Photo: ©David Gessner
The Real Life is Real Yoga Practices Index
I like starting on writing in the early morning (usually no later than 5), armed with a cup of tea and my creative, optimistic morning thoughts.
BY DAVID GESSNER
It has been a jam-packed year. Last summer, at a friend’s urging I traveled down to the Gulf during the BP oil spill, and covered the spill, though blogs and articles, for the Natural Resources Defense Council. That grew into a book, The Tarball Chronicles, which will come out in September. But I was already finishing up another book, My Green Manifesto (due out in July), so it became a two book year.
About the best thing I did for my sanity, outside of the work itself, was build a writing shack in my backyard near the marsh.
I use it for morning writing, afternoon reading, and evening beer (s). I have a view of the marsh and feel connected to other coastal places (the Gulf included) by the tidal creek.
More concretely, I can hop in my kayak and paddle to the nearby Masonboro Island, an undeveloped barrier island that stretches eight miles long.
Here are some pictures of the shack in progress:
Here are my blogs from the gulf:
The Magazine of Yoga 3×5 Interview
What is the task you like to do best in your work?
I like starting on writing in the early morning (usually no later than 5), armed with a cup of tea and with my creative, optimistic morning thoughts (things get muddying for me as the day lengthens). My computer is not hooked up to the internet so those first hours of writing are pure, often excited, concentration on one thing.
What housework or domestic detail is most satisfying to do?
Hmmm…The truth is that I’m kind of a slob—my father called me “dirty Dave”—so I’m going to cheat here and say building, like the shack I mentioned above, since it seems creative in the way making books is. But if forced into an indoor answer I would say organizing my study, since, while I am not neat, I am pretty organized about my work.
What in light of your experience in life, should we not waste time on or worry about?
I would like to say “money,” since it so rarely has to do with true artistic success, but that is a hard weed to pull. In general terms, as a writer, I would say anything that gets in the way of the next project, the thing you are most truly excited about.
How do you celebrate?
Excessively. At least I used to. A friend in Boulder thought I was like a character out of a Russian novel and would yell “More cognac for everyone” when I got going. I’ve mellowed but at my recent 50th birthday party I had my shirt off around the fire in our backyard for the last couple hours of the party. “You got a lot of compliments for what good shape you were in for your age,” another friend said. “All of them from you.”
How do you learn?
Intuitively. When I first started writing books I focused too much on a rigid vision of research. I gradually learned that I like to read, and learn, “by inclination” as Samuel Johnson said. Follow what interests you and what you can put to use in your own life.
How do you prepare to do something?
As the above answer indicates, I tend to plunge in.
Do you have a nemesis?
I used to joke that Sebastian Junger was my nemesis, since The Perfect Storm came out the same week my book did, and did a little better than mine. But the truth is that I respect the hell out of the guy for knowing what he is about, and creating the kind of bold smart journalism we need.
Do you have a vocation?
After I take my writing cape off, I turn back into a college professor.
Do you have a plan?
Conquer the world, the writing world first. But have fun doing it. (Kind of like a combination of Alexander the Great and the Bill Murray of the Ghostbuster movies.)
I am not a big magazine reader (no offense) but after Sports Illustrated I would have to pledge allegiance to OnEarth, the magazine I reported about the Gulf spill for, and one of the few magazines that I now actually read.
[No offense taken ; ) The Magazine of Yoga recommends David's magazine EcoTone]
Favorite work beverage?
5 am: English Breakfast tea
7 am: Latte (Soy—lactose intolerant)
5 PM: Beer (IPAs)—not really for work but maybe a few lines in my journal.
Favorite relax thing?
About a couple times I week I hike with our dog along the Cape Fear River in Carolina Beach State park. No matter how stressed out I am I always get a lift when walking into the woods and by the river.
5 things about your workspace that make it good
1. A beautiful view of the marsh.
3. The occasional interruptions of my daughter Hadley, who is seven and has a little side desk in the shack.
4. No internet.
5. Great colleagues who are writers and who, almost to a person, have finely developed senses of humor.
5 people you want to collaborate with
1. My daughter on our children’s book “the Adventures of Frisbee Boy and Frisco.”
2. David Byrne
3. Joss Whedon
4. Bill Murray (I have heard that he, like me, is a fan of the song “Brandy,” and I think we could do a lovely duet.)
5. Charles Barkley
5 songs from your current playlist
Being old fashioned I have a boom box, not playlist, but these are some of the albums I’ve written to over the years.
1. Stop Making Sense–The Talking Heads
2. My Life in the Bush of ghosts—Byrne and Eno
3. Sea Change—Beck (wrote a whole novel to this one on constant repeat loop)
4. Darkness on the Edge of Town—Bruce Springsteen
5. Blood on the Tracks—Bob Dylan
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.