When I was young and poor and having sex with women round the back of supermarkets in bins I used to harbour dreams of becoming a professional writer. Very occasionally, I’d try and do something about it. Once I tried to write a book, though at the time I didn’t – and still don’t – really know what it was about. Another time I wandered into a bookshop in Bournemouth and read a book called something like (and the title may well have been this pedestrian) ‘How to be a freelance journalist’.
After reading ‘How to be a freelance journalist’, I realised that being a freelance journalist was the last thing I wanted to be. That, frankly, is saying something. There were lots of things at the time that I didn’t want to be (skinny, bald, mad, poor, sexually frustrated, an alcoholic) which I was, so to put being a freelance journalist at the bottom of this pile must have meant that I really didn’t want to become a freelance journalist.
Yet I’ve become one. At least I think I have. I’m not sure if I’m a freelance journalist or a freelance writer but I’m certainly a freelance something. Whatever I am, it’s freelance. What I do isn’t normal work, I’m convinced of that much. What annoyed me at the time about ‘How to be a freelance journalist’ – and what continues to annoy me about it – is that the advice contained in it was largely meaningless and the whole thing seemed as if it was written by a fool. Which it was.
So I thought I’d like to write my own advice for writers. Barely a day goes by without the empire that is Pitching the World being asked: “How do you do it? Become a successful writer, I mean. You’re a success, although, if I’m being honest, you’ve gone downhill a bit since your wife left you – or did you leave her? You never did clear this up – but that aside you’re doing okay. How did you get to be relatively successful at this. Feel free to leave out the part where you became an almighty fuck up at this. Oh, and why is it that Pitching the World has turned into a blog that consistently fails to deliver any useful advice about pitching and has steadfastly strayed from the original objectives?”
To that, I say two things. First, if you don’t like my apples don’t go shaking my tree. Second, I’ve been working for some time now on my tips for becoming a successful – if arguably unbalanced – writer. Unfortunately I can’t put said tips up quite yet. This afternoon I’ve taken to spending an unhealthy amount of time in my big tower in Dubai drinking neat whisky, with the curtains closed and sunglasses on. This means both that I’m a bit heady and can’t write, and that I can’t really see too well. It also means that I want to get out of my big tower and bowl around Dubai harassing people, which I’m about to start doing. In the meantime, here is a glimpse of what you can expect from my ‘How to be a writer, part two’ post which will be up on this multi-award winning fucker in the next day or two:
Tip 1: Watch Fletch lots
Tip 2: Don’t write regularly, only when inspired
Tip 3: Be bold
Tip 4: Don’t familiarise yourself with the market. Or with anything else.
Tip 5: Don’t keep a journal of your ideas.
Tip 6: Do a succession of shitty jobs in your twenties.
Tip 7: And maybe in your thirties, too.
Tip 8: If you’re writing an important cover story for SoldOut magazine (a magazine aimed at estate agents; now defunct) and you have to interview the CEO of a company on a Monday morning, spend the whole weekend getting off your tits and then turn up on Monday without really sleeping for days and not knowing a single thing about the company, the CEO or yourself. You probably won’t know what words mean. In this situation your first question should be: “So, pretend I don’t know anything about you. What do you do?”
Expect all the above tips do be fleshed out in the next day or so. Bet you can’t wait.
Someone watching Fletch lots, earlier.