No. 4 >> The Rewards Issue: Who wants a biscuit?



MAKING THE WORK// Give Yourself a Biscuit

I’ve been reading Stephen Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. There’s a part where he says:

“The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”

 I’ve been thinking about that and it’s true, but it sucks.

Writing a novel—or working on any other big project—is a long game. Sure the rewards may be worth it in the end, but in the meantime a person can feel, well, a little hungry. We need something to keep us going. If no one’s handing out biscuits though, we have to exert our own rewards. Rewards are important—ask any dog. 

And that's all I have to say, because, as you may have guessed, I'm in a bit of a funk because I need a biscuit.


SEEN & HEARD // David Heti's Steak Dinner and Emily Schultz's Royalty Cheque

Last week I learned about a Kickstarter campaign in which Montreal comedian David Heti, who’s been called “a darker Woody Allen,” was trying to raise $73 for a steak dinner. In the pitch video he shrugs and slowly shakes his head and says, “I just want some steak.” That’s it. 

His text reads: 

“I feel like I've been working kind of hard and I’d like a steak dinner. You know, a good steak dinner. But I can’t really justify the e” 

I assume he was going to type “expense.” but was just too weak with anemia to finish the sentence. 

I pledged $5. I have no business spending a frivolous five bucks, but I’m a sucker for the absurd. What was Heti’s campaign anyway—comedy? performance art? satire?    

After Heti surpassed his goal by $13 he was interviewed on CJAD 800AM. He said the campaign wasn't really meant as social commentary. Asked what his takeaway was, he said, “If you try weird things you can sometimes confirm that the world is a ridiculous place.”


Then I came across $pending the $tephen King Money. Brooklyn-based Emily Schultz received a royalty cheque as a result of people mistakenly buying her book (from 2006) instead of Stephen King’s new book—both called Joyland. She’s been documenting on Tumblr how she’s spending the dough. Among other things, she’s done an Ikea run and she and her hubby went for a fancy dinner. 

So, once again, the world is a ridiculous place. And that’s probably one of the best things an artist can have re-affirmed. If it’s all a big crazy, crapshoot, might as well keep making comedy albums and writing books. Right?


INTERVIEWS  // Caroline Szpak

Caroline Szpak  was born in Istanbul and has lived in Poland, Victoria, and now Toronto. She’s one of my favourite Facebook friends I've never met. She’s a poet, this one. Also a fiction writer. You can check her out in the latest issue of subTerrain.

Do you remember how we became Facebook friends?

Algorithms say our FB friendship kicked off in June of 2008, which was a couple months after I moved from Victoria to Calgary for a spell, so I may well have been missing something about my time on the west coast (where you ran the JBI reading series) and thus sent a request? Yeah, that sounds like something I’d do. 

Recently you've posted—in your lyric, funny and offbeat way—about fainting hours, “Drunk Dad Ford”, a Billy Corgan dream, NDP betrayal and mannequins with visible nipples. Can you pick one of one of your status updates and deconstruct it for us?

OK, let’s deconstruct plastic nipples. So, I’m marching past a storefront on Bloor and all I see are mannequin nipples poking out from headless, chalk-stiff bodies selling sheer maxi-length dreams that will surely cast me far above the cloud of being commodified and sold back to myself. Sometimes, you just feel like slapping your hands against the glass and yelling, “You want a piece of me?!” only to realize, they already have all the parts they need. In the end, I guess we’re all crash test dummies. 

Can you share one of your Facebook photos and tell us about it?

So, this [see above] is a photo of a hidden camera bra from a spy exhibit in Warsaw and, if you’re going to try to indirectly sell me nipple dreams, this would be the way to do it, OK, mannequins? International lady espionage is good for the soul.

You may not remember this, but you once provided support to me during an episode with a house centipede. When have you felt a sense of human connectedness through Facebook? 

This may well sound counter-intuitive (and general to boot), but there’s something about FB that can make me hyper-aware of empathy. Maybe because the medium’s confines seem to work against those modes of understanding so I push right back in my own small, internal way? The blasted house centipede I do remember. I can never forget a house centipede. Try as I might.

Any thoughts on our Facebook friendship from your side of the screen?

No complaints! Zip, zilch. You post some engaging, thoughtful stuff that I tend to really enjoy and relate to, too. Your episodic recounting of Gibraltar Point was transportive. I am thoroughly charmed, FB chum.

In this issue I’m exploring the idea of rewards when you’re a “starving artist” and how few and far between they can seem—financially and otherwise. Can you talk about one of the times you've felt rewarded for your creative efforts?

Oh dear. Am I even sure what that means? Can I just rest in uncertainty? Is frizzy hair at weird hours a reward? Bevies of handsome men in fitted suits ushering in trays of champagne and diamonds in the afternoons? Really tho, the actual rewards are better than crummy diamonds and don’t cause nearly as much grand-scale destruction. Like, is there anything better than a good, surprisingly empathic edit? I don't fucking think so.