, I see one, but behind the walls of Arizona there's a there's. A podcast is not in the book. I don't know if you read it or not, but the writing of bridge over troubled water and Simon was in his apartment not far from where you are and Garfunkel had left and they're. Looking, you know he's
out the window at at the bridge and basically sitting there on his bed with his guitar plucking it out biology of a song by the way how's your music book coming and hasn't been twenty two years since you started, and what is it going to take for you to complete that Ahab aid spent twenty years since I started up that just about that book has been about my third oh sure, because the editor has kept on making his way in the world Sean. My long suffering editor show Mcdonald, and I taken me along dragged me along like a wet doctor. What are these passengers and it actually made? maybe you can speak, there's somebody with a musical background, but I found all sorts of reasons to be stuck on this book over the years and I am part of what comes down to is my same friend Alex the music.
Where he had. I taught class together made many years ago over a decade ago now, and we are sitting with a roomful of students and they are paying much more attention to Alex, is much more accomplish than I am, and at some point they looked at him and sad. Can you do what you do if you don't have a solid grounding in music theory and Alex knowing full well that I don't have a grounding in music, very solid or otherwise said. No. No, I don't, I don't think so capita I sure brought this up last year with Alex and and he asked the same question you're asking house asked But going in and the short answer is I spent the past three years taking lessons and setting music theory and scribbling all sorts of things on on me.
Main school paper and I feel like I'm finally getting there and an even though most of the people, I'm writing about probably didn't know theory couldn't read music themselves. It helps me to have a solid tactical understanding of what's happening in this Jimi Hendrix Song aware this Sancho wherever else and I still studying guitar by the wasteful setting. Are you still play? I'm studying guitar? I let my I'm so playing my, Music, teacher crests Christopher White is a guitarist, but he was a composition major it when you went to school size or to have the best of both worlds and study. Jerry and I'm studying guitar and when I told Alex, destroys it well. I ve been studying theory, because you said this thing ten years ago smoke and Alex let the visa. Well, I only meant that for classical music, I didn't mean it further
The soldiers, your problem and here's your problem, you care deeply about writing and you care deeply about music. So now you care deeply about two things and because you're a tradesman, you feel the pressure not to churn out something that, as you said earlier, was as good as it could be for the time, for whatever reason: that's not working now, youth, you move the goalposts you raise. The bar this book you been working on for twenty years about music has to be great and because you become better with every passing month, you know that when you finish you will of deliberate a product that ultimately inferior to the person and the ability you will ultimately have, and so therefore uva if paralysed,
next question yet affectionate lot of happiness. Now, that's that's about right, landed, but me I still I stop ass, my head against it. I think I, this you're gonna, take six months and work on nothing, but that book there and world will see what happens, but am I don't? Have you had this experience when we are working on your book, but sometimes it you get really stuck and any just thinking you can't go on and you can't think of anything. So you come up with a way to trick yourself, you and I'm coming up with I keep trying to come up with ways to trick myself, because my horizon line will always have Srp my abilities to get there and I've made my peace with. How do you do it? What's the trick? Well with that book, I don't know because I haven't solved it yet. Well, I'm just thinking like
For me, there are times when I'm desperately trying to remember something, not a tangible thing, not necessarily a date or a person's name or anything that specific, but an idea that I had a notion right. And when you can't get your hands around the notion- and you knew it was a good notion- you know it's a hinge right. That's going to either hold a chapter together or its important and it's out of your reach. I find that trying specifically to focus That is the absolute worst thing I can do. The only way notions that get away ever come back is when you kind of creep around the edge and try and remember a thing that might have been happening contemporaneously when you had the idea or a person that might have been with you, and you know you just have to get. Close to it, and then your brain will either find it for you are it won't? But but there are a lot of tricks,
I dont know many. I know a couple, but I'm sure you must have forest dumped your way like, for instance, if you were to pick up that guitar behind you right now and play a little bit as we talk, would it enhance or detract from our conversation? Do you find that when you're doing two things at once, each one becomes less efficient orders or they buy become better woke. One thing: that's nice about guitar and it sort of my meditation is that I'm really only doing one thing when I play guitar when you're writing, he sort of arguing ten things at at at once. So it's hard to do. You know I like jumping between two writing projects. You get stuck on one each I'm tracks and work on other, but
I guess my version of coming at a thing from the side. Mitt, maybe a metaphor that that may or may not be useful is, is shooting and tartar back this just shooting at a target with a rifle. Is you can a bit? But if you're, still tents, when you pulled the trigger you're gonna go wide of the mark. What you have to do is is aim, breathe, go slack to a certain extent and then and then fire all all the prep work that goes into the aim being willing. I'm your shot, but is also the relaxation that will guide the bullet and a writing. I also feel like there's all this, this this tension. That goes into it, but if that tension translates into what you're writing directly it'll come out still did and stillborn. So you have to find a way to relax the trick yourself into into being as being loose. Staying, loose,
Zella, it's a little villages around. You gotta be totally loose and totally type at all times right, so much of it. Is a dichotomy you it's like when you talk about technique, especially if you're performer, a singer, you know technique is everything. Technique is a thing you have to fall back on and if you own your technique like Nicky six, then you can forget it and when you forget it well, that's when the people in the audience become comfortable, because nobody wants to see you
technique. They want to see your artistry, I think, and look in my little weird world. That was certainly the case with dirty jobs and everything I've ever worked on. Nobody wants to see a host working too hard to host. Nobody wants to see an actor acting. They nobody wants to see a US, a singer, composing or prefer. You know it's it's hard to articulate it, but it's like you have to forget the technique, but not until you ve master, and so I mean what is your advice there, people listening to this right now, who think they can write? Some are wondering
they can write- some are certain they can summer sure they can't have you actually find out if youve. If you ve got that thing well, I mean something. I tell my my statements. I guess one went when people ask me: is it at all? It is a lot like show business and that where it's a lot like stand up where that that the most sure fire way to find out is TAT tried out in front of other people, and even if you are lucky at first you'll bomb and people will be honest about it and the way that you learned by failing in public and and and being so embarrassed about it that he work hard.
Enough harder than use out was capable to that. Maybe you don't bomb is badly the next time and you building you golden and an you build from there, but I find that a mistake. Many people make is that they feel they feel that writing has to be elevated, somehow were or arch in a way that that, on that, it doesn't have to be, I mean to plate plain words. Put in plain order, wont load will do the job just fine. It doesn't have to look like writing. Who was the best at that
who took plain words then put him in a play. In order to me, I think Hemingway, maybe shore I mean, but going back to Mark TWAIN, I would say, may begin. Mark TWAIN was wonderful added Hemingway to any sort of on when you catch him. Sometimes he d, he became matter to sort of the doll very caused, the more he drank. I think you can feel him. He starts writing you know it's not a good way. I mean gosh S. What when I was young starting out, there is the whole school of what was called american minimalism in Dallas Raymond Carver into buys Wolf and people very influenced by Hemingway and and people who write these various bear stripped down sentences. But when I look at their sentences now, even those sentences look too to written for me
I don't think there's any one, one formula to it that says you have to strip your writing of all additives. Are you have to keep your sentences short or there? There is a famous there's that both elements of style by struck in white than a lot of writers drunken would start out with, and you know that book is full of full of advice than that, I'm sort of tossed out the window, starting with the most famous piece of advice in that book. As you know, a bit needless words, Joe, you ve, read that at some point in Vietnam, but I don't believe in obeying needless worried. Some of the writer is that I love the most like Henry James, have all sorts of words in there and, in fact, when you look at the Sabbath Faulkner, when you look at the sentence, needless words. Well, you can make needless and just omit words and that works better. So you know you you. Can you don't need words either? Don't on the idea that such just omit just was just so
I think that the real answer is is right in the way that natural to your voice and natural to your rhythms and in the trick, I think, is when you're writing and you can be writing and allowed cafe or in a quiet room, but that in a sense everything has to be very quiet inside yourself, so that you can forget the world outside and forget the world inside and again just listen to what the words coming on the page are our calling you and sometimes just the sound of the sentence. Well, will carry you along in it and if your writing, the sound of the sentence, you know you're onto something. So I have a friend name, SAM lip site who has a book that starts its a book composed in the form of a London notes to his high school news. Butter and the first sentence of that book is its confession. Time catamounts and I think that's great,
opening sentence, inanity believer in the fact that the right opening sentence will somehow contain the rest of the book and but it's also a really interesting sentence, because you know why is it catamounts? Why isn't it? My high school team was the trojans. Someone else had some other high school team, but he had the cat amounts, but why is it cat amounts? It's cat amounts, because it's confession time right, there's behind fashion time miles. You ve got a little bit of alliteration at nice. Syllabic juxtaposition gathered up his confession time. Catamount right, that's got it let's go in there and that's it. That's all it needs. It doesn't need anymore, and then you listen to the sound of that and you come up with a sentence. That's not like that sentence, and then you come up with another chance. That's not like that sentence and before you know it, you ve you ve, built something, I always think of De Cabinet, who wrote an amazing memoir and I don't think he used. The ghost
on her and he hasn't. He has a rift somewhere in that memoir that I'm gonna miss remembrance. I read twenty years ago, but he has an extended ref about comedy, writing and the just being on stage, and he says twelve chickens is funny or than thirteen chickens and he explains adverts, two pages wise, twelve chickens, finer than thirteen chickens. Chickens even funny? No one knows he doesn't have an answer. It just is because twice is February. Thirteen by the way, couldn't every single thing. That's currently wrong. With late night television be fixed by putting the cavern reruns on yeah have you watch as dvds? They came out about a decade ago- oh sure. Oh my god. Oh, I think I think Dick have it. There were moments of of pure brilliance, many in it in that show. Now it was of another time and people listening, oughta go back and just for grins com
on Youtube and watch some of the great interviews that he did this was not a man who is afraid of silence. He would sit there with his gun and there were holes that you could drive a truck through and he waited. He always waited damn you just a very different style of interviewing, but the patients and the pacing and the weirdness in cork units in the randomness and the and the surprising fund that came out of that. Shell is just it's gone, gone from late night, and he is one of the most underrated interviewers. I think to do what I do anyway, and I said I think, a great actually physical community and if you ve, seen in Vienna Summit Amazon, he doesn't amazing monologue where he may have just gotten at a tape regarding the shaded. Let them run run a segment backwards. Any does segment involving spinning plates
certain acrobatic stuff, and he actually does it any. Does it backwards lives so that when they flip it he's doing it forwards and that you know the guy was upon the horse champion yeah right like of course, he's still, of course, he's a gymnast right. Why wouldn't be you seen his interview with less dramatics by any chance Randy Newman. I should want it, because that century that Randy Newman wrote about in his song rednecks. That's right right! That's right
Did you hear that on Gladwell podcast furniture? Now I think I just know that listening you look, studies show nobody gives a crap about anything said much after forty five minutes, so in the spirit of landing the plane. I wanted to ask you one more thing. I did hear on Gladwell, podcast and, and I thought of it not long after we met, then you just reminded me of it. But the question is: are you a Picasso or essays on and the framing of a question goes to Gladwell thesis that everybody is one or the other artistically, and he writes about Leonard Cohen writing the big. What hallelujah right? The version you know is about the five hundredth version
You literally wrote roughly five hundred versions of holiday you before he sat alone that when this Gladwell says, is exactly what say isn't it says on obviously a brilliant painter who never ever finished a single painting ever he he just simply never stopped working on. It are undeniably great work, but his process forbade him from finishing Picasso. On the other hand, undeniably great transformative work, Picasso work very quickly and when he was done, he was done, he sold it any moved on. He never went back. He never messed with it too great artists, each with completely opposite approaches to their requisite
greatness? Are you Picasso or Sazen? Let me add, alchemy two answers to that. I wish you well because everything some multiple choice with you, you just can't answer a straight question, right answer to an end, but on the other hand, the right answer to your question is yes sense. The truth lies at university thanks. As long as it's not it s answer I'm proud of his sharp. I do now I don't have Malcolm went into this you're. Not, but you know, without money are Monet, you would still gotta bokassa. Without Suzanne you don't get a Picasso without says on breaking the campus geometrical frames right I mean I would say While I am nothing like saves on- and I am nothing like the castle. But but given my brother is my wiring, I'm probably a little. I would want to be more like the castle and ended up failing to being more alike,
zander that that either, why that I always think of along the same lines, is bizarre. Berlin made a distinction between had Johnson foxes. They know about this one Now he was, he hasn't, I say about russian novelist and he says, and he is he's running on an old Greek, fragment of poetry and all the Greek fragment says is the headshot Fox knows many things, but a Hedgehog NOS one, great thing: there ago. Are you a generalist borders, special citizens? Are you pick authorities is out. Berlin says that this day, ASCII was a hedgehog who thought it was a fox and Tolstoy was a fox. If I was a hedgehog, so I always think of vat and think about the ways we trick ourselves and answering these questions for ourselves. Let me ask you to a slightly different way, and this will be my last query. You you walk into a
cards a noble in my example. I soon they still exist in real life. I have no idea, but there you are and you go to the the shelf, and you find your book, your terrific book bullies a friendship, you pull it down, you start leafing through it and you read a paragraph. Four too is your first thought. I'd love another stab at that. Why did I do it that way? Or is it? Ok, that's as good as it could have been at the time all this right with the world yeah. That's! I didn't write that box. Someone else. Am I a lot like me and need a mile away if you pass Lastra that good luck to. I wonder what happened to that guy? Is these being interviewed on a par gas called away? Irish knows what about my opera amen. One of those guitars for me and play a little ultra music. While I thank everybody for listening and remind them that my book
in its audio version can in fact be picked up, we're were you listen to our motto, books? It's called the way I heard it and it exists in part. As my friend Alex spend a few Well, who see evenings with me, saying hey what about this? Instead of that? What about that instead of this? Those are the questions are good collaborator would pose, and as I thank him for coming by once again, I will remind you that life is short and weird and sometimes the olive, the only way to figure stuff out is to come out it from an odd angle. What are your Picasso we're safe zone or whether the soundtrack in your mind is a guitar or harmonic. There are many sound tracks out there, my friends, but there's only one Alex Abramovich, good to see a weirdo seem accessing Thankee areas.
Transcript generated on 2021-03-17.