Louis C.K.: Give It A Minute

(Revisiting an old — and favorite — post as summer closes out and I find myself wishing I’d caught a stop on Louis C.K.’s recent tour. . .  ~Callie)

In a recent New York Time interview with Louis C.K., Dave Itzkoff commented, “You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.”

Louis C.K. replied with a question: “So why do I have the platform and the recognition?”

Itzkoff answered, “At this point you’ve put in the time.”

Pause after you read Louis C.K.’s follow-up:

There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.

Put in the Time

Almost every author I’ve met has mentioned a desire to be interviewed by Oprah, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and/or Charlie Rose.

I get it. Being interviewed by any of those individuals will garner the authors attention and book sales.

But the reality is that most authors don’t land those interviews right out of the gate. And, while those interviews can spike initial sales, they don’t keep things going on their own. They’re a short-term fix.

In an interview with The Paris Review William Faulkner spoke about what writers need to write. The same applies to doing outreach for your projects, sharing/marketing them:

The writer doesn’t need economic freedom. All he needs is a pencil and some paper. I’ve never known anything good in writing to come from having accepted any free gift of money. The good writer never applies to a foundation. He’s too busy writing something. If he isn’t first rate he fools himself by saying he hasn’t got time or economic freedom. Good art can come out of thieves, bootleggers, or horse swipes. People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand.

Outreach is Hard Work

Doing outreach/marketing our art is hard work. It’s painful. Reviewers can be nasty and comments left by today’s online community are about as pleasant as a rabid Pit Bull.

It’s hard to look for the good and keep pushing through the crap, piling up faster than ants at a Fourth of July picnic.

But you do it. You don’t say you’re “too busy” that you haven’t “got time or economic freedom.” You figure it out and keep pushing, even if it takes you 50 years.

I Don’t Do Outreach. I Create for Myself.

Last month, the New York Times ran a few articles about artist Arthur Pinajian, “a reclusive artist whom the art world had not known much about. Now, 14 years after his death, he has fans who mention him in the same sentence as Gauguin and Cézanne.”

When Pinajian died, his sister, in whose home “Pinajian had an 8-foot-by-8-foot studio” and who “supported him for much of his life” told a cousin, Peter Najarian, “Oh, just put it all in the garbage. . . . He said himself to just leave it all for the garbagemen.”

Najarian kept the paintings instead.

Read the article for the full story. Bottom line: Though Pinajian had networked earlier in his life, he became a “hermit.” After a point, it seems neither he nor his art left his studio.

If this was his goal, fine.

But the selfish side of me asks, But what about us? We would have loved to have known about your work earlier.

While you didn’t create for money, money it seems is being made off you work—by those who didn’t create it. Do you care?

Perhaps he’d answer that he didn’t care. That money wasn’t the point—and that he doesn’t care if others profit.

Money aside, what about the art? Isn’t the creation itself something that is meant to be shared?

In the same Paris Review interview, Faulkner said:

If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did. The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since.

The art came for a reason.

And perhaps something inspired Pinajian’s cousin to keep it for the same reason: It wasn’t meant for the trash, but for a wider audience.

The same might be said of John Kennedy Toole’s mother, who held her son’s manuscript tight after he committed suicide, and then pushed until she found a publisher for his book, A Confederacy of Dunces.

At the end of a second New York Times article about Pinajian appears,:

“He thought he was going to be the next Picasso,” Mr. Aramian said. “They believed he would become famous and this would all pay off for them one day, but it just never happened. So he became frustrated and withdrew from everything and just painted.”

I wonder about what he was or wasn’t doing to share his work earlier. And I wonder why the art community of that time didn’t recognize his talent. And whether the best came after he closed himself off.

One thing I know: His work was meant to be shared. I wish it had happened while he was alive. And, I wish I knew why it is easier for some and harder for others—why the one-hit wonders break out and the long-term artists are recognized after they’ve died—if at all.

For writers, the Internet has opened opportunities that don’t translate into other mediums. Viewing a wall-sized Monet isn’t the same on a laptop as it is in person. I’m not living in that world, but I imagine it a harder place to build a following, to break into. But, the benefits of an established platform remain the same.

Back to the Platform and Louis C.K.

What about those artists who do make it big, yet stay out of the spotlight? They don’t do interviews. They don’t muck around with press tours. They write. That’s it.

How did they do it?

Good writing and at some point either they—or someone else—built a platform. And now? That platform is on auto-pilot; it hit a point of self-sustainability.

And that brings us back to Louis C.K.

You have to put in the time. In addition to creating/building, you have to build the platform.

Some people win the lottery, but most of us hammer away for decades. That’s not a bad thing. It takes patience. It takes commitment.

As Faulkner said, “People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand.”

Follow Louis C.K.’s advice and “Give it a minute.”

At least a minute…

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  1. Jeremy Brown on April 26, 2013 at 6:05 am

    This is great Callie, thanks. This hit home:

    The good writer never applies to a foundation. He’s too busy writing something. If he isn’t first rate he fools himself by saying he hasn’t got time or economic freedom.”

    I sometimes get stuck wanting the reward before the work is done, forgetting the work is the reward. Sharing and profiting is a privilege.

    And Louis C.K.’s “Give it a minute” statement is especially powerful now, with the digital backlists available forever.

    • Callie Oettinger on April 26, 2013 at 6:56 am

      Thanks, Jeremy.

      Read the full Louis C.K. and William Faulkner interviews. They’re both great.

      The articles about Arthur Pinajian and his work were painful to read, but I’d recommend those, too. I’m glad his work is being shared now, but . . . why not earlier?


      • Joel D Canfield on August 19, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        For him, maybe he just got selfish. But, to this: Isn’t the creation itself something that is meant to be shared?

        That’s up to the artist.

        My middle daughter is a brilliant poet. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) She has let me see some of her work. It is mind-altering heart-stopping deep dark stuff. She is my favorite poet.

        Other than her mother and I, no one has ever seen her work. Because she can’t write if she knows anyone will ever see it. It is written for her and her alone, and she has to know, absolutely, that we will never ask her to share it, that we won’t even ask to see it, that she’ll only share it should she decide to.

        If sharing it were planned, it would never come into existence.

        Bruce Springsteen, apparently, writes 100 songs for each new album, and picks the dozen best. The others go in the bin. Are there, maybe, one or two worth hearing in there? I’d bet on it. Does he owe them to us? No. Not at all.

        The artist is not obligated to share. I only know this because of my daughter. Myself, if I thought no one was going to hear my music or read my books, I’d wallow in freakish misery. I’d write anyway, but the freakish misery thing wouldn’t be optional.

        • LarryP on August 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm

          Joel, I’m going to have to (sort of) disagree.
          I would distinguish between a creator and an artist. A creator may create something only for themselves, but _art_ is about sharing something with an audience.

          • Joel D Canfield on August 24, 2016 at 6:37 am

            If you define art to include sharing, well, yeah, but that’s a “no true Scotsman” definition.

            Art is simply the expression of creativity. It is creation, with no reference to sharing.

  2. Patrick Van Horne on April 26, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Amazing article and the topic certainly resonates. I really enjoyed it and will be passing it on to some business owners that I’ve been working with and are concerned that the blog they started hasn’t gotten the traction they were hoping for – after only a month. Your words are on point and helps to keep goals and effort in perspective. Thanks for posting.

  3. Basilis on April 26, 2013 at 10:50 am

    How would disagree to all of the above?
    Art is communication, but you have to create a message from the heart and delivery it to the audience. It takes time and effort.

  4. Jerry Ellis on April 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Callie, I take my hat off to you for this piece! If you were in Rome now, where I am, I would offer you a coffee at my favorite spot. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by Random House for one of my seven published books, I hope you and your followers will take a peek at my new book, Ciao From Roma! Spring in the Eternal City of Love. I have been living in Rome very spring and fall for twelve years now. It’s in my blood, in my books and in the very air I breathe. Thanks again, for your wonderful piece today. Ciao!

  5. Laura Sottile on April 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    My God what it takes to settle in and glide. To let it happen. To stay on it. I am a performer/ writer and so a professional poor who from the heart knows deep richness. I am older now too–so I have done a lot, so what is there left to do? The real work. How wonderful! My life;the crookedest path to freedom.

  6. York on April 27, 2013 at 1:18 am


  7. Sonja on April 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I really enjoyed this. Thank you, Callie.

  8. Greg Batiansila on April 28, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    thank you for this incredible post. I’m sharing it right now.

  9. Kris Obertas on April 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Saw this quote today, seems apropos…

    “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

    —François-René de Chateaubriand

    Callie, I’ll load up the full interviews to read on the next commute!

  10. Jason on May 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Callie,
    Thank you for this fantastic post!
    I thought this excerpt from an interview with James Franco from GQ (?) would be relevant here:

    “When God calls you to something, he is not always calling you to succeed. He’s calling you to obey! The success is . . . up to Him; the obedience is up to you.”
    “I totally agree!” says Franco, his eyes lighting up. “All you have is what you work on and how hard you work on it. As far as the results or the reception, it’s out of your hands. That’s something I really had to come to understand.”

  11. AbbeyNormal on May 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

    True true!
    What we often see is only the success and we don’t see the hard work that went into becoming successful – the failures, the flops etc.

  12. Ryan Nagy on November 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for this great article and quotes. In Turning Pro, Steven mentions that during his year of turning pro he read every american author except Faulkner. I wonder why not. Any ideas?

  13. Mary Doyle on August 19, 2016 at 5:16 am

    Callie, thanks for this amazing post! I think I connected with this blog a month or so after this ran the first time. Thanks for running it up the flag pole again!

  14. Joe on August 19, 2016 at 6:26 am

    I’m stealing: “Good art can come out of thieves, bootleggers, or horse swipes.”

  15. David Kaufmann on August 19, 2016 at 6:26 am


    Build a platform until it becomes self-sustainable. That’s the hard-easy part. It used to be that the publisher established platforms, once the writer had laid the genre foundation. No more. Instant best-seller/success for them. And for those increasingly fewer who do get a Big Five contract, they still have to build the platform.

    But there’s no excuse and no escape from the minute. Minute-to-minute.

    Some authors who “succeeded” after their death, with minimal if any success during their lifetime: Blake, Keats, Melville (Moby Dick nearly killed his career), Dickinson. For all but Dickinson it wasn’t for lack of trying. One never knows, for there are some whose reputation was first-rate in their lifetimes and who have faded into footnotes of PhD dissertations. If that.


  16. BarbaraNH on August 19, 2016 at 6:30 am

    Thanks, Callie! This is really a great reminder.

  17. gwen abitz on August 19, 2016 at 6:46 am

    OH SO TRUE, Callie, thank you. Known, too, moments do turn into “the years.” For me, at this time, will use slideshare.net and Social Media Interent.

  18. Jen Greyson on August 19, 2016 at 7:23 am

    This. Times a thousand.

    Reading this made me think of a MichaEl Jordan quote, “I never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” The same is true of our art careers; we don’t know which shot is going to put us in the lead or when our play clock is going to run out, but we must keep taking shots. Fantastic article.

  19. Dora Sislian Themelis on August 19, 2016 at 7:48 am

    As an artist, I understand the hermit mentality that Pinajian adopted.That’s Resistance in one of it’s harshest forms. Resistance nudges us with its negativity. Why do we think we will become the next Picasso? Why push our creations out there for the world to see? Will anyone bother to acknowledge our work? It’s just easier to lock ourselves away and create art alone.
    And because it is so hard, I gulped and took a chance to have my first solo art show at a local gallery this past March where 8 paintings sold, to my surprise. I did the best I could and left the rest up to the Universe. Sometimes it’s the only way.

  20. Mia Sherwood Landau on August 19, 2016 at 7:57 am

    How much hardship and poverty, indeed. Our addictive demands for a certain lifestyle and all its trappings may very well keep us from discovering our opportunities to give in this world. I’ve had some of those opportunities lately, and wouldn’t trade them for a shiny new Lexus. My vintage pickup still takes me where I need to go. Thinking back on my grandparents’ outhouse and looking at the bathroom remodeling my daughter finds necessary this week, it’s a fascinating perspective on hardship and poverty between generations. This is a deep post on “hammering away for decades.” I love that!

  21. Kenny Stringer on August 19, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Great! Thanks you… it brought to mind this guy who does incredible art by walking all day in a field of snow with snowshoes, only to have his work disappear when it snows again. Check it out http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/simon-beck-snow-art

    I’ve been fascinated by his story, and what on earth motivates him to create such beautiful work only to see it washed away like a sand castle. Maybe some art serves another purpose than to even endure long enough to be appreciated. In reality, though, everything we create in this world will ultimately be washed away, some just last a bit longer is all. In time, this entire planet will be gone.

  22. Brian on August 19, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Great post, and I’ll read the other interviews later today. My ‘art’ is a race, which I’ve written about before. Two weeks ago, the race turned six and it was our most successful event to date. It was not without some disappointments, it rained before our award ceremony for example.

    The first year I did the race, I actually posted a cap of 900 people. I was convinced that everyone would see the brilliance of my idea, and want to compete running stairs just like I did. (120, 200, 250, 420, 390, 471 race participation over the years to show how insane I was…)

    Uh, so hubris is one of Resistance’s weapons that is a common enemy for me. It is the other side of fear, doubt, and insecurity. Basically it is gross, and I am usually at my worst when listening to this.

    One week ago, I got a call from the Executive Director of a sports commission in town. His job is to increase tourism via athletic events.

    “Brian, I’d like to make your race the Signature Event for our city. We need something that unifies our community, and identifies us as a healthy/vibrant community.”

    Six years, alone, wearing camel hair, eating bugs, and now this guy comes along to ask if he can help make my event a regional and eventually national event.

    Yes, I nearly puked in my mouth, then almost cried.

    We are not there. Planning, execution, platform building, humble team building all lay in front of me. There is significant work, and it still may not catch. But, I’ve landed my greatest ally to date, and it only took me a few minutes. 3,152,600 minutes. The irony? I’m happiest when I’m in the middle of working the race, no matter the outcome.

  23. Patricia on August 19, 2016 at 8:50 am

    A really good one to re-run. Thanks.

    “Only what the artist creates is important.”

  24. Erika Viktor on August 19, 2016 at 11:47 am

    This is one of the better posts I’ve read on here and I remembered it and think of it often. Heading over to my blog now to offer some thoughts on this very subject.

  25. May West on August 19, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    We can put in the time – without Louis CK.
    Just do it. No need to follow (in the foot steps) of a “fallen Messiah.”

  26. Dick Yaeger on August 19, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Terrific, Callie.

    File it in the top ten.

    Success and satisfaction from labor comes in many forms. I recently had lunch with a fellow engineer I hadn’t seen for ages. He and I had worked diligently on a project for three years that was never implemented for reasons we thought certainly more politically than scientifically motivated. During lunch, I asked him what ever happened to that tiny piece of technology. He explained how it was now universally accepted in all products. He looked up from his french fries with a huge smile and said, “We won.”

  27. BING on August 19, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Wow, love everything about this post.
    Thanks Callie

  28. LarryP on August 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    If you want to see Louis C K “giving it a minute”, here’s a retrospective starting bout 30 years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Lr-h0GLHEM

  29. Christine on August 22, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Check out thd lyrics to “Ten Thousand Hours” by Macklemore.

  30. Stephen Scholle on September 5, 2016 at 6:36 am

    Yes, it is hard. Songwriting has been my passion for 7 years now. Only 7? Well playing covers for all those decades… And the songs flow out now. That’s not simply from playing covers. It started with a breakup, journaling deep into the night. It came from 60 years of living.

    I’m learning that it’s crowded out there. There are many, many fine songwriters. Yes, and quite a few mediocre successes. There’s platforms and there’s platforms, and some carry mediocre along with them. For others, the wave is internal, and that reward must suffice, for at least a while.

    Thank you for this forum.

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