TO ME, the 1970s was the decade of memorable music. When I look back, I see a more relaxed and care-free time than now. You could write a song about anything—like driving around in a truck, with a bunch of other people who are also just driving around in a truck. And you didn’t even have to sing; you could pretty much talk the whole song. The result in this instance is the huge hit “Convoy.”
AN EDITOR ASKED ME not long ago if I might change the word “died” to “passed away” in something I’d written of a late and mutual friend. I respectfully said No, and here’s why.
HERE AT waynekspear.com, I lift the curtain from time to time to disclose my thoughts on the writing life as they apply to this website. As with any public undertaking, there’s much going on behind the scenes at this word factory of mine. Today I’m considering the marketing of a writer, and how poor I am at – and why I think I continue, as a matter of principle, to be poor at it.
A PILLOW BOOK is an open-ended and spontaneous collection of fragments, and as such may include lists, observations, poems, short personal essays and diary entries. A precursor of the genre zuihitsu (random jottings – the more literal meaning to proceed, or follow, with a brush), this literary form made its appearance under the title Makura no Sōshi, or Notes of the Pillow, one thousand years ago.
IN THE LATEST Roundtable Toronto Podcast, episode 65, Mandy, Greg, Andy and I discussed the social media. We talked about who was using what, how the respective media differ, and the contrasting uses and limitations of each. The consensus at the table, so far as I could infer one, was that some media are more social than others: if you’re looking for engagement and conversation, you’ve found that media are not created alike.
I‘VE BEEN AT WORDPRESS for fifty-one months now, and I’ve posted 550 entries. Just for the heck of it, I’ve spent several weeks studying the data I’ve collected from the WordPress “dashboard” as well as from other sources. I drilled down into the data, as you kids like to say, until I hit oil. Now I’m rich, so screw you. This will be my last entry.
WHEN I BEGAN writing, only the Pentagon had Internet. The rest of us used pens and typewriters, as well as paper, which came in both liquid and solid form. You’d write out your essay, story or article, make a few changes, and then type out the manuscript, editing as you went. In some cases, you would do an additional edit, by producing a second typescript. This is what we veterans called writing. What else would you call it?
BECAUSE I KNOW that some of my readers are also writers, I post an occasional essay on writing. If the topic of writing bores you, here’s my essay on Anna Hazare and Gandhi for your consideration. Or perhaps you might enjoy this essay about Disney. For the rest of you, here are my thoughts on good writing.
A TOPIC CAN BE both vast and yet reducible to the most simple of terms. Here’s an example: a writer is a person who does things with words. Whether her goal is to inform, deceive, terrify, entertain, charm, persuade or seduce, a writer will have to do it with words. A reader, also, has nothing but words from which to cultivate the pictures, emotions and experiences which are ‘in’ the text. A writer’s voice is a big topic, but the topic does indeed rest upon these objects called words. And words alone.
SOME YEARS AGO I had the good fortune and pleasure to befriend the wonderful Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden. Larry is a Cree author and playwright from Slave Lake in Alberta. Constance is a freelance writer, author and editor who I first encountered when she was writing for Macleans in its glory days, under the capable editorship of Peter C. Newman, in the 1980s. Larry and Constance met in a writing class in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side and within a few years had formed the Living Traditions Writers Group.
ON SATURDAY, April 13, 2013, I chatted with Shelagh Rogers about the work of truth and reconciliation, books, and her years at the CBC. An excerpt of this discussion appears in The Roundtable episode 38. Here, for your enjoyment, is the entire interview.
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EARLIER IN THE WEEK, journalist Nate Thayer posted an entry to his website titled “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist — 2013.” Now, this is not any old journalist we’re talking about. Nate Thayer has written for dozens of highly regarded publications. He’s won meaningful and serious awards for his investigative journalism. The man interviewed Pol Pot.
I FIRST CAME across the writer Christopher Hitchens when he was a young Socialist contributing his “Minority Report” to the Nation. Very much yet in his soixante-huitard, Trotskyist phase, if not in possession any longer of his Socialist International card, he reminded me of my favourite writer, George Orwell.
RARE IS the day that I do not find a piece of bad writing in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Post, or Globe and Mail. This statement, I am confident, could be applied with justice to any newspaper of your choosing. The badness is delivered in many varieties, and in fairness I must observe that some errors are a product of working conditions, deadlines and the under-resourcing of bureaus and so on. Most bad writing however has as its root a more troubling fact: its creators do not know what words mean.