In these final moments of our talk, Brandon gives sagelike advice, including a) write what you want, but b) don’t be just a writer, and, more specifically, c) don’t be James Joyce.
Jesus neither approves nor rejects this message.
RP: What writerly advice do you wish you’d received earlier on in your career, and is that the same as the advice you’d give to other writers at this point, or would you give some other advice?
BDJ: The advice that I wished I’d received earlier is, don’t be afraid to write about what you want to write about. For a long time, I didn’t write anything about my military experience because I thought I’d have to write something like Jarhead content-wise, for it to do well, and I did not want to write anything like that. But I think that by not writing about the military, it’s possible that I became a better writer because I had to learn about other things and try to write about them well, so that made me better prepared to write about what I’m writing about now on a capability level.
But no one should ever censor themselves. Everybody should write about what they want to write about because then you’re going to be more invested in what you’re doing. You’re not writing “BeatVac” or whatever other nonsense I was working on, which was all just thinly veiled military stuff anyway. It was all creeping into what I wrote anyway, no matter how absurd it was.
And don’t just be a writer. Please, for the love of God. Like, if you’re a stay-at-home parent—which I am right now, although I’m still trying to do other things to contribute financially to the family because patriarchy, masculinity, and all those things that broke my brain when I was too young to fend off the assault—you can do that in addition to being a writer. But man, I just don’t think it’s doable or healthy to be just a writer.
RP: When you say that, are you speaking from a financial perspective?
BDJ: Yeah. What I guess I’m trying to say is, don’t just be a writer holing yourself up in a room, even if you can do it financially. I don’t think it’s good. I think it’s bad to not be interacting with other human beings working toward a goal of some kind. I don’t care what it is—volunteering, reading children’s books to kids at the library. Don’t just hole yourself up and live by the James Joyce “improve the artist” or “improve the man” model. That’s just stupid. That’s no way to live.
RP: James Joyce and Jesus both disagree with you.
BDJ: I knew it. He ended up writing Finnegan’s Wake. Finnegan’s Wake. Are you kidding me? What is that garbage?
RP: Alright. How do you really feel about it?
BDJ: Don’t write Finnegan’s Wake. That’s my advice. Screw all that other stuff I said. I don’t care if you’re just a writer. It doesn’t affect me.
RP: Or does it?
BDJ: I don’t care. And if you are a writer, don’t write a book called Some Bunny Loves You that I have to read to my daughter.
RP: But you know what? Those people actually make money, Brandon. That’s what’s so messed up about the whole thing.
BDJ: Don’t depress me, please.
RP: I’m sorry. Alright. I think this is going to be the last question—I think. Chocolate-covered frozen bananas: the best dessert ever or not?
BDJ: You know, Shannon hasn’t had one yet, but she does eat two bananas a day.
RP: It’s looking good. I’m liking this kid.
BDJ: And she likes chocolate.
RP: I’m digging where this is going.
BDJ: So I think yes, best dessert ever. I’m almost 100% positive that once Shannon has that, there will be no return.
RP: OK, because you and potentially Shannon would’ve had to have been dead to me and Jesus if you were going to answer that incorrectly.
BDJ: Aw, don’t make me dead to Jesus.
RP: OK, OK. It’s been good talking to you, Brandon.
BDJ: Yeah, good talking to you too. Let’s not wait another almost decade before we talk again.