Growing up in a Tribune family and not being much of a movie guy, I only really got to reading Roger Ebert after he started his site and blog. This Chris Jones profile from three years ago was what really ramped up my interest in his work. I knew how prolific he was, but I didn't factor how much his battle with cancer forced him to write even more, just to communicate:
But now everything he says must be written, either first on his laptop and funneled through speakers or, as he usually prefers, on some kind of paper. His new life is lived through Times New Roman and chicken scratch. So many words, so much writing—it’s like a kind of explosion is taking place on the second floor of his brownstone. It’s not the food or the drink he worries about anymore—I went thru a period when I obsessed about root beer + Steak + Shake malts, he writes on a blue Post-it note—but how many more words he can get out in the time he has left. In this living room, lined with thousands more books, words are the single most valuable thing in the world. They are gold bricks. Here idle chatter doesn’t exist; that would be like lighting cigars with hundred-dollar bills. Here there are only sentences and paragraphs divided by section breaks. Every word has meaning.
Throw in the beating his body took, and the writing on top of writing should force somebody to reduce their workload.
Instead, it somehow inspired him to do more of it, covering a far wider range of topics, with more knowledgeable people saying he was at the top of his game. That's a gift that can't be emulated, but I revisit this article whenever I start hitting the wall, going to so far as to create the same environment described in the closing scene. I wouldn't describe what comes out as "artful" -- half-thoughts, jokes or literally "blah blah blaaaaaaaaaah blah blah" -- but it eventually gets me through the malaise. I mean, if he's 45 years into a career while writing more than ever, and fatigue isn't even in the picture, then what's my excuse? I don't know if it's as applicable to other areas of work and life, but it works for me.
In response to Ebert's death, Jones shared the post-it notes Ebert scrawled during the interview. I kinda want one.