Dear Adam Bellow,
I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle – with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”
I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.
I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:
What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.
In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.
I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:
The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.
So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:
No wonder my wife loves the hero of this book so much. She's a #naturalhair #counterculture activist too. Page 13 of #Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, a Gen-Xer from Nigeria who is an astonishing writer. Almost done with first chapter. She also writes like my wife does with long, flowing sentences and wry observations…
My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:
My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.
Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):
I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.
Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.
But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…
(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)
I find it fascinating the way we all seemed to suddenly crash with our ambitious writing plans at about the same time. Is there just some invisible wave, a disturbance in the force to kind of throw off a whole bunch of PJ Lifestyle writers, myself included? It seems like the past few weeks we’ve all gotten sick or had life events of some kind throwing off our blogging routines.
Is this almost a seasonal occurrence perhaps? We’ll figure it out someday. You’ll probably come up with some way to run the data and pick up on some pattern.
[In my case, looking back now, I realize that my consistent, daily blogging stopped on February 3, when learning about Barry Rubin's death. That explains it more than I would've liked.]
But in the mean time, how about we hit the reset button? Now’s the time to start transitioning in the direction that I emailed you and the other PJ Lifestyle regulars about earlier this month: more and shorter posts.
I came to PJ Media almost three years ago with the hope of learning as much as I could from Roger L. Simon. One lesson that he taught and that I’m still pushing to focus on: Do not overwrite. It is a sign that we are not confident in what we are saying when we feel the need to explain excessively.
Make the point in as few words as possible. Roger the Oscar-nominated screenwriter informed the style of Roger the new media editor.
So I’m going to try and do more short posts and I’ll be doing so with the methods you’ve explored in your 13 weeks and organizational series with Sarah Hoyt:
- Morning Pages – I’ll do free writing in my Moleskine journal each morning
- Pomodoro timer – I’ll give it 25 minutes in the morning, after my morning reading and running, but before I start the day’s PJM editing.
To these tools I’ll add four New Media practices:
- InstaGram – photographs of book excerpts
- InstaGram – handwritten posts
- Twitter – Current news stories that I tweet about are the seeds of blog posts
- YouTube – Music, video, lectures – to illustrate and augment posts. Blogs work when they juxtapose image, text, and video.
I’m going to start trying to do at least a post a day, drawing from something in my morning writing pages. Everyday I’ll dive into the editing day with a strong idea in concept and then will be able to quickly assemble a short, juxtaposed blog post from my various media piles, hopefully using a timely story as a hook. Just one or two pages, 100, 200 words – 600 max. Blog posts are best when they’re like jabs in a boxing match.
And I’ve already gone too long. Damn it.
Charlie, you’ve been such a leader and inspiration at PJ Lifestyle. How about jumping in on this style too when you’re ready? All the subjects you’ve been doing so well – health, science, Buddhism, pop culture and book publishing, and feel free to explore more – just aim to up the quantity of posts and decrease the word counts in them. (Sarah, you’re invited too when you’re done finishing up your big writing projects.)
So here’s my new 13 Weeks challenge, for myself and others: during the week we aim to up the quantity of posts, with an emphasis on current stories in culture. Monday-Friday I’m going to aim for at least one post (under 600 words and no more than 2 pages) making one point well. Longer pieces can be saved for our new list-focused weekends and written at a more leisurely pace later.
How’s that sound?
Check Out the Previous Steps in My Self-Improvement Series:
December 31, 2012: 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal
February 1, 2013: The Plan So I Don’t Waste the Last Year of My 20s
April 10: The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen
May 8: Every American Needs to Read Books to Understand Islam
July 6: We Must Read Tons of Books With A Clear Purpose
October 5: 13 Weeks of Wild Man Writing and Radical Reading
November 17: Half Through 13 Weeks For Radical Readers and Madman Writers, Turning Up the Heat
January 1, 2014: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 I Invite You to Burgle From Me Bilbo-Style
And Don’t miss how Charlie, Sarah, and Rhonda are staring their 13 Week regimens this year:
Charlie Martin: 13 Weeks: New Year, New Season, New Experiments
Sarah Hoyt: Selling Your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 13: Bringing It All Together
Rhonda Robinson: 13 Weeks: Finding My Way Back To Creativity, And The Heart of My Daughter
I have decided to accept my limitations. With the nature of my editorial work across the PJM network of sites and the unpredictability of the usual day with The Wife in her final year of graduate school it has proven difficult to stick to a daily reading/writing regimen. Some days the editorial load is heavier than others unexpectedly, other days where I intend an even reading/writing split one or the other might end up predominating. If I’m in a research groove, finding new connections across books and finally beginning to grasp difficult concepts then I’m going to run with it. Likewise when the writing muse bestows her blessings you don’t tell her to shut up.
There’s a factor in all this scheduling and productivity planning work that often gets overlooked: moods. So much of being a creative person is about learning to channel one’s emotions into art, writing, and communicating. We have to learn to recognize what state of mind we’re in at any given time and then take advantage of it. Reading, writing, editing, and publishing are all four different processes. And I’ve found that circumstances and subjective moods lend themselves to each task differently. The state of mind one needs to edit an article is not the same as for writing or for researching.
One thing I’m going to try and do more this year is focus on each individually. Helping me do that will be a closer focus on using the handwritten journal as a catalyst to organize the day and facilitate more writing. Here are 10 ways that I’m going to do it, in the style that I’m going to explore this year — creating combinations of photographs, blogging, and embedded video juxtapositions.
Read more at TMZ. And some recommended books on the subject:
Why Benghazi Is a Crime More Evil Than Anything a President Has Done in Our Lifetimes… in 60 Seconds
I published this on November 4, the conclusion of an article titled “The 15 Best Books for Understanding Barack Obama’s Mysterious Political Theology,” and a summation of my conclusions after more than three years spent investigating the president’s ideology full time:
Sitting here on this Sunday morning before the election, the Sun now up, reflecting back on these years scouring through dusty old Marxist books, trying to understand a president who built his career on a mountain of lies, I confess a peace with either electoral result on Tuesday. A part of me almost wishes that Obama
stealswins reelection (as I anticipate he will). The thought of him quietly retiring to a mansion in Hawaii in January to live out the rest of his life in comfort and adoration should inspire nausea. Only if Obama wins reelection do conservatives have a chance to hold him accountable for Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and all the crimes we don’t even know about yet. The man has blood on his hands and we can’t let him get away with it.
An ancient dictum popularized in recent years by the late Christopher Hitchens on the path forward, should Tuesday disappoint:
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
Do Justice and Let the Skies Fall