What It Takes

What It Takes

David Carr, Neil Young and the 7 Year Old

By Callie Oettinger | Published: March 5, 2015

This afternoon I drove through the Santa Cruz Mountains with David Carr and Neil Young, on the way to Neil’s Broken Arrow ranch.

I’ve been mining David’s columns and this one is a favorite. I like how he molded words to animate stories and convey thoughts — and have felt them tugging at me these past two weeks.

I was cruising through his interview with Neil until he crashed in a quote from Neil’s book Waging Heavy Peace:

“Writing is very convenient, has a low expense and is a great way to pass the time,” he says in “Waging Heavy Peace.” “I highly recommend it to any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn’t know what to do next.”

The 7 year old forgets to include decimals...

Around that time, my seven year old came in. She spent a slice of the snow day making a sign to sell her pictures and handmade wooden toys. Her plan is to collect fallen branches once the snow melts, make them into toys, paint a few more pics to keep up with the envisioned demand, and then sell everything. Easy street. Just create it. That’s all it takes.

With Neil on my mind, we talked about what she wants to do — and the why fueling it.

She wants money to buy more art “stuff.”

I’m ok with the money focus. It’s what gets you that ranch, where you can create in peace, and in Neil’s case led him to “Old Man.” But… There’s more to it. Creating something isn’t enough.

If writing a book was a natural step for any “old rocker,” every one of them would have one out there — and all of the ones that are out there would be fandamntastic.  But they don’t — and they aren’t.

Neil’s a creator who has spent decades crafting songs. He knows words. He knows emotions. He knows what he knows that he knows.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to continue to mainly be a musician forever, because physically I think it’s going to take its toll on me — it’s already starting to show up here and there,” he said. Writing a book, he added, allowed him “to do what I want the way I want to do it.”

The seven-year old knows what she wants, but she’s 99 cents short of Neil’s dollar.

I suggested that we put away the “sale” sign and fine-tune the art. Right now, she’s got a room of her own to experiment. In the future, perhaps we’ll be Sunday driving out to her ranch, and someone will be mining her work as I’ve done David’s and Neil’s, inspired by the nuggets she so generously gave to others.

(If you feel like mining… Check out David’s syllabus for his “Press Play” class — and read the items on his recommended reading list. Whether your “thing” relates to words or images or … It’s good reading.)

Posted in What It Takes

14 Responses to “David Carr, Neil Young and the 7 Year Old”

  1. Mary Doyle
    March 6, 2015 at 5:33 am

    A 7-year old whose mom works for Steven Pressfield and who encourages her to focus on her art? What a lucky child – Resistance doesn’t stand a chance with this one! Thanks for a great Friday post Callie!

  2. March 6, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Callie,
    I’m traveling, and didn’t sleep well. Never do the first night from home.

    I was about to do the snooze Olympics when my phone beeped of a new email. I read this post with puffy eyes…here is how I misread your post initially:

    “Around that time, my seven year itch came in…”

    I laughed to myself, and decided I should get up and start the day. Thanks for the post.
    bsn

  3. March 6, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Suw Charman-Anderson suggests, terrifyingly, to give your writing away until you’re famous, then transition to the dollar sign.

    It’s one of those fears I know I should run toward, not from.

    I know it’s not precisely your point but the tangent suited the mood I’m in, which is a reflection of the sun on the snow on the lake below my window.

    • Callie Oettinger
      March 6, 2015 at 9:06 am

      Joel – What do you think of transition the size of the dollar sign rather than transitioning to the dollar sign?

      In the David Carr interview with Neil Young, there’s this bit, too:

      Jonathan Demme, who has made three concert films with Young, including “Neil Young Journeys,” which came out in the summer, finds Young’s playing and visage “irresistibly cinematic.” “I saw Neil after a show and told him how amazing it was, and he said: ‘Well, it better be amazing. Those people out there paid a lot of money to be here.’ ”

      Part of the reason they pay to see Young in concert is that he respects the form. And they show up expecting the unexpected.

      As I type this I’m realizing that “respecting the art form” was one of the points I was trying to make with my daughter. Show the art she wants to create respect by practicing/learning. After that, there’s the commerce side.

      • March 13, 2015 at 10:21 am

        Ah, just found this marvy conversation.

        Callie, the difference is not between small dollars and big dollars. The difference is between zero and anything nonzero. Have you read Chris Anderson’s Free?

        If 1,000 people will read my book when it’s free, 10 would have bought it at any price, 99¢ or $9.99. Yes, there are exceptions, but they’re exceptions, not rules.

        Everyone and their brother is starting out at small dollars. A million new books a year. Or more.

        How many authors are prolifically writing great books and then giving every single one away?

        Smaller pool, eh?

        I just have to decide if I want to be one more swimmer bobbing in the deep end, or if I want to be one of 2 people standing in the wading pool.

        Naked, of course, because that’s what it feels like. Gets more attention, y’know?

        • Callie Oettinger
          March 18, 2015 at 6:54 am

          I’m all for giving “it” away – up to a certain point. We’ve given thousands of Steve’s books away, which in turn has meant those books have been shared with larger audiences. That one person that we send two copies of the same book will give that extra copy to a friend, and things move from there.

          The part I don’t like is giving writing away for publications that rely on writing to exist. For example, even most of the major newspapers pay something to op-ed writers, even if it is a small amount. But, there are outlets that rely on the free model to populate the site with content. The writers aren’t paid, but the people on the corporate side are paid. That model isn’t one I can stomach. Sometimes the readership of such outlets makes it worthwhile, but often… Not so much…

          • March 18, 2015 at 8:45 am

            Oh, totally. I abhor serfdom.

            Free isn’t a price, it’s a strategy. I give stuff away because I’m paid in something other than dollars. But if Bob Publisher is making money off my writing, I’m making money off Bob, or Bob’s his uncle, eh?

    • Michael Beverly
      March 6, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      I’m going to recommend one of my favorite books on art to you, it’s called How to become a Famous Artist and still Paint Pictures. Yes, it’s about painting, but much of the advice about being an artist will translate.

      He recommends perfecting the craft of drawing/painting, painting 300 paintings, and then burning them in the street.

      I promise you’ll love the book, if not, I’ll buy you lunch.

      • March 13, 2015 at 10:25 am

        Another terrifying perspective, Michael. It’s on my to-buy list now.

        All this noise is the gate creaking open. I know I’m talking myself into doing this, going all books all free all the time. I just have to ease in ’cause the pool is so cold.</strong.

    • Michael Beverly
      March 6, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      Oh, hey Joel, me again.

      LOL,,,,so I went to go look up that book I just recommended, it’s been a few years, and coolio, I have the number one review.

      Then, in the comments, someone is giving me grammar advice….OH, that is so funny. What’s worse, I went and found out why the guy was wrong…

      I will say this, my writing obviously sucked back then, reading that review hurt. Ouch.

      Anyway, it’s a great book:

      http://www.amazon.com/review/R3B1P14YT2HHZI/ref=cm_cr_rev_detmd_pl?ie=UTF8&asin=0595144551&cdForum=FxVEZYYHZDPSUE&cdMsgID=Mx3FEXJN6X8CG3F&cdMsgNo=2&cdPage=1&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx3BOTYGLITNAKK&store=books#Mx3FEXJN6X8CG3F

  4. March 6, 2015 at 10:26 am

    If there’s a cuter “buy” button in the universe, would someone let me know?

  5. Kent Faver
    March 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Agreed Maureen! And, thanks Callie!

    “His longtime manager and friend Elliot Roberts describes Young as “always willing to roll the dice and lose” and says: “He has no problem with failure as long as he is doing work he is happy with. Whether it ends up as a win or loss on a consumer level is not as much of an interest to him as one might think.””

  6. March 7, 2015 at 6:29 am

    Yeah, but…which came first, the market or the stands? Your daughter is brilliant and I would like to place an advance order for a piece of her branch art when it is finished. If you could let her know I would like a couple of sizes and shapes to choose from, that would be great. My PO number is #Ibuyfromeverykidscornerstand.

    OMG Callie, this post brought back the best memory of our group of neighborhood girls at that same age, creating an Art Show where we all contributed stuff and a mom let us hang it on strings across the garage walls. We made signs for the neighborhood and I think we probably ended up selling back the art to each of our parents for about $1 profit per person. THOSE were the DAYS! We had snacks and music in our gallery, too. 😀

  7. Sonja
    March 10, 2015 at 8:01 am

    A lot of food for thought here, Callie. I read a NY times article about Carr, and saw the reading list too. A second reminder from you is a sign from the universe. Thank you.

    I too have a seven year old, and the unbridled energy to create art is inspiring…there’s absolutely no Resistance. : )