Olivetti Letra 22 - courtesy Wikicommons

How To Be A Writer

Posted 3 years, 9 months ago

When I gradauted from college, I knew what I wanted to do.

I was going to be a writer.

But to be a writer, I needed something to write about.  

So I hitch-hiked overland from London to Kathmandu, Nepal.

In those days, it was easy. A lot of people were doing it. Today, you would be taking your live in your hands.

When I went thorugh Italy, I bought myself a small (by those standards) Olivetti portable typewriter.  This, I schlepped across Central Asia to Nepal.

When I finally got to Kathmandu, I checked into the Kathmandu Guest House on Thamel, got out my typewriter and started writing.

Instead of writing my Great American Novel (or in this case, my Great American Travel Adventure Book), I wrote a letter.  

A very long letter.

About 20 pages long.

I wrote to Peter Matthiessen, the very successful author of man great books, including The Snow Leopard, which I had read about 5 times and which to a great extent influenced my decision to get to Kathmandu.

"Dear Mr. Matthiessen, " I wrote... "I have always wanted to be a writer..."

You get the idea.

When it was done, I took my letter over to the post office in Kathmandu and, putting on three times the required postage to make sure it go there, mailed off my letter.

Much to my surprise and delight, about a month later, I got a letter from Peter Matthiessen.

Tearing up the rather large envelope, I was surprised to find that he had returned my original letter to him.  

But he had read it, because across the top, in bright red letters he had written:  "If you want to write, write. But don't write to me." And signed it, "Peter Matthiessen".

This, it turned out, was the best advice I had ever gotten, and it is advice that I passed onto the many students I tried to teach journalism and film making.

If you want to make films or videos, just go out and make films and videos.  

Like writing, they will be terrible in the beginning. But the more you do it, the better you get.  It's more a matter of practice, and maturing and growing as you go.  Keep at it.  Keep writing. Keep shooting.

This is why I am offering this 40-minute film school on Thursday.

I am going to explain the basics. The grammar, the fundamentals of making a great film or video.

After that, as with writing, it's pretty much 99% pracatice and refinement.  Over and over.

Which is why I think it is criminal to charge students tens of thousands of dollars for 'film school'.  Or 'writer school' for that matter. 


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