Don't make book on it

After music, Floyd County's cottage industry appears to be writing: writing poetry, writing blogs, writing books. Floyd is overrun with writers, many of them published (self and otherwise) and some doing quite well thank you.

After music, Floyd County’s cottage industry appears to be writing: writing poetry, writing blogs, writing books. Floyd is overrun with writers, many of them published (self and otherwise) and some doing quite well thank you.

During one of David St. Lawrence’s well-organized blogger’s meetings at Café del Sol last week, David held court with a would-be blogger, explaining the ins and out of publishing on the Internet, Fred First, the county’s newest “published” author, sat in a corner autographing books while the works of three county authors (St. Lawrence, First and Colleen Redman) sat on display on a nearby shelf.

“So,” somebody asked me, “when are you going to do your book?”

“Can’t,” I replied, “I’m too busy writing to do a book.”

Yeah, it was an off-the-cuff, appropriately sarcastic, remark but one with a ring of truth. I probably write more than 2500 words a day in various venues (Internet and print) and I just don’t know when I’d get around to even thinking about, much less producing, a book.

Amy has been on my case for years to write a book about political life in Washington. The last thing the world needs is another book about politics. Somewhere, on a backup disc in a box still unpacked from the move 18 months ago, is an unfinished novel I started more than a decade ago. My agent in New York thinks I should do a coffee table book of photography. Do we really need another coffee table book of photos by some shooter who spent most of his life jetting around the world shooting news events? Probably not.

Writing is among the most personal of endeavors. Some people write for money, others for recognition, still others because that’s all they know. Some say journalists are not writers but simply stenographers who capture moments in time. Perhaps they are right. I’m a journalist who uses words and pictures to, hopefully, help people better understand what happens in their community and world. All I ever wanted to be was a journalist and I consider myself a journalist, not a writer, and a reporter, not a story teller.

Yet a journalist is harder to define in today’s world of 24/7 news channels, “citizen journalists” bloggers and reporters who insert themselves into a story rather than remain on the sidelines and report as objective observers.

I claim I’m retired but I still sit all day on a hard bench in the Floyd County Circuit Court, looking for that one story that will detail the current state of justice around here. I’ll watch Floyd County Supervisors meander through an agenda that could be completed in two or three hours but takes a day or more and then try to explain what they did in a way that most readers can understand.

I’ll drive two hours each way to photograph a high-school sports event for an hour, chasing young athletes up and down a field, ignoring my old knees and worn-out hip while abusing an over-calcified ankle.

I write four-to-five articles a week for print, five-to-seven articles a week on a blog and write or edit 70-105 articles a week for a political news web site.
Why? Because I love it. Journalism is not work for me. It’s a way of life. It’s what I do and what I am.

I’m too busy to recycle my work into a book. People can read what I write for free on the web or by spending 50 cents a week on a newspaper. If I ever did write a book or produce a retrospective of photographs, I’d probably give the thing away because I’ve never been comfortable making money off something I love.


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7 Responses

  1. I think that being “published” daily on a blog or in newspapers and getting immediate feedback from readers makes writing a book a more leisurely process and changes the reasons for writing.

    In the course of a year, I can test several hundred articles for reader responses. The ones that catch the reader’s interest can be explored further.

    When readers keep asking questions I have answered in earlier posts, it indicates that some discussions have lasting value and it is time to write a book.

    Interest level and market segments having been indicated, it becomes a matter of packaging the right bits together and producing a book for that market.

    The best indicator of whether one should write a book is not people telling you that you should write one, but people asking you, or the world in general, the same questions repeatedly.

    If you have interesting answers to these questions, you should probably write a book.

  2. David:

    Your points are well-taken but I have trouble thinking of writing in terms of “market segments” and “packaging.” That reeks too much of commercialization. I realize some people have to make a living but I write and take pictures because I love it and I’d do the same thing whether people paid me to do it or not. I see too many people who produce books become consumed with sales, marketing, placement and the such and I wonder is such preoccupations become more important than the art of writing.

  3. Doug, I read your “stuff” because I find your views refreshing. In one of my former lives I, too was a reporter. In “retirement” years I’m struggling with writing a memoir – more for me than the public (it may never see the light of day) – and certainly more to discover who I am – and why – than for any possible reader! I firmly believe a person should do whatever makes h/er happy! elgee

  4. You don’t need to write a book, Doug, but you could at some point consider putting together a collection of your commentaries and title =it “The Best of the Rant.” But really, I see you more as an oral storyteller and if you needed something more to do (Ha!) you could always take the show you presented at the library on the road. It was a great combination of photos and narrative. But I want book on it.

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