To emphasize Willis’s continuing importance, her daughter, who was born in 1984, chose “Willis-like” writers of her own generation — Ann Friedman, Irin Carmon, Spencer Ackerman, Cord Jefferson, and Sara Marcus — to contribute prefaces for each decade. They rightfully note that Willis’s critiques remain depressingly relevant. (Take this sentence, written in 1979, in an essay on the rise of family values: “The pursuit of ecstasy — in freedom of the imagination and a sense of communal possibility as much as in sex, drugs, or rock and roll — was no longer our inalienable right. Babies, however, were a socially acceptable source of joy.”) But their prefaces are nearly indistinguishable from one another in sentiment and tone, and there’s a striking difference between those pages and the penetrative depth of Willis’s thinking — the result of a painstakingly slow writing process and scrupulous self-questioning that gave her work moral and intellectual authority. That disparity may lead one to wonder if such thinking is even possible at a time when discourse is shaped by the Internet, which demands self-congratulatory clique-building and fresh outrage every hour on the hour.
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Anonymous said: What are some of your favorites sites and blogs to read?
Also, the best website on the internet is Internet K-Hole.
Anonymous said: Do you ever write something and hate it? Or do you ever find it difficult to find inspiration? I work at a book publishing company and go home to write at night a lot of the time, but the demands of a full-time job often leave me too fried to produce anything worth a damn sometimes. I've gotten some great bylines recently and would love to just write for a living. How the hell did you survive in NYC as a freelancer? How does anyone do it?
1. Yeah, you gotta push through that. Take care of your work and do the best you can, but if you don’t like something in retrospect then oh well. People change. Ideas change. Beliefs change. Your writing improves. Keep it moving.
2. If you’re having trouble feeling inspired just go live your life and make mistakes and visit new places and talk to new people and you should come up with something. I feel like writers struggling to find inspiration spend too much time in front of their computers worrying about how to feel inspired.
3. One way I survived in NYC as a freelancer was by not eating as much food as I would have liked to eat on some days.
4. I was talking to a guy last week who is now an editor at a big website based in LA, and he was telling me that when he moved to New York to be a writer, around 2001, he could do something like three or four record reviews a month for alt weeklies and that would be enough to pay his rent. After that, he could focus on finding other more fulfilling writing gigs without stressing about being evicted. I think there was a time before ours—when rates were higher and rents were lower—that getting by as a freelance writer in New York City wasn’t easy, but was easier. Nowadays, I don’t know how anyone does it. You have to really hustle hard, I’d assume. I also don’t think it’s any surprise that I’ve heard from four different New York writers recently who have told me they’re planning on moving to LA.
Anonymous said: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? What led you to eventually settle on this profession? Love your work!
Hey, thanks. I wrote a book about living in Saudi Arabia with my family when I was about five or six. I also wrote for my high school’s paper and worked on a lit magazine in college. My mother says she always knew I’d be a writer someday, but to me it didn’t start to seem like a valid career path until I was 24 or so. I was working at a nonprofit and writing freelance music journalism stuff in my spare time. I deeply hated my day job, just as I had deeply hated almost all of my previous day jobs, and I realized that writing was something I was good at and something that was earning me money that didn’t also make me feel miserable all the time.