Writer, journalist, broadcaster and traveler Simon Winchester, best known for his international bestseller, The Professor and the Madman, shares his advice and a surprising story on how he came to be a writer:
Q: What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
A: Thus far, and luckily, I have not suffered from it.
Q: What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
A: The best spur for me is a commission and a deadline. My training is as a journalist: and once you know that if you miss your deadline you won't get into the paper ... you make your deadline. As with newspapers, so with books.
Q: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
A: My mentor when I was a young reporter—in fact the person who persuaded me to leave my career as a geologist and become a journalist—was the Welsh travel writer James Morris. James—who is now 85 years old, still hard at it and a very good personal friend—has since turned into a woman, taking the name Jan Morris.
For many years, would-be journalists who wrote to The Guardian (the paper for which I worked) asking how they might get a job, were jokingly advised: the best route for joining the paper is to take a degree in geology at Oxford and then make friends with a transsexual.
James's advice to me boiled down to one thing: never lose your sense of wonder. As a writer, you are going to confronted with a bewildering world of fascinations—so never become jaded or world-weary, and always think of your calling as a privilege. You'll never get rich: but you'll have a fulfilled and valuable life, doing something that is eminently worthwhile.
> Visit Simon online at simonwinchester.com
> Order a copy of Atlantic or The Alice Behind Wonderland or The Professor and the Madman