Becoming a Writer–A Preview of a New Series

Jim Lehrer

A new series is coming on writing and publishing a book. Like other topics, it will be neither exhaustive nor comprehensive—just something to get you started. The first substantial look at this will be in the February edition. For now, we will just do a preview. From an interview with Jim Lehrer, PBS guru and author of many books, comes these pithy words in the Washington Post Book World from December 2007,

“A young man came up at a book-signing once,” he recounts, “and said, ‘Mr. Lehrer, I’d write, too, if only I could find the time.’

” ‘Do you think you could write a page a day?’ ” Lehrer asked.

” ‘Oh, sure!’ ”

” ‘Well, at the end of 300 days, what would you have?’ ”

The youth looked puzzled, and then light broke over his face like morning. ” ‘A novel?’ “

How more profoundly simple can you make it than this? Be persistent; just do it! Of course, it really isn’t quite that simple. Beyond will and determination some research will be required. Like anything else, you get out of writing what you put into it. Little effort produces little result. Ask yourself what and why before you get too far along in that effort.Take the why first; why do you want to write a book? To become famous? It’s far easier to be famous first than expect a book to make you so. But if that is what you are really after, then you will either need to write something spectacular or do something very noteworthy–like generate a big hit on YouTube. Maybe you want to get rich? Well, take a look at the bestseller lists for the past few years and see how many new authors appear there; you will be disappointed. Maybe you just have something to say or feel compelled to write. Now you are in a better or at least more rational place. Getting somebody else to read that important topic you want to write about is a whole other thing that we’ll talk about later. We will get into the what and more in February.

Adapted from two blog posts in Views from Eagle Peak, one from 2007 and one from 2008.

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Acknowledgements: See citations within the article.

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