sarahpessin@sarahpessin.com

Rushkoff on writing

Douglas Rushkoff

Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. He is the author of 20 books on media, technology, and society, including Media Virus, Present Shock, and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. His book Team Human is being serialized on Medium in weekly installments. Rushkoff is host of the Team Human podcast and a graphic novelist. His new book Survival of the Richest is forthcoming.

  • What kinds of writing do you write?
    • Mostly non-fiction books and essays about media, technology, and society. I also write graphic novels, documentaries, and screenplays.
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  • What’s one of your favorite things you’ve written, and why?
    • Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires. I like it best because it’s the most recent. It’s also funny and human instead of polemic.
  • What’s something you wrestle with in your writing process?
    • Telling the truth, because it sometimes hurts people’s feelings.
  • How would you describe your writing process?
    • Head down. Don’t look back.
  • “Hardware” tell-all; for example: Microsoft Word or Google Docs or paper forever? Legal pads or note cards or backs of envelopes? Pencils or pens? No. 2s or mechanical? Bics or Montblancs? Etc.!
    • Index cards on the wall. Gel ink pens or fine Sharpie. Space pen in pocket. Small pad. I was a Scrivener person, then moved to Ulysses. But I wrote the last book in GoogleDocs just to see if it would work. Then I transferred it to MSWord for notes handling. So it was kind of a mess.
  • A standout feature of your actual desk or virtual desktop that you rather like?
    • pull out thingee for extra surface area.
  • 3 adjectives that describe that ‘writerly feeling’ when you’re in the zone?
    • Anger. Connecting. Exposing.
  • 3 adjectives that describe that ‘not so writerly feeling’ when you’re hitting a wall?
    • I do not acknowledge any walls. Sometimes it’s just not the right time to be writing. 
  • What is your Writing Animal Guide (whatever that means to you!) and why?
    • Monkey. If I knew why, then I’d have to kill it and find another.  
  • What’s your top piece of writing advice for grad students embarking on their dissertations?
    • Honestly, I’d tell them to just get on with it and don’t keep second guessing. Your dissertation is not your main or only book. It’s just one book. Don’t say everything, or even try. When you get those other ideas, put them in a separate file. They are other books. I promise you: You will get done in 1/5 the time if you stick to your original, approved idea. Include your new ideas in your conclusion as directions you hope to explore in future work. Please. I see so many people who get 1/3 the way done with five different dissertations before picking the final topic. Stop changing lanes. Finish. Move on with your life.  
[My collagic nod to Douglas’ notecard wall, childhood toy-of-note (the ‘Whizzer’!), and guide monkey!]