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Wednesday, 07 December 2016


Yikes! I seem to remember a fair amount of sympathy on TOP for young photographers and artists trying to market themselves. Seems a bit harsh to come down on aspiring writers trying to do the same thing.

Your point about not being able to do everything, and being lucky if you can do one thing, is both true and good advice, and I can understand that it is tedious to be on the receiving end of all of these letters, but...why call these youngsters out? I think you could have given your writing advice and recommended Ann Patchett's essay without knocking them.

Also, FWIW, there is particular irony in emphasizing the need to focus on writing about ONE thing in an OT post right after writing about hip-hop. To quote a great writer (on photography and other subjects), "I'm just sayin'..."


[I almost always take the time to reply at some length. That I never hear back from them is what makes me suspect that they're not actually sincere, but just fulfilling an assignment. --Mike]

What do you mean I can't "write about anything"?
I can and do just as I can overhaul a V8 engine for my Ford pickup.
I don't do either as well as a solid Professional and I don't plan on the time and dedication necessary to do so.
The idea of writing well is very different from the reality of doing so. Reading Hemingway and thinking you can write like him... reading John Sandford(our resident Leica seller on here) and thinking you can create your own Lucas Davenport... reading Shawshank Redemption and thinking you can write so well. The photo equivalent is simple: "you buy a camera, you are a photographer. You buy a piano, you own a piano."

The latest camera, the newest word processor or the oldest Stardavarious are all the same in the hands of those without the dedication and 'touch' of one who is actually good enough to use them well.

Lots whe think they can do, few who actually do.

A technical writer is a professional writer who produces technical documentation that helps people understand and use a product or service. They usually know little or nothing about the product/service, but they know how to convert engineering-speak into understandable everyday-talk.

I also know someone who wrote business plans and is now writing video scripts for businesses.

BTW doesn't a copy editor rewrite bad writing on any subject 8-)

The assertion, "I can write about anything you want!" comes from a student who is eager to please, but hasn't lived long enough to know that they can't.

One piece of advice that Stephen King gives in On Writing is to omit needless words. He admits this comes from another book on writing, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr.

I try to follow this advice when commenting here. Sometimes I succeed.

Tangentially, as a professional writer, I find that reading your blog is an excellent way to avoid actually writing. When that strategy is exhausted, I resort to composing comments to your posts. See, works like a charm!

[Made me laugh. I recently achieved hours of procrastination by researching a new keyboard to buy. Had to remind myself "that's not writing." --Mike]

Douglas Adams, a notorious serial procrastinator ("I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.") also said that he "Didn't so much like writing as having written".

That's a bad sign for a writer, even a good one like Adams.

It is annoying to find yourself being good at something you don't like doing.

Did Patchett say anything about writing the same thing over and over? You used exactly the same Ann Patchett's quote (about writing for 30 days straight) on Nov 11th?

Clearly, this is bugging you! 😑

[I just thought it could use a little more emphasis is all. :-) --Mike]

New topic assignment for you Mike. Participate in and review dating websites. I think it may be time.

Mike, like you, I devoured Stephen King's "On Writing" only shortly after the ink had dried. (I also read and refer to the aforementioned Strunk & White and Norman Mailer's engrossing "The Spooky Art" [https://www.amazon.com/Spooky-Art-Thoughts-Writing/dp/0812971280] — all this as a working pro photographer) The son of a writer, I always saw the photograph as potential narrative ..... or description (aided by Ansel Adams' musing on the 'perfect description of the lens) and the close link between the power of the written word and the power of the photographic interpretation of the world around me to convey an opinion, an attitude or to simply celebrate being.
At the time of "On Writing" I was producing between 24 and 50 magazine features on customised Harley-Davidsons each year for a specialist publication. King's views on a 'passive' or an 'active' voice informed how I 'posed' the bikes considerably. It increased my awareness of just how potent a change of a degree or two in the turn of a front wheel could be. And I related that to the fact that NOBODY ever bought a Harley to be passive.
We need greater and greater interplay between the disciplines of communication we are all involved in. Thanks for raising writing on a snappers' blog site.

Funny, (responding to your reply to Eamon) I also wasted time researching best keyboards the other day. Apparently IBM would make loads of money if they reintroduced a thick, much-loved model from a few decades ago.


Since starting my blog over two years ago, I don't think I've stopped writing or thinking about writing. Some of my stories have had over 170 revisions before I post.

Trying to keep the stories coherent, to the point and not overly long, with appropriate photographs to support the story can, at times, become quite the chore.

But even then, I don't consider myself a writer.

As to Kevin Purcell's mentioning Douglas Adams, the second quote of his, as loving have written is cribbed at the least from Dorothy Parker (and maybe someone before her).

I don't recall which book it was of his (maybe some essays?), but on the topic of being a writer, Stephen King mentioned how when he is at parties and someone mentions to him they always wanted to be a writer, he responds 'I always wanted to be a neurosurgeon', and then turns away.


Stephen King's writing bores me. I find it laborious to read and all too obvious in its intent. John Sandford is good every second book. :-)

I'm just stating facts, you realize, not giving my opinions. LOL.

This has always been my guide on writing:



Dear Mike,
Personally I think the following two videos are full of great advice for young photographers aiming to make their mark and beyond the average. You just can't go wrong with such wise advice:



Cheers Paul

I second your recommendation for reading "The Getaway Car" and also the entire book. After you first mentioned it I got it from the library and recently finished it.
Your comment about her marriage was not quite right. They were in an on again off again relationship for ten years (with houses near each other) but when they finally got married she moved into his house.
As to the idea in your post of writers writing, it used to take me a couple of hours to write a comment (really, not an exaggeration). Now it is less than an hour, but I started thinking about this comment yesterday.

Perhaps drifting a bit too far off-topic, but a very recent Ann Patchett article that has received much favorable attention, particularly from the bookish set. With winter closing in, these are nice, cozy places to while away pleasant hours.


Your post reminds me that as a young man I once sat on top of a pair of step-ladders in the back garden of my parents' house with a typewriter on my lap, tapping out my 'first novel'. :) I didn't have much to write about of course, but that didn't deter me.

Was this a waste of time, or was it part of a necessary learning curve? I'm not sure, but more than four decades later, after contentedly blogging for four years and writing one tome and many articles, I only consider those who are routinely more prolific than me, and make some kind of living at it, to be real writers.

Wow I am surprised a young witer would cold call you and say they can write anything. I would think it best for them to read your site, get a feel for the tone. Then actually wrie a piece and ask if you would publish it. Then they may put in some work, but get a better return for your comments or approval.

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