Books are your friend

Writing is hard work

 How To Be A Writer
John Birmingham
New South (2016)

From time to time, people comment on how prolific I have been on this blog and wonder how I do it. Which strikes me as a little funny because being called “prolific” makes me think I’m doing a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t feel that way to me at all. Sure, I can look back at the hundreds of blog posts I’ve written and go, “yeah, that’s kind of prolific” but, still, it doesn’t feel like I am.

Maybe it’s a side-effect of being a journalist for ages. I’ve spent years writing three or four stories every day so the idea of cranking out a few hundred words for a blog post really isn’t a stretch. The idea for the post and the way I could structure is just there, you know, because I’ve been doing this writing thing for ages. As I’ve said to others, writing is a muscle – the more you use it the better it gets.

But, after reading John Birmingham’s new book on how to be a writer, I think discipline plays a part too. I’ve long felt that people think those who write a lot have some special gene or talent that makes it easy. Which is such bullshit. Writing so often sucks. There is almost always something else I’d rather be doing. Right now, I’m in a cafe waiting for my daughter’s art class to finish. In my bag is a book I’d like to read, which would be far more enjoyable than writing a blog post (and trying to get my fat fingers to play nice with the tiny keys on the iPad keyboard). But I’m writing because I have a blog and therefore a commitment to fill it with regular content. I’m reminded of a quote whose origin I’ve forgotten – “writers write. Everyone else makes excuse”. And it’s true – you want to be a writer, you have to sit down and frigging write. End of story.

And if that’s what you want to do, then I highly, highly, highly recommend buying a copy of Birmingham’s book on writing. And I mean buy a copy; don’t borrow it from the library because you’ll keep coming back to it time and again. I’ve been writing for two decades and I’ve learned stuff from it

The best thing about it is it’s a straightforward, no bullshit guide to the realities of writing articles and books and then getting them published. When I was starting out all the writing guides were relentlessly positive and made it seem like anyone could do it. But Birmingham’s guide doesn’t shy away from the fact that it is hard work. That it takes commitment.

I wish this book was available when I was starting out. But if you’re looking to be a writer, you’ve got this great book at your disposal. You lucky bastard, I envy you.

Okay, that’s this post finished. I’m now going to do something more enjoyable.

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