My evidence is purely anecdotal, but it seems to me that an increasing number of my writing colleagues are turning away from magazines and towards books as a means of professional fulfillment. There’s the former technology writer whose how-to books on freelancing are becoming bestsellers, the travel writer who will be keeping her juiciest insights close to her chest as she markets her latest manuscript, and the political journalist who has turned to ghostwriting memoirs.
We all understand why writing for periodicals has become a frustrating pursuit http://www.pwac.ca/files/PDF/PWACsurvey.pdf but how do multi-tasking journalists morph into single minded authors?
My own experience writing books was excruciating. A decade ago, the now defunct Financial Times (FT) Publishing approached me to write a book on global exploration for minerals. The subject may make your eyes glaze over, but it’s an area that I specialize in and am strangely passionate about, so I leapt at the opportunity.
The research was fun. I got to spend great lengths of time in my favourite libraries and interview top geologists around the world. The money was even better. FT’s reputation as a leader in sector analysis guaranteed lucrative royalties, including one $9000 cheque that will go down in Heffernan/Moss household history.
But the part in between, the writing, became a chain around my neck. I turned into the cocktail party bore who can only nod and smile crazily in conversation because she is so out of touch. When my partner asked me about my day, my repeated, monotonic response became: “fine, dear, a thousand words today.” And the proofs, oh the proofs - by the end of the process, I was literally tearing the hair from my head.
I completed one more FT book before the publisher closed shop. Copyright reverted to me and there is potential to self publish updates of both books. But I can’t bring myself to do it.
What inspires you journalists accustomed to banging off a story in a day or a week to devote months and possibly years to a singular pursuit? Is it passion, fun, economics, glory?
I’d really like to know.