Friday, November 27, 2015

Creating...Because You Have No Other Choice

You've heard or read this quote in a lot of interviews with writers: I write because I have to. 

That has to be true for other artists. In fact, I would claim it is woven into the world of any artist. You write, you paint, you sculpt, you create music not because you want to, but because you MUST.
And this is especially true for artists who are just beginning to find their place in the world.

The members of Railway Gamblers, in many ways, seem as if they've been around a long, long time. These four musicians from Chicago's South Side are old souls; you'll find their creative hearts seeped deep in the traditions of blues, traditional country, Americana, and the passions of the best of the singer-songwriter generation. They are offering up their second album soon, recording it now at Kingsize Sound Labs where Wilco and The New Pornographers nurtured their early works.

I like Railway Gamblers' music, but what I like best is the band's spirit, their artistic sensibility and passion. These are the essential ingredients of creating an artistic life. And with that, anyone in any genre and discipline can learn a little something from Railway Gamblers.

They are the focus of episode five of THE BLEEDING TYPEWRITER. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Books in a Bar

Martinis, beer, Manhattans, tequila — Rock-n-Roll, guitars, microphones — all these things go together well in a good music tavern, a venue rough around the edges but just right for edgy, down and dirty indy music.

Now...let's add literature.

If you're from Chicago, you know The Empty Bottle, a unpretentious corner music spot on the northwest side. Grungy, but inviting. And if you're from this Earth, you know that bookstores have a tough time making ends meet these days. So, what does an independent book publisher do to get its authors' works out there? It takes them to a Rock-n-Roll bar.

It's called a Pop-Up Book Fair —— a handful of indy publishers inside a gritty bar, selling stories. So different, and so, so right.

It's all pulled together by Curbside Splendor in Chicago. Earlier in November, I took part with my publisher Dream of Things. Four hours in a bar full of books.

It makes complete sense.

Hear more in Episode 4 of THE BLEEDING TYPEWRITER. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Museum...for WRITERS!

I've been to my share of museums and I'm not always satisfied when I leave them. Either I don't have enough time to immerse myself in all of its wonders, leaving me unfulfilled. Or the museum itself just doesn't ignite my curiosity for whatever reason.

There are big exceptions. The Art Institute of Chicago and The Louvre in Paris, to name a couple.

And without it even opening its doors yet, I'm certain the new American Writers Museum will be another one of my exceptions. In fact, I'm certain I will completely geek out on the place.

The AWM will open in the spring of 2017 in the second floor of the 180 North Michigan Avenue building. A prime spot with a lot of exposure. It's expected to be an innovative digital design and a museum dedicated to literacy. And although it will showcase and celebrate American writers, it hopes to inspire people, especially young people to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, or hands to a keyboard.

Museums, for some, can be boring or considered too academic. But the modern museum knows it must compete with an array of options for the consumer. Hell, you can Google an author's name on your smartphone and find massive amounts of information without ever stepping into a museum. But a well-designed venue for the curious can be like no other, providing an experiential space that can't be duplicated anywhere else.

Episode 3 of The Bleeding Typewriter is all about the American Writers Museum and why for a writer, a lover of the written and spoken word, this place is likely to be a Disney World for anyone who loves books.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Randomness of Creativity

Where do ideas come from?

How the hell would I know! I laugh when I say this, of course. When I'm writing fiction, it just kind of flows. I never know where the story is really going until I start to write it. No outline. No plan. That's a dangerous way to write, some believe. But Joan Didion said, "I don't know what I think until I write it down." I subscribe to that. It's still dangerous.

It's the same when I write memoir or personal essays. I really don't know what I'm trying to say until I say it. This can lead to long roads down dead ends.

And this led me to thinking about the randomness of creativity.

In a recent interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard—the Norwegian author of My Struggle—he suggested the writing of his groundbreaking autobiographical novels was steeped in abandon. He was simply writing it all down. No story. No plot. Just the randomness of his life, in many ways. And other creatives have talked about how ideas for stories or art or songs have come to them out of nowhere, from the act of living, and sometimes the ones that resonate the most are the ones that they created just for the fun of it, for themselves, for their own amusement.

The Wild West of the Internet seems the perfect place for this kind of random creativity. Take Kevin Droniak—an 18-year old web sensation who started a YouTube channel of videos based on the time he spends with his grandmother.

He has more than 35 MILLION views.

How he get started? He simply liked videotaping his time with his grandmother, introducing her to new things, teasing her, and in an odd way capturing this sweet and interesting relationship. It's funny stuff, yes. But it's also heartwarming.

A random idea, produced because he loved doing it. And now Kevin has more views on his YouTube channel than some cable television shows have on their networks.

Whatever it is you do—write, paint, dance, play music—don't dismiss doing it for you, doing what you love,  and embracing a random act of creativity.

More on this in the latest episode of THE BLEEDING TYPEWRITER podcast.