Notes From Stephen Elliott Lecture

Posted on December 12, 2009


Lost on W. Sunset Blvd. East LA with bakeries and Spanish delights I cannot enjoy due to the late hour. Searching for 826LA, no signs, only an address that leads to a travel store, a bookstore next door at 1716 but no 826LA. The guy in the book store says it is the travel store and I can’t figure out why they’d hide the place, why fly under the guise of a travel store- strange things in the front room, ice cream and candies, kids looking confused before they disappear through the plastic paneled door. Not a real door, just hanging panels of plastic. I feel like I’m going into a massage parlor, go through the magic door, down the short darkened hallway, lit by the blinking of christmas lights…Where are the flashing tits or the giant neon ass to show me the way? A door to the right of me and one to the left, decisions must be made. No way to tell. Just open one.

How do you create a work that is art? The book is for the reader as the house is for the person inside the house. Experience is a tool. Don’t write the book everybody wants to read, write the book you want to read. There are no facts when it comes to creative writing. No adjectives, no adverbs. Every word must be justified, every sentence must move toward something. Ask hard questions- Who am I? What do I believe in? Did I really love this person? I don’t need to tell the reader everything. The quickest way to be wrong is to assume I know someone’s motivation.


Useful criticism inspires me. Feels like it will work. Don’t ever stop yourself from writing. Always write. I should be able to read from any part of my memoir and have it be just as engaging as another. If I don’t like it enough to retype it, cut it. They are just words. Sometimes we don’t know why memories are important.

She asks… “What do you mean by truth?”

If I can’t see the good side of someone, I’m not being honest. Both sides of conflicts believe they are reacting. Rip myself open- I don’t have the option of holding back. But I still have to be kind. I may have to become a better person in order to write accurately. There are situations, and then there are stories. A situation is a car breaking down. A story is the internal journey, the struggle. It’s not about how crazy life has been, it’s how intensely I explore it. My memories and explorations make me who I am. Everyone remembers things differently. Nobody can get closer to my truth than I can. Never let the truth get in the way of the story. There may be stuff I want to talk about but if it’s boring, it has to go.

The reader is doing me a favor by reading my words. I cannot abuse that.

“There is a time to stop reading, there is a time to STOP trying to WRITE, there is a time to kick the whole bloated sensation of ART out on its whore-ass.” — C. Bukowski

Posted in: Good Days