The Look of Words on a Page

So Robert, you write really, really, short stories, and poetry. What’s your story? How and why did you begin writing?

The first thing I remember writing was a short story called The Knife Was Colored Red … a basic private detective romp. I was around thirteen years old.

I remember liking the look of the words on the page.

That is still the only reason I write.

Why the really short story? What inspired it? Is this your way of introducing narratives and imagination to shrinking attention spans?

I am an impatient man. The idea of writing a novel, or even a proper short story—as we popularly understand it today—is nauseating to me.

So, the inspiration comes mainly out of the need/desire to write, but having an utter disinterest in writing anything of accepted length. The rest of the inspiration comes from people like the laconic French Anarchist Felix Feneon … and of course, that famous six-word story by Mr. Hemingway.

There is a conscious element of wanting to talk to the mobile set in my stuff. But that’s not the main reason.

Even at my advanced age, I jump from link to link, headline to headline, short paragraph to short paragraph. Reading has become an almost theatrical experience … one of not knowing what’s coming next, of not caring. The internet has created a reading experience of serendipitous discovery, both wonderful and horrible.

One moment you’re onto the great philosophers. The next, pinhead comments on YouTube.

There are still a few proper “books” on my shelves … The Holy Bible, a little Bukowski and Miller, Sherlock Holmes, Mamet, Ogilvy on Advertising, Collected Shakespeare, et cetera. These, among others, require a person to be still and read.

Anyway, why the unusually short stories? I guess I write what I know. Along with a few things I don’t.

Who or what are some of the most influential authors/books you have ever read, and what was it about them that resonated with you?

As far as writing goes, I am a disciple of the “Two Davids”: Mamet and Ogilvy.

Of course, there are others …

The Holy Bible: Believer or skeptic, there is no way to avoid it, even if you spend a lifetime attempting to do so. It illuminates everything we are, everywhere we’ve been, and where we are going. Also, some of the best condensed storytelling in human history happens in there.

Charles Bukowski: He taught me that I didn’t need to purchase a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from a distinguished University in order to get to work … and that you’ll likely end up a better writer if you avoid places like that.

Blaise Pascal: Brevity.

Raymond Chandler: Clarity.

Emily Dickinson: Vision.

Shakespeare: I don’t enjoy reading Shakespeare, but like the Bible, only a fool would ignore him.

Someone once told me that if a person were to master all of Shakespeare’s work, that person would simultaneously master all of western theology, philosophy, and psychology. I don’t know if that’s so, but it at least rings true for me.

Various pulp crime writers: The clean sentence. The forward moving plot. The gun.

What does a normal day in the life of Robert Bruce look like? What is your creative process? What inspires you?

I don’t have much of a writing process. I spend an hour or so sitting in my chair at the end of the day, waiting for something to show up.

I don’t get up or do anything else until something does, and it always has. Will this continue? Who knows?

What’s the best emotion to write from? Do you have a particular audience in mind when you write?

I have one person in mind when I write. I will never reveal who that person is.

Emotion almost never comes into the equation for me. I just like to see good words forming on the page, it’s always been that way.

What would you hope that people take from your writing?

I would hope that they would, at least once in while, be delighted by one of my stories.

Okay, seriously: is writer’s block a real thing? Or is it a myth?

It’s a myth.

If you can’t write, you might not be a writer. If that pisses you off, good. Maybe it will get you back to your desk.

How important is community for the writer, do you think? Are you involved in any kind of art community?

I am a fairly serious loner, so my answer to this question is colored accordingly …

I cannot think of anything more destructive to the creative act than meeting with other writers to talk about things.

There is just nothing—in my opinion—to say to each other. There is only getting words down on the page.

You work (and write) for a marketing company. How do media and copy influence your poetry and short stories?

I have come to understand that some of the greatest writers who have ever lived happened to be some of the greatest copywriters who have ever lived … though they may not have known it.

Of course, the Serious Artists will flip over this, but take a moment to think about it.

If, as David Mamet has said, our sole job as writers is to delight the audience, then great copywriters—whose sole job is to delight (or inform, or persuade) their audience—are built for “art.”

I have no patience for The Literary Genius who only desires to fulfill his/her Great Literary Destiny. More power to him/her, but he/she might as well just keep a private journal and not release anything to the public. We’d all be better off.

What are you reading now?

A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang.

And finally, what’s your go-to drink?

Bulleit, neat.


Read Robert Bruce’s short stories by subscribing to his list here. He offers his work free of charge (for now), so you have no reason not to. 

Image via Unsplash.

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