Every writer who’s afraid to be honest, holds back or tries to sound smarter or wiser than they actually are is shit.
The author of Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, has a bunch of voices in her head when she writes. One voice says, ‘Well that’s not very interesting, is it?’, another persecutes her for her crazy thoughts, another is her parents criticising her for revealing too much. John Safran has his frenemies in his head, and he imagines them reading his work and smirking when they find any type of slip-up – grammatical, a typo, a comma where he should’ve used a semi-colon. And Neil Strauss says he writes one draft for him, one for the reader and the last for the hater.
When I write, I try think of the writing of those I look up to. I try to write authentically, earnestly, only about meaningful stuff, to be professional, vulnerable, to bring my own voice and attitude and not to be hardcore just for the sake of it. That’s what the greatest writers do (or did). And there’s also one thing they don’t (or didn’t).
If I could write something that Safran, Strauss, people like A.J. Jacobs, Ryan Holiday, Joshua Spodek, David Heinemeier Hansson, William B. Irvine, David Deutsch, and also Shakespeare and Seneca could all read, nod and think, ‘Okay. This makes sense,’ then that’d be cool. They stay silent when I write though. But there’s one voice that doesn’t.
And that voice says: ‘Don’t be a pussy’.
And the person saying it is David Choe.
The person behind the voice changes, but at the moment it’s Choe. He just expresses himself and doesn’t give a shit. Yeah, okay, he made a fuckload of money from Facebook so he can afford to, but Choe reminds me that you’re not here for that long, and you probably won’t be remembered too long after you go, so just do what you do, however the fuck you want to do it.
The best writers write like professionals, with honesty, awareness and mindfulness. But also without being pussies.
And someone who balances along that good writing tightrope, without falling into the ‘You write like a pussy’ fiery pit of lava, is Ashlee Vance.
He’s a good journalist, a good writer and seems like a good dude. His writing’s intelligent without being elitist, eloquent without being a wanker and intellectual while still being cool. In the Hello World series, he’s inquisitive like a journalist, but still a relatable bloke.
When I was 15, all I wanted to be is an investigative journalist (my homepage when I dialled-up the internet in 1997 was The Jerusalem Post.) When I was 17, I wrote to every newspaper in Melbourne and soon every well-known sports journo in Melbourne had heard from me. After high school I did a journalism course, dropped out, spent the next few years working as a mechanic, fell back in love with journalism, worked for magazines in Australia and America, and then most recently, I spent the last few years travelling and teaching English. During that last part, I surfed a lot and played and watched a shitload of hockey, which was freaking awesome, but deep down I was also uninspired, unmotivated and sometimes hated life. Over the last year though, I’ve fallen back in love with 3 things: reading, new music, and the one that’s most exciting for me… writing.
William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life made me want to read again, Triple J made me want to listen to new music again and Ashlee Vance’s writing in the Elon Musk book made me want to write again.
Another thing that David Choe (the real one) says is, ‘There’s no such thing as normal, weird or strange… all those words can be used to describe the same thing. We’re all weird, we’re all normal, everyone’s fucked up. Noone’s family’s perfect. That’s life.’