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PULLING BACK THE COVER
ON HIS WRITING TECHNIQUES
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Thank my lucky stars, he agreed. So I raced back to the lab and did the corrections then slapped them on his counter at 4:45 pm that day.
That evening I had already scheduled the "Release Party" for the novel at 7pm in Santa Monica at Congo Square. Hell, the event was even listed in the LA Weekly! We printed just seven copies and then I was sprinting down Manchester Blvd trying to catch the #2 blue bus to Santa Monica.
I made it to the evening event five minutes late looking like a sweating pig who had been run over by a tractor, but in a Kurt Cobain cardigan popular at the time, which was a plus. Grunge! I gave my reading to about 20 people.
My partner showed up and did his reading, then told the crowd that though he wanted to kick my ass, I was all-right in the end.
After all, I did get him up to my radio show to talk straight edge punk. (In fact, I should note that he's a semi-famous OG punk rocker straight-edge type musician and artist with impeccable morals. In fact, he introduced me to punk in high school in 1984 when he already had a band doing gigs while I was still just reading Robert Heinlein novels and listening to Night Ranger. You can email me and I'll give you his name). We also did a reading at the Haven Gallery in Pomona.
I gave a few books away and they let me put a few on the shelf to sell in the coffeehouse. That night, after the reading, I went to distribute the remaining four books to my friends who I felt deserved a copy in recompense for all the beer and pot they had extended to me during my wild push to finish the project.
That night I slept on the #220 bus from Santa Monica to Hollywood clutching my last four books like a pillow because I had nowhere else to sleep. Well, you can't really sleep on a public bus. I was exhausted, dumped the book off at a friend's place in the Fairfax district, and then went to leave one with a friend in West LA. I dropped the tome at his place and then got back on the bus and returned to Santa Monica. Ahh, the vicissitudes of the #220 after 2 am!
Near dawn, I was so burnt that I got off the bus and tried to sneak back into the garage just to get any real uninterrupted sleep at all. Sadly, the bruiser of a roommate in the house caught me and threatened me with violence if I ever stepped foot on the property again. So I was as good and as homeless as I could be by that point, but I had my novel printed!
That next evening I slept on the roof of a nearby apartment building. When I needed to warm up I'd take off some of my clothes and get in their hot Jacuzzi until I stopped shivering, then get out, dry off quickly, and try to hustle back into my clothes. At least I didn't get pneumonia. I could have tried to call on my parents and they would have taken me in, but I would have had to admit to them I couldn't make it in the real world. I was ashamed. Well, at least I had made it in the way that counted to me most at the time: I had foisted my novel on the public.
Ok, I did have a lead on a job. A friend of mine had taught in China and he suggested I try to get gainful employment overseas teaching English. (He's now one of the most powerful lawyers in all of China, to tell you the truth, a guy who makes more money in a month than the rest of us do in a year. PM if you want me to give you his name).
I lived for a few days more on the street and then I was on the phone to them and they were arranging my plane ticket to Beijing. Thus I ended my period of homeless wandering for the sake of literature and I set out on a new adventure in China (which profoundly shaped my life, and helped make me wealthy and successful in the end).
I bring this all up in order to emulate the writing of James Altucher; a man who is a guru to many on the self-actualization book circuit, if I can call it that. First rule of Altucher: admit your mistakes and tell a story. My story is about how I became a self-made man by doing my own thing.
Like I said, I'm a bit like the title of that Van Morrison album: "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher." Factly, I'm the teacher, an auto-didact; I've never been able to ever learn anything unless I wanted to teach it to myself first and then to others second. So I don't believe anyone ever learns anything that they don't want to "teach themselves." That is, you have to really want to learn, deep down, for yourself or you're not going to learn well. Learning to pass a test means forgetting it when the test is over.
That is why I publish my own novels without waiting for a publisher to grace me with their condescending offers and why I think no one needs a guru to fight the satanic powers of entropy and crass society, economic voodoo and the Friedmanesque self-interest of humans. You just need to curse the darkness and keep trying to light that candle. Get on the bus, get the work finished.
No guru can do it for you. They can tell you, but they can't actualize it for you, as the saying goes. They can't manifest it; can't materialize it for you from the thin air. It is you alone who must take the pain. It's no secret.
Still, there is one guy I think is a little different. James Altucher is in fact a writer that I admire. One might even call him a guru, though he would balk at that. I don't go in for that stuff and probably neither does he, but I like his style and honesty. He really does have a lot of useful insights to offer his reading public.
In order to understand how his work has become so successful, I started to notice certain techniques or formulas he uses. After all, if you want to emulate his model (as all gurus imply you should) then you have to know what the model is.
In fact, I was talking via social media just other day with James Altucher himself (ha ha, for reasons of carpet defecation) and I offered him some of these same ideas as a distillation of his work which I thought he might find useful.
The astute reader will have noticed that this article models that exact formula, so now that I'm up to the listicle section I'll pull the covers back and enumerate them one by one.
First, it is my hope that by breaking his technique down the reader will appreciate it even more, but at the same will be able to look at it critically to understand how a good writer (or an exploitative guru, since they use the same techniques) charms and impresses an audience. Seeing how the man behind the curtain pulls the strings to make the sausage is my forte, even when the guru is a writer I admire.
Want the Formula? Click here for page 3, if you got the cajones.
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