What It Takes

What It Takes

Louis C.K.: Give It A Minute

By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 26, 2013

In a recent New York Time interview with Louis C.K., Dave Itzkoff commented, “You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.”

Louis C.K. replied with a question: “So why do I have the platform and the recognition?”

Itzkoff answered, “At this point you’ve put in the time.”

Pause after you read Louis C.K.’s follow-up:

There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.

Put in the Time

Almost every author I’ve met has mentioned a desire to be interviewed by Oprah, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and/or Charlie Rose.

I get it. Being interviewed by any of those individuals will garner the authors attention and book sales.

But the reality is that most authors don’t land those interviews right out of the gate. And, while those interviews can spike initial sales, they don’t keep things going on their own. They’re a short-term fix.

In an interview with The Paris Review William Faulkner spoke about what writers need to write. The same applies to doing outreach for your projects, sharing/marketing them:

The writer doesn’t need economic freedom. All he needs is a pencil and some paper. I’ve never known anything good in writing to come from having accepted any free gift of money. The good writer never applies to a foundation. He’s too busy writing something. If he isn’t first rate he fools himself by saying he hasn’t got time or economic freedom. Good art can come out of thieves, bootleggers, or horse swipes. People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand.

Outreach is Hard Work

Doing outreach/marketing our art is hard work. It’s painful. Reviewers can be nasty and comments left by today’s online community are about as pleasant as a rabid Pit Bull.

It’s hard to look for the good and keep pushing through the crap, piling up faster than ants at a Fourth of July picnic.

But you do it. You don’t say you’re “too busy” that you haven’t “got time or economic freedom.” You figure it out and keep pushing, even if it takes you 50 years.

I Don’t Do Outreach. I Create for Myself.

Last month, the New York Times ran a few articles about artist Arthur Pinajian, “a reclusive artist whom the art world had not known much about. Now, 14 years after his death, he has fans who mention him in the same sentence as Gauguin and Cézanne.”

When Pinajian died, his sister, in whose home “Pinajian had an 8-foot-by-8-foot studio” and who “supported him for much of his life” told a cousin, Peter Najarian, “Oh, just put it all in the garbage. . . . He said himself to just leave it all for the garbagemen.”

Najarian kept the paintings instead.

Read the article for the full story. Bottom line: Though Pinajian had networked earlier in his life, he became a “hermit.” After a point, it seems neither he nor his art left his studio.

If this was his goal, fine.

But the selfish side of me asks, But what about us? We would have loved to have known about your work earlier.

While you didn’t create for money, money it seems is being made off you work—by those who didn’t create it. Do you care?

Perhaps he’d answer that he didn’t care. That money wasn’t the point—and that he doesn’t care if others profit.

Money aside, what about the art? Isn’t the creation itself something that is meant to be shared?

In the same Paris Review interview, Faulkner said:

If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did. The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since.

The art came for a reason.

And perhaps something inspired Pinajian’s cousin to keep it for the same reason: It wasn’t meant for the trash, but for a wider audience.

The same might be said of John Kennedy Toole’s mother, who held her son’s manuscript tight after he committed suicide, and then pushed until she found a publisher for his book, A Confederacy of Dunces.

At the end of a second New York Times article about Pinajian appears,:

“He thought he was going to be the next Picasso,” Mr. Aramian said. “They believed he would become famous and this would all pay off for them one day, but it just never happened. So he became frustrated and withdrew from everything and just painted.”

I wonder about what he was or wasn’t doing to share his work earlier. And I wonder why the art community of that time didn’t recognize his talent. And whether the best came after he closed himself off.

One thing I know: His work was meant to be shared. I wish it had happened while he was alive. And, I wish I knew why it is easier for some and harder for others—why the one-hit wonders break out and the long-term artists are recognized after they’ve died—if at all.

For writers, the Internet has opened opportunities that don’t translate into other mediums. Viewing a wall-sized Monet isn’t the same on a laptop as it is in person. I’m not living in that world, but I imagine it a harder place to build a following, to break into. But, the benefits of an established platform remain the same.

Back to the Platform and Louis C.K.

What about those artists who do make it big, yet stay out of the spotlight? They don’t do interviews. They don’t muck around with press tours. They write. That’s it.

How did they do it?

Good writing and at some point either they—or someone else—built a platform. And now? That platform is on auto-pilot; it hit a point of self-sustainability.

And that brings us back to Louis C.K.

You have to put in the time. In addition to creating/building, you have to build the platform.

Some people win the lottery, but most of us hammer away for decades. That’s not a bad thing. It takes patience. It takes commitment.

As Faulkner said, “People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand.”

Follow Louis C.K.’s advice and “Give it a minute.”

At least a minute…

Posted in What It Takes

15 Responses to “Louis C.K.: Give It A Minute”

  1. April 26, 2013 at 6:05 am

    This is great Callie, thanks. This hit home:

    The good writer never applies to a foundation. He’s too busy writing something. If he isn’t first rate he fools himself by saying he hasn’t got time or economic freedom.”

    I sometimes get stuck wanting the reward before the work is done, forgetting the work is the reward. Sharing and profiting is a privilege.

    And Louis C.K.’s “Give it a minute” statement is especially powerful now, with the digital backlists available forever.

    • Callie Oettinger
      April 26, 2013 at 6:56 am

      Thanks, Jeremy.

      Read the full Louis C.K. and William Faulkner interviews. They’re both great.

      The articles about Arthur Pinajian and his work were painful to read, but I’d recommend those, too. I’m glad his work is being shared now, but . . . why not earlier?


  2. April 26, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Amazing article and the topic certainly resonates. I really enjoyed it and will be passing it on to some business owners that I’ve been working with and are concerned that the blog they started hasn’t gotten the traction they were hoping for – after only a month. Your words are on point and helps to keep goals and effort in perspective. Thanks for posting.

    • April 26, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Patrick, good point for many of us. Thanks

  3. Basilis
    April 26, 2013 at 10:50 am

    How would disagree to all of the above?
    Art is communication, but you have to create a message from the heart and delivery it to the audience. It takes time and effort.

  4. April 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Callie, I take my hat off to you for this piece! If you were in Rome now, where I am, I would offer you a coffee at my favorite spot. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by Random House for one of my seven published books, I hope you and your followers will take a peek at my new book, Ciao From Roma! Spring in the Eternal City of Love. I have been living in Rome very spring and fall for twelve years now. It’s in my blood, in my books and in the very air I breathe. Thanks again, for your wonderful piece today. Ciao!

  5. April 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    My God what it takes to settle in and glide. To let it happen. To stay on it. I am a performer/ writer and so a professional poor who from the heart knows deep richness. I am older now too–so I have done a lot, so what is there left to do? The real work. How wonderful! My life;the crookedest path to freedom.

  6. April 27, 2013 at 1:18 am


  7. Sonja
    April 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I really enjoyed this. Thank you, Callie.

  8. April 28, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    thank you for this incredible post. I’m sharing it right now.

  9. April 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Saw this quote today, seems apropos…

    “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

    —François-René de Chateaubriand

    Callie, I’ll load up the full interviews to read on the next commute!

  10. Jason
    May 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Callie,
    Thank you for this fantastic post!
    I thought this excerpt from an interview with James Franco from GQ (?) would be relevant here:

    “When God calls you to something, he is not always calling you to succeed. He’s calling you to obey! The success is . . . up to Him; the obedience is up to you.”
    “I totally agree!” says Franco, his eyes lighting up. “All you have is what you work on and how hard you work on it. As far as the results or the reception, it’s out of your hands. That’s something I really had to come to understand.”

  11. May 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

    True true!
    What we often see is only the success and we don’t see the hard work that went into becoming successful – the failures, the flops etc.

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  13. November 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for this great article and quotes. In Turning Pro, Steven mentions that during his year of turning pro he read every american author except Faulkner. I wonder why not. Any ideas?