Before I get into this week’s post, I just want to do a bit of shameless self promotion and tell you that I was featured on my friend Delaney’s blog this week. If you get a minute, you should check it out here. On with the post…
Who would bring out a magazine that costs far more than its competitors when publications are folding left, right and centre?
After all, we are told that printed media is dying a long and slow death. Blogs and online newspapers, social media and Youtube have all given printed media a solid kicking. But The Great Discontent is taking no note of that. What’s more, it seems to be thriving.
Last Friday I arrived home to find that Naomi had ordered me a copy of The Great Discontent magazine. I had heard about it on The Good Life Project and really wanted to check out why this magazine was so different.
For a start The Great Discontent is a tri-annual publication. Ok, it costs a bit more than your normal magazine (at $25 a pop). But it’s pretty easy to justify it three times a year as opposed to the traditional monthly ($12 a pop).
It’s weighty, like a coffee table book. It looks stunning. The matte pages feel great and, with the risk of coming across as a snob, it’s definitely a cut above any other magazine I’ve read.
Previous publications have always had a scatter gun approach; everything and anything would get reviewed, critiqued and featured by scores of journalists and to be honest, I would only read around 50% of its content. The rest I simply wasn’t interested in.
They’ve also been recycling tired features for far too long. Last week I went into a newsagent and looked at the music magazines on the shelf. On the front covers were bands from a long gone era. Rush, Neil Young and The Beatles. I’m not dissing these artists but after, say 40 years I think we can move on.
The Great Discontent however, with its long form interviews from a selection of artists from different fields, whittles down its buying customers to a few.
Geeks like me, in other words.
Instead of carrying huge attention grabbing headlines, each edition and all the interviews follow a theme. The most recent was “Possibilty”. Sounded sexy to me. This magazine focuses on a narrow field and goes way, way deeper than its peers. And it’s following a distinct trend.
Instead of trying to grapple with a huge audience, The Great Discontent has handpicked its customers and said, “Here – this is for you guys.” And it’s not the only one. Loads of different outlets are doing the same thing. The aforementioned Good Life Project and WTF? are both different examples of podcasts with deep reaching interviews. I’ve heard that Comic Book publications are on the rise. The National newspaper in Scotland also bucked the trend. Every one of these publications have handpicked their audience and sold directly to their customers. People are digging it.
That makes me happy because it also shows that the public are still wanting quality output. The difference is it’s just coming from a different place now.
But what really appeals to me is that people are returning from tapping on glass faced devices to buying physical things again. People are scratching the analogue itch and for a wannabe author like me, that’s a good sign.
Oh… And one last thing. There is not one single advertisement in it.
“Talk to people.”
“Research your subject matter.”
“Speak to the professionals.”
All sound pieces of advice in order to help you write a book.
I’ve done each of these to some extent so far but not nearly enough. I need to get bigger with my ideas and broader in my scope of research. Google searches and emailing people are brilliant for research but a click of a mouse will never trump talking face to face with someone. So I intend to do just that.
There is also a cheeky little subplot to this too.
You see, every Sunday in our house is called Super Dad Sunday. Naomi has her own business which needs fed and watered so I take Ethan, our 18 month son for the day and leave Naomi to it. We go to the zoo, the beach, the park, the soft play, we read books and watch cartoons together. It’s not called Super Dad Sunday for nothing.
However, I’m now presented with the problem of having to research my book without having much spare time. So I’ve decided to merge Super Dad Sunday with research.
One of the characters in my book has Alzheimers disease, which I’m no expert on so I’ve decided to volunteer at a local care home which specialises in dementia. I’m going to take Ethan along with me. Naomi and I are aware that Ethan has very little interaction with elderly people and think it would be pretty healthy for him to be able to socialise with a different generation. There are also studies which show children can have a significant positive impact on elderly people. It’s a win-win situation whilst I also get to learn about the topics concerning my book and get to meet a whole bunch of new people.
At this point I must thank Angela, an old school friend for inspiring this idea. Angela also volunteers in her local community and I got the idea after reading one of her Facebook posts.
There is a little bit of paper work to complete before Ethan and I can head off on our new Super Dad Sunday venture so it might take a few weeks before we can head on down there but I’m already really looking forward to it.
I just hope they can handle an 84 centimetre tall bundle of energy down at the care home.
I’ve been geeking out on a guy called Simon Sinek recently. Simon is a business strategist, author and speaker who has the third most viewed TED talk of all time. His theories flip the archetypal business models on their heads by simply asking the question why?
So after viewing a few of his videos on youtube I got thinking of the why behind my book.
Why should you be interested in what I’ve got to say in my book?
Why should you even be bothering reading my blog?
Why am I even doing it all in the first place?
I have a load of different answers ranging from, “I believe my book has a few messages worth sharing”, “I’m hoping you are reading my blog in order to find out how this is all going to pan out”, to “It’s the first thing I ever really wanted to do.” And it is the latter answer which drives me the most.
I read books as a kid. I absorbed them. I loved Roald Dahl and The Hardy Boys. I loved that a library van appeared at the top of my street every Tuesday night at 6pm. I can still remember the smell of the portable gas fire the librarian had set up in the back of the long narrow, slightly damp van. I remember trying to rent out Bram Stokers Dracula and the librarian telling me that he didn’t think it would be suitable for me. I remember a book I got as a birthday gift when I was a kid which was called The Nightmare Man. (Actually a pretty scary kids book about a shadowy figure with a birdlike face who appeared at night at the foot of a boys garden. Loved that book. I can still remember the cover.)
As I got older I loved to draw and when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s I was playing guitar, rocking out in bands. Those things I don’t do so much anymore but its not to say that I don’t have a place for them anymore. I’m just tending to this other thing I’ve got going on at the moment.
It’s just funny that it has taken me decades to return to my first ever ambition.
But seriously, check out Simon Sinek. (Totally have a man crush on this dude.)
After last weeks meltdown it was time for a re-think.
Or what some writers might describe as “work”.
I’ve already stated that after a year of writing I had been left with a big pile of folders which were stored on some cloud somewhere. There was some cohesion to my book but not nearly enough.
Now I have to consolidate not only the folders but my approach.
I don’t know how other writers work but the idea of researching before typing your first word seems like a big fat killjoy to me. It would be like putting a cake in front of a kid then telling him that he has to go and learn the recipe first before he can eat it. Balls to that.
I figured out my characters and a great deal of my plot as I went along. A large chunk of the plot fell into my lap only in the last few months. How could I have researched that before I even had it?
Now it’s time to do the gritty menial work that nobody enjoys. It time to write character bio’s, and with a list of characters that would put Forrest Gump to shame that’s gonna take some time. I need to research, fact check and draw parallels through the book. (It’s easy to forget something you wrote last year. I can’t even remember what I had for dinner last night……….Wait… Got it. Thai green curry.)
Research, bio’s, fact checking and other tedious stuff was something that I was never looking forward to but I was only following orders. Honest. All advice I read stated that I should write my first draft without editing myself. Just let rip. So I did. It was great fun and I’m glad I did it. However, I’m now left realising the Earnest Hemmingway quote, “The first draft of anything is shit” is 100% true.
So this last week I have started writing my character bio’s. And who would have thunk it? I’m enjoying it. I’m discovering new aspects of my characters as I go and surprise surprise, I’m creating plot threads which will tie my book together and also flesh it out. I’ve realised large chunks will be binned, parts re-written and some of it might even make the grade. All in all I feel like I’m back on track.
Before I go, just as a side note. I have noticed one thing. I don’t have the same stamina writing those bio’s as I do openly writing my book. An hour or so in and I’m losing focus. The week before I wrote for six hours solid (personal best) without flinching.
Anyways, I better get back to doing more menial work.
It’s 7:10pm and I’m standing doing the dishes at the kitchen sink and I’m fretting.
I’m fretting about my book.
Why did I wait until I became a dad who works long shifts before starting to write a book?
What did I do with all of my spare time before all this happened?
I’m fretting because I know my book is light years from being finished. Jesus, I’m not even sure about the tense I have written it in. I’ve realised a large chunk of what I have written so far will never make the cut. And I’ve been writing for over a year.
Yet, I know how it should read. Those words are not on the page yet but I know how they should flow.
I know how it should feel.
If it were a film I know who would have directed it.
I know what I have to do in order for it to work.
I’ve got character bio’s to complete, films to watch, documentaries to study, books to read, podcasts to absorb, people to talk to. A blog post to write.
Every minute of every day is precious and I simply can’t eek out enough of them at the moment.
I’m worrying that this is gonna take so long my blog will become redundant.
Basically, I’m freaking out.
Then Naomi drew my attention to a quote from Mastering Creativity by James Clear.
“…He revised. He changed. He edited. By his own estimation Zusak rewrote the first part of the book 150- 200 times.”
Then, in his own words Zusak says.
“In three years, I must have failed over a thousand times, but each failure brought me closer to what I needed to write, and for that, I’m grateful.”
The book was The Book Thief.
I’m finding some solace in that.