Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Career Realities podcast #6:
writing and actually making a living, with crime writer William Shaw

July 3rd, 2017 No comments

This Career Realities interview is with writer and journalist William Shaw. Willam previously worked as a journalist, once at Smash Hits, and later the Observer, The Times and the Independent, and now makes his living as a crime fiction writer.

Among other things William talked about literally walking off the street into his first journalism job in the 70s; the difficulties of print journalism in the age of the internet; how financial institutions have little faith in you as a freelancer; and how, if he was going into journalism today, he wouldn’t be writing at all.

The Career Realities podcast series attempts to uncover the hidden realities of day-to-day work culture in various careers – the hours, the workload, the shift patterns – and questions the often-repeated assumption that paid work is our primary source of life fulfillment.

(For an introduction to the Career Realities interviews see here.)

Podcast excerpts:

On the unpredictability of money when working freelance

I can remember it being exasperating in the 90s, people wouldn’t give you a loan because you were freelance […] but nobody can sack me, however broke I get I’ve still got some money coming in, and people in full-time jobs, they can be sacked and they have nothing. So you’ve got the security of always knowing that there’s something around, but it does get quite squeaky at times.

On writers who cannot market themselves

[Marketing yourself] is a real fact of modern publishing, and there are writers who can’t do this, and they are disadvantaged in this day and age, and this is what has changed. There’s the old idea of a writer in their garret, it’s a very lovely one, but it doesn’t exist any more. It’s very hard for that kind of writer to thrive, unless they are a complete genius – and there are complete geniuses.

On the type of journalism that impressed the most

The type of journalism I liked was the sort of stuff, it’s not about being clever or witty or anything like that, it’s about getting inside a story, and making sure you’ve got all your sources there, you’re clever about finding your sources, about how you approach them, about how you interview them, and then turning in a story that nobody else could have written.

On finding your voice as a journalist

Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, finding your voice is a massive step forward. And the only way you find your voice isn’t by sitting round thinking, ‘I wonder what my voice is’, it’s by writing a lot of stuff. And then your write something, and you’re not even conscious of why you wrote it that way, and suddenly you read it and you think, ‘oh, that actually works’ […] You find a way which feels honest to you.

On being a journalist in 2017

I would be going into video, I wouldn’t be going into the written word. It seems to me that is the form of the moment. If you’re looking for exciting areas that are doing stuff and going somewhere I wouldn’t be going into writing […] I don’t think journalism is a career any more, except for a handful of people. It’s actually a skillset, not a career. Writing is a brilliant skillset, and you shouldn’t not have it, and not enough people know how to do that skillset. But for very few people is it a career.

Why Write a Blog Post When You Have Nothing to Say?

November 9th, 2014 No comments

Illustration ©

I don’t imagine I am the first person to sit down to write a blog post and think, ‘I don’t really have the enthusiasm for this’, or ‘I’m not sure I have anything to write about’. (I mean this hardly even just applies to blog posts. This is writing in general.)

But it is a particularly urgent feeling with blog posts, because the idea presses upon us that if a blog is not regularly updated, any readers lose interest. (And not a ridiculous idea — if I like a particular blogger, I want them to write regularly.)

But what is the point? Why update a blog out of fear that no one will read your blog if you don’t? No one will read your blog if you don’t write with enthusiasm, either.

I know this, but that does not rid me of the compulsion. I feel I ought to write something because, if anyone is interested in this blog — and there is no guarantee of that, even those who follow it might receive the email and delete it, even those who read it might have no interest in what they read, even those who read all the way through might forget what they have read a moment later — then the least they expect is regular content.

But this is not a good use of writing time. Writing is pointless if you don’t enjoy the process. Are we struggling with writing in the hope that one day we might be able to make a living from this unenjoyable, pain-inducing activity?

So I’m setting myself some rules about posting on this blog. I know what I want the blogs I read to do for me — that’s what I want mine to do for other people:

  • No posting simply because of the time gap since the last post. (Adam Curtis writes infrequently, but at length and invariably interestingly. [On the other hand, when was the last time I read his blog?])
  • Posts must derive from notebook notes – in other words they must have started as an improvisation. The less forced, the more they come from a momentary enthusiasm, the better the writing.
  • Posts must fit the theme of the blog – in my case, the tyranny of careers and the joy of work for yourself. Not just something interesting I saw today on the Internet on a different subject. When I read blogs I follow I want to know they will stick to their theme, which is the reason I follow them. (Sharing other things of interest can happen elsewhere. I like posting interesting things I find about the writing process, but that is not the subject here, and can go on tumblr.
  • Most of all I must enjoy writing the posts. All writing is practice, is morning pages, is trying to make progress. I want to think of it this way, I want to revel in the joyous process that is writing words, attempting to clarify ideas. (And yes – I have quite enjoyed writing this post.)

So then we have it. A post about the potential pointlessness of writing blog posts. Til (possibly much) later.

Recent links on careers, fulfilling work and writing:

Categories: writing Tags: , ,

The Pleasure of Piracy

October 11th, 2013 No comments

In a Granta article from 2009, Peruvian author Daniel Alarcón discussed the rampant state of book piracy in Peru. If you think the present day electronic copying of ebooks is a problem, this is nothing to the large scale copying of physical books in Peru: a new book by bestselling author Paul Coelho was widely available on street corners before it was even in the shops.

Alarcón, a newly published author at the time, lamented the loss of royalties when he found his book had been pirated. But at the same time he acknowledged that piracy was also a badge of honour – an author whose new book was not pirated had somehow failed.

It made me think how I would feel if my (as yet unpublished) books were pirated. And I concluded: I would be delighted. I’d be happy that someone had taken notice, that they’d felt the book was worth pirating. I don’t want to be a full-time writer, to need to make a living from writing – I’m happy trying to find a balance between working for money and the writing work that I do for myself for pleasure (which is pretty much the theme of The Tyranny of Careers in a nutshell.)

Of course in order for a book to be pirated, it must be published in the first place. It is the publisher that has lost the most – it is their decision that your book is worth publishing that encourages the piracy. Philip Pullman recently complained about the loss of earnings for full-time writers, and the unfairness of some readers taking for free what others have to pay for.

These are valid complaints. But even so I want to take Alarcón’s ambiguous view of the Peruvian book pirates as a guide for good writing. I do not want to view any kind of creative work in the same way as work to earn money. As I wrote in a previous post, I think a healthy society is one where art/creative work is a part-time activity undertaken by as many people as possible. I don’t want to write with the expectation of money – if it became a grind I would give it up. If I am never able to earn money to live on from writing perhaps I will only produce a book only once every five years say, rather than every year. This is fine. An every-five-years book will hopefully be more considered and therefore better than an every-year book. It is not like there is a shortage of books in the world to read.

In fact I would go further: if I am not happy for any work I produce to be pirated, if I am not happy to do the work but make no money from it, then it is not work worth doing.

Coming soon: The Tyranny of Careers (and the Joy of Valuable Work) as a book

June 4th, 2013 No comments

Firstly, apologies to those people who have been following my blog and have not received any updates for a number of months. I’ve been spending the time working on a book that came out of the posts for Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties, have been caught up in that and neglected the blog.

In the course of researching the book I came across a talk by US artist Austin Kleon, discussing the benefits of sharing your research and progress in writing (or whatever art form you are into) before you actually arrive at the finished artifact. It made me realise that sharing the process of your work was the best way for art to be created in the internet age – because I get so much out of reading about other people’s creative processes, both good and bad (especially bad) and so I shouldn’t be shy of sharing my own.

So I have given this website a makeover, and there is now a page detailing my research for the forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Careers. These posts will be in place of any blog posts for a while, until the book is published – you can sign up to receive the tumblr posts via email, or follow the same posts on Facebook. These posts will also detail the (most likely self-)publishing of the book.