"What outside studies, activities or disciplines have influenced your practice of writing or seem particularly relevant to it?"
The obvious answer is reading.
I believe the best way to develop the skills to write well is to read good books.
Authors who are not compulsive readers are usually poor writers. Authors who are not well read are either lazy or don't have enough free time or really self-absorbed.
The best way to learn what does and does not work is to determine what does and does not work while reading many many many books. Being told these things my instructors and writing books is a poor substitute for this.
I usually watch films to learn about plot. The plot is usually tighter and more focused than in books. I look towards books to learn about the construction of sentences. I feel that many novels have an inferior, slow moving plot. This is because of the trend in the marketplace that seems to favor books that are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages long, even though hundreds and hundreds of those pages are filler.
What other activities are relevant to my practice of writing? I don't know. I'm not a very big activity kind of guy. I wish I could say something like how I practice Judo and that has given me the discipline necessary to sit in front of a screen an empty a story out of my head, but that would be bullshit.
Is thinking about my death an activity? I guess it is. I think about my death and it has a great deal of influence over my writing. It inspires me to tap the keys on my keyboard. Because I want to tap the keys many, many times before I die. I would the number of key strokes to be equivalent to the number of times my heart goes boom boom boom throughout the entirety of my life. Or maybe not. If the number key strokes is equivalent to the number of times my heart goes boom boom boom throughout the entirety of my life, then I would be writing tons of crap. Probably some good stuff too. But I would like to limit the quantity of crap if I can help it.
What else, Naropa, what else?
Sometimes the title of spam emails give me ideas for stories. "I will let u watch me taking a shower."
I just thought of a story idea about showering.
Working a job inspires me to write. I think, "Hmmm, maybe if I keep putting effort into writing, I won't have to work overnights at a gas station in twenty years. Maybe I will make what I'm making for working overnights at a gas station by sitting in front of a computer and typing. That would be very nice.
This is another activity that is relevant to my practice of writing: sitting around and thinking about things that would be very nice.
And, oh, talking to friends. That is good for plot ideas. I like talking to a friend and coming up with something funny to use in a story. It is like an artistic collaboration between two minds where no one puts any effort into it.
How about living and breathing and shitting and eating and walking around?
This morning, I got out of work. I felt hungry. I went to a diner. It was the one with the subtitle "The Home of Polish Music." I ordered hot chocolate because I thought it would come with my meal. I looked at my menu. I thought about how awesome it would be if I could combine what I liked about every diner that I have ever been to into one diner and how it would be the greatest diner ever. I ordered French Toast because I have been eating too many eggs and am worried about my cholesterol I have a newfound appreciation for French toast ever since eating it for the first time in a while at Friendly's last week and reading somewhere on the internet how this place had "the best French toast."
Then I stopped typing about my morning to reflect back upon these events about how French toast is properly made with eggs, so my cholesterol is probably fucked anyway, but that French Toast is probably made with less eggs than eggs, so my cholesterol is probably not as fucked.
Then I started typing about my morning again to comment on how I learned that hot chocolate did not come free with my meal and I was a little disappointed. I read a bunch of poems by Richard Brautigan. The night before, I had developed a newfound appreciation for his poetry (I did not like them the day before). I thought about how unusual it is that I usually eat breakfast food for dinner but it is not really unusual because I really like breakfast food and I always slept my morning away in the past and could never order breakfast from a restaurant.
Then I stopped typing my morning to mention that the view outside my window and how it makes my new room a nice place to write. It is very sunny and grassy and green and my room also overlooks a maintenance building and a road. I wonder if it would be an even nicer place to write if my room did not overlook a ugly maintenance building its ugly fence? It is very likely that it makes no difference. I wonder if it would be an even nicer place to write if a bus didn't pass by my window every five minutes. Yes, probably so.
I believe that looking out the window in my new room is an activity that is relevant to practice of writing. This has not been tested very much, but I believe it to me so. I believe that when I get stuck on a sentence or an idea, I will now look out of my window instead of looking at random bullshit on the internet. I believe that looking at random bullshit on the internet takes a lot longer than looking through my window and I only have a limited amount of minutes before I die.
Back at the Home of Polish Music, I ate my French toast. I was disappointed by it. It was decent, but it was not "the best French toast." It was decent, but it was not as good as the French toast at Friendly's. I do not believe that Friendly's is known for having very good food.
I paid for my food. I gave a tip. I wondered if I shouldn't have given a tip since I believe that my food was served by the restaurant's owner.
I drove back to my new apartment. It was the first day in a while that I didn't drive to my house first to pick up stuff to bring to my new apartment.
I checked my email. I died a little more by looking at random bullshit on the internet. I wrote a post on a forum on ways to combat spam. I masturbated. I left my apartment.
I walked to town while listening to Saul William's Niggy Tardust album on my MP3 player. I thought about how I would have taken the bus to town if I was very lazy.
I went to Amherst Books. I looked for Tao Lin's new book of poetry. They did not have it.
I went to the Jones Library. I returned some books. I picked the following books out of the shelves: Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Samuel Beckett's Watt, Ann Beattie's Distortions, Gregory McDonald's Fletch (annoying large text edition because that's all they had), and Richard Brautigan's Willard and His Bowling Trophies.
I sat down. I read the first two chapters of The Sun Also Rises. I enjoyed them, unlike a year or so ago when I tried and failed to enjoy the book while I was sitting in the same library (and this is not the library that I normally visit, so it was a little coincidental). I decided to check the book out. I thought, I think this is a good time to try to get into Hemingway since I only seem to like books with simplistic sentences at the moment.
I read the first story in Ann Beattie's Distortions. It was about someone who had a midget for a brother. It was great!
I read a few pages of Samuel Beckett's Watt. I did not like it. I decided to leave it behind at the table. I picked up the other books and checked them out. The librarian told me that I had six dollars worth of fines and asked me if I wanted to pay it off now. I told her, no, and that the librarians at the Forbes Library said that I did not have to pay it off until it reached ten dollars (and telepathically communicated to her that those librarians mention it about once every four months and how she was annoying me and should not mention it for another four months) and then she told me how I won't be able to order stuff online when it reaches ten dollars.
I went back to the stacks and found Amy Hempel's Reasons to Live. I read a few pages. I did not like it. I searched for Jim Thompson's Savage Night. They did not have it. I read the first few sentences of The Killer Inside Me. It made me want to read more, but I decided against checking it out because I already had many books.
I looked at the books that they library was selling. None of them looked interesting. I left. I thought about all of the books that I checked out were written in a spare writing style, except the Brautigan book. I wasn't sure if it was written in a spare writing style. I thought it was probably written in a spare writing style.
I stopped writing about my morning to reflect on how I originally wrote "except the Brautigan" instead of "except the Brautigan book." It is as if Willard and His Bowling Trophies was a painting that was done by Brautigan. I wonder if it is commonplace for people to refer to books by their authors' last name as if it were a painting? I cannot recall.
I walked to the post office. I took a large envelope out that contained an issue of my literary journal, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens. I looked at the return address to find out the number of my P.O. box. I opened my P.O. box to make sure that the envelope would fit in it. The envelope fit in my P.O. box.
I bought postage from the mail clerk so I could mail the issue of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens to a new subscriber. It was about fifty cents more than when I mailed the same issue last week and bought postage from an automatic postage machine. I decided to use an automatic postage machine next time, which would require going to another post office since this post office didn't have one.
I walked home. I listed to Prick's self-titled album. I thought about how it was one of the greatest albums ever made because it made me feel happy to be alive and how Prick's one other album and side project-ish like thing (although Prick might be the side project-ish like thing of this side project-ish thing) would probably have had the same affect on me if they were my favorite albums during a couple of years of high school like Prick's self titled album was. I thought of how Prick's self titled album was a perfect album. I thought about how Mentallo and the Fixer's Where Angels Fear to Tread was a perfect album because I could enjoy it regardless of what mood I am experiencing. I thought about how the following movies are perfect movies: Once Upon a Time in America, Brick, Inland Empire, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
I felt hungry. I thought about how French Toast must not be very filling. I felt weak, as if I had hypoglycemia. I walked into a Dunkin' Donuts. I bought a personal pizza and a Gatorade. The Gatorade was more expensive than it said on the shelf. I did not object. After, I walked over to the shelf. The price on the shelf was listed under the words, "Minute Maid." I thought, oh. I thought about an incident earlier at work where the price tag on a bottle of flavored sparkling water was more than the price that was listed on the shelf. I thought about how I gave the customer the lower price because I just don't give a fuck. I ate my pizza. I drank my Gatorade. It was extremely satisfying for a bottle of Gatorade. I left. I walked home. I typed my response to this essay question. I thought of ten story ideas from this morning's activities. I thought of how this morning's activities would be particularly relevant to my writing process.