100 Creatives

Phoenix Writer Jake Friedman: 100 Creatives

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See also: Phoenix Dancer Liliana Gomez: 100 Creatives

Friedman moved to Phoenix from Maryland about three years ago and saw an opening in the city's literary scene for a magazine. Now Four Chambers is accepting submissions for its third issue, slated for release in March 2015. And Friedman, who will be 25 at the end of June, has a few other projects in the works, too.

"I'm working on a piece right now called 'The Great American Industrial Shame Complex' about how I always hear a little voice in my head when I'm depressed telling me that I shouldn't feel bad because other people have it worse (which just makes me feel worse)," says Friedman, who finds inspiration in many places, including his neighbor's dog and his job waiting tables. "I'm working on this book of poems/prose poems about the service industry called "The Waiter Explains" that's conceptually like a training manual."

I came to Phoenix with high hopes? Low expectations? Hahaha. I know where this is going. Like granted I know there are lot of things people say about Phoenix as a city -- and I agree with pretty much all of them, whatever they're saying is true -- the rent is cheap, the weather is mostly beautiful, and there's a huge potential for growth. Which is great, of course, but it also means a lot of hard work. This is also, environmentally speaking, just a really difficult place to live. And so while I'm ambivalent, I'm ambivalent about most things. So there you go.

I make art because it was just something I always wanted to do. I read a lot as a kid and somewhere around 16 or 17 I got it into my head that I had to 'give back' to society, that I wanted to help people the way books had helped me, and while I futzed around for five or six years -- trying to write a novel in high school college, taking a poetry class junior year, squeezing in some time here and there -- it wasn't until May of last year that I sort of said to hell with it and started getting serious. It's fun for me. I want to help people. I don't have a lot of other things to do with my time.

I'm most productive when I can wake up relatively early (between 6 and 8 a.m.), eat a decent breakfast, have exercised the day before, and can go sit at the Phoenix Public Market for a couple of hours while I drink two or three cups of coffee and stare into space and go to the bathroom several times and write in my notebook. Also when I'm happy.

My inspiration wall is full of uhm. Postcards I tell myself I will send to people someday but know in my heart of hearts that I never will? Other people's art? Several colanders over the sink? A topographical map of Arizona I bought from Circle K because when I moved out here my geography was really weak, I like the lines and the colors, and I still don't know where Tucson is? I'm sorry. Like I put things up on my walls but unfortunately I don't have a specific wall for inspiration. I stare at them a lot though.

I've learned most from hahaha. Uhm, honestly? Just doing things over and over and over again. I think language is a material / tool just like any other form of art, and you have to learn by doing it. I think I have to give huge credit to (one small part of) the (very diverse) open mic scene here, Caffeine Corridor -- particularly Shawnte Orion, Bill Campana, Jared Duran, Jack Evans, Shawnte Orion, Rosemarie Dombrowski, Jia Oak Baker, etc. etc., everybody -- for just opening me up to things I could do. I can't even list the names here. I legitimately feel that I learn something from every person / author / artist I come into contact with. I think reading for Hayden's Ferry Review (c/o Beth Staples) was really good for me, too, in terms of seeing what other people out there were doing. I also had lots of fancy professors in college and occasionally I have been known to consult the Internet/OED.

Good work should always be critical? Be true? I don't know. I think good work should try to do whatever the person who was making it was trying to make it to do. So like while my personal aesthetic/agenda sometimes is to trying to see myself/other people on a macro-scale -- the way they may or may not be affected by situations, discourses, powers, systems, other things beyond their control blah blah blah -- sometimes I just want to make fun of something. Sometimes I want to be sad. Sometimes I just want to feel a little more alive. I like to write lots of different kinds of things. I like that thing Vonnegut might have said about all work being on some level funny. It depends on how I feel that day.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more publicity? People? Visibility? I feel like art and music do well enough here, but I think literature can be a tougher sell. I don't know. I work nights. Maybe I'm just not going to the right places. Like I saw pictures of the slam from Lawn Gnome on Thursday and the backyard was packed. At the end of the day I'm relatively satisfied with what goes on here. If people want to come out to readings: cool, great. If they don't, that's fine too. Clearly there are enough of here to keep this thing alive, whatever it is. I think writing is something a lot of people do, if people want to do it alone in their rooms that's fine, but if they want to put themselves out there and start getting better, they're going to need the support of a community, they're going to need an ecosystem, and I want them to know that those things exist.

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski