Weekend Longread: Maria Bamford had a great profile in the New York Times Magazine.
"Maria Bamford has a mantra of sorts, and here it is: Do the work. Three words, three syllables. An easy, orderly thing. She tells it to herself when she wakes up in the morning, whether it’s at her bungalow in a middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles or at a Holiday Inn in Boston or a Marriott in Bloomington, or any of the other highway-side hotels she hits for one night before moving on. Do the work. It’s a stay against paralysis, against the descent of dread. It’s less dramatic than “seize the day!” more affirming than “stop overthinking everything!” It is functional, and that’s what she’s trying to be. Do the work. She repeats it on airplanes, in taxis, on the long walks she takes to calm her nerves before a show. Sometimes she amends it to: Just do the work, the “just” a reminder that she’s not, after all, performing surgery on babies. There’s another, more refined version, too. Do your bits, she’ll tell herself, resigned to the idea that this may always be a struggle. Just do your bits.”
"Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing. There is always a new tyrant waiting to take over from the old — generally not quite so bad, but still a tyrant. Consequently two viewpoints are always tenable. The one, how can you improve human nature until you have changed the system? The other, what is the use of changing the system before you have improved human nature? They appeal to different individuals, and they probably show a tendency to alternate in point of time. The moralist and the revolutionary are constantly undermining one another. Marx exploded a hundred tons of dynamite beneath the moralist position, and we are still living in the echo of that tremendous crash. But already, somewhere or other, the sappers are at work and fresh dynamite is being tamped in place to blow Marx at the moon."
"When I pick a story, I’m very much aware of the larger issues that it’s illuminating. But one of the things that I, as a writer, feel strongly about is that nobody is representative. That’s just narrative nonsense. People may be part of a larger story or structure or institution, but they’re still people. Making them representative loses sight of that. Which is why a lot of writing about low-income people makes them into saints, perfect in their suffering."
"I consider the way I occasionally break down—not from this, not from her, but before, always, from work or a lack of sleep or from, usually, something far less specific. Once in a while, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, while walking or using the bathroom, I might become fixated on a conversation from the day or the month before, and decide I was wronged. Or I snap at my mother. Or I feel an anger I cannot quite articulate, something missing, something sad. This is a loss of reality, too, and I can imagine, as I lift myself out of it, or wake the next morning recovered, that maybe hers is a similar kind of struggle, only it lasts for months, for years. Or perhaps it doesn’t."
Even though the advice to “kill your darlings” implies editing your writing is a painful process, some writers relish it. At The New York Times, Pamela Erens discusses the pleasures of trimming down her writing. “For every word I cut, I seem to have more space between my ribs, more lung capacity.” For more Erens, read her essay on accepting her book cover.
"In the world of social media, it can feel bizarre that potent evidence of grieving from one friend is followed so quickly by pictures of oven-fresh cookies from another. But Facebook is generated by algorithms without feelings. It’s not a narrative: The breast cancer went into remission, but the stories of the radiation treatment continue; the lost children remain as photos, woven into the threads of hundreds of lives. The details of everyday life begin to fill in around those threads. The tide brings in status updates; the tide takes them out."
"Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists—especially those in developing countries, who are never going to be able to “pay to play” and for whom Facebook is one of the few really effective ways to get a message out to a wide audience without government control or censorship."