“Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen. But you can save yourself a lot of time by working on the right thing. Working hard, even, if that’s what you like to do.”—Caterina.net: Working hard is overrated (via blanchomme)
“There are only a few periods in the life cycle at which there are high rates of sexual activity or sexual activity that is complicated by passion and high intensity of affective investment. These are usually adolescence in the male, the early and romantic years of marriage for both men and women, and the highly charged extramarital experiences that can be called affairs. Most of the time, sex is really a relatively docile beast, and it is only the rare individual who through the process of self-invention or alienation from the normal course of socialization is prepared to risk occupation, present comfort, spouse and children, or the future for the chancy joys of sexual pleasure.”—Sexual Conduct (Gagnon and Simon 1973: 103-4)
Ten years ago, I completed my first fiction book: off my own bat, with no expectations of it ever being published, just for the fun of it. The secret? I handed over a new chapter to my friends every Monday morning.
My advice to the overwhelming majority first time novelists: first, finish the fucker, even if you sense it’s not working on any number of levels— you’ve got to get into the habit of seeing things through, or you run the risk of being a serial starter, or worse one of those people that has “a novel in them” who spends more time talking about it, than laying bricks.
"Oh god," I thought to myself, cringing inwardly, "I’m going to be a serial starter." It’s not out of the question: I am, after all, an ENFP.
And then I remembered that dramatic, emotionally tone deaf “saga” I wrote over the course of 1998. I had finished something! (Well, now that I think of it, I’ve finished lots of things, actually - my degree, Interface, countless articles - but this was something long and involved that required prolonged commitment and sitting by myself.) It wasn’t particularly good - were I ever to submit it to a publisher, it would require major rewrites (let’s just say teenage me didn’t have the most accurate grip on the nuances of human trauma), but it was finished. And I suspect the reason I finished it was because I had a handful of friends (and later, online readers) hanging out for fresh meat each week.
The truth is, while I’m driven to write in a general sense, I’m most driven to write when I know there’ll be someone reading - even better when that audience is a group of people who respond, and whom I can respond to in turn. It’s why I put - well, I would say “so much time”, but compared to people who post 20 times a day, it’s nothing, so I’ll just say “time” - time into this blog, which would probably be more practically spent working on my thesis, or book, or freelance stories. That, and as I’ve written before, I think it’s an essential part of the vocation of a contemporary non-fiction writer.
But it occurs to me that perhaps this energy can be chanelled for good, rather than just procrastination. I’ve been planning on launching a website for my major research project (which feeds into said thesis and book) for a while now - domain name and launch posts all ready to go - but have been holding off until a certain article I’ve been working on goes to market.
Maybe, if I want to hurry this book along more, I should just throw caution to the wind and blog it, much like I use to hand out those new chapters to my friends every Monday morning.
“Not that I am painting a picture of some kind of dystopia where nobody will ever work hard and try to do good writing in the old school way, but, well, actually I guess I kind of am, because that dystopia is kind of Tumblr, you know? I think Tumblr as a whole represents something so secretly insidious, because I feel like for a group of urban (or wannabe urban) young creative people who in the past would have been forced to spend the time to really and truly make stuff in order to feel creatively fulfilled, now it is so easy for them to just reblog, recycle, rinse, repeat.”—
I’ve thought the same thing. Tumblr is great fun and - even better - a fantastic community, but in terms of reblogs/Tumblarity/other rewards, it really doesn’t encourage users to produce anything substantive.
Though you’ll still have to do your writing using the old fashioned method — one word at a time — web applications and social media have made the process of writing a novel considerably easier and arguably more enjoyable. Here is a toolkit for using the web to write a book.
I’m writing both my book and thesis using Google Docs. And I keep my notes on Google Notebook. Backups aside, it goes without saying that my greatest fear is a Google meltdown.
“I think — and I base this opinion on having worked in book publishing — that a lot of authors think of “readers” the way we think of any intangible but demonstrably present phenomenon, like bacteria. We can’t see them, so we don’t think about them much. We like them in theory when they’re helping us, digesting our food et cetera — in fact, we take it for granted that they will do so – but mostly we only notice them when they’re making us sick. It’s not a given that authors make the connection between the way they feel about books and writers they like and the way someone might feel about them, and their work. Readers are not bacteria, though. They are people, and they are, potentially, everywhere – including, increasingly, online.”—
Are you passionate about journalism and social media? Win a pass to Media140, 5-6 November 2009
Early November is shaping up to be a bit of a social media fest here in Sydney. Online Divas are hosting their inaugural M I S S B L O G conference on the 7th, and I’m hosting an all-day workshop on freelance writing and blogging at the Vibewire Enterprise Hub the same day (more on that another time).
The event I’m most excited about though is Media140, the latest in a series of over the past couple of years that have dealt with the thorny - but exciting - question of what lies ahead for future of journalism. Named after the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter and the old-school SMS, it’s part of an international collaboration - think London, New York, Bangalore, Dubai and Rome - that sets out to answer the question: “What is the future of journalism in the social media age?”
Sound good? It gets better. I’ve got a two-day pass, valued at $250, to give away to one reader. Just leave a comment below before 8pm EST on Monday 21 September, answering the following question: "What’s the best journalistic use of social media you’ve seen, and why?" Responses will be judged by me and Ande Gregson, the founder of Media140.
For those of us who don’t work in public policy, the real meat of politics - and I’m talking about the stuff beyond whether Malcolm Turnbull ought to be dumped as Liberal leader, or whether Barack Obama is supercool or super-overrated - can be embarassingly difficult to chew on… and climate change is no exception.
Which is why Youth Decide, brainchild of Anna Rose and Amanda McKenzie of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, is an example of the best kind of activism. It gives you a chance to vote on Australia’s emissions reductions, but it also provides you with a framework to understand the environmental and economic consequences if your vote were put into action. (Whether K-Rudd et al will do that is another question.)
Voting is open until Sunday 21 September, so make sure you head over to www.youthdecide.com.au - and make sure you pass the message on to your friends.
“The greatest weakness of the list of n things is that there’s so little room for new thought. The main point of essay writing, when done right, is the new ideas you have while doing it. A real essay, as the name implies, is dynamic: you don’t know what you’re going to write when you start. It will be about whatever you discover in the course of writing it.
This can only happen in a very limited way in a list of n things. You make the title first, and that’s what it’s going to be about. You can’t have more new ideas in the writing than will fit in the watertight compartments you set up initially. And your brain seems to know this: because you don’t have room for new ideas, you don’t have them.”—
Hi, my name’s Rachel. I’m a widely published freelance journalist and researcher, specialising in social and cultural analysis. You can find out more about my work at www.rachelhills.net.
I’m looking for a talented, enthusiastic and organised research assistant/intern to help out with a number of projects I’m working on, including new media projects, feature articles for magazines and newspapers, and a non-fiction book.
Ideally, you will be: an ideas person, who writes because of the things you are driven to say; digitally savvy, as both a creator and a critical consumer of online content; and organised, with good problem solving and project management skills. It also helps if you share a passion for the issues I write about.
In return, I will provide you with advice and mentoring on publishing ideas-based pieces in major websites, newspapers and magazines, and help you develop your own story ideas for publication (I’ve written for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Literary Review, The Monthly, Cleo, Russh, YEN, The Walkley Magazine and more).
This is a 1 day/week position, preferably based in Sydney. It is suited to a second year plus university student or recent graduate - although other applicants are also welcome. It is currently unpaid.
Sound good? Drop me an email at rachel dot hills at gmail dot com introducing yourself, along with a copy of your CV.