Walter Isaacson: Advice for Wanna-Writers

walter isaacson

The world does not lack for advice. It is easy to lay down pronouncements and critiques. Still, if it’s backed by action, it’s worthy of our attention. Any number of adages support this truth: “Actions speak louder than words,” “Show, don’t tell,” and “Don’t just talk the talk–walk the walk.”

Recently my nephew was in the audience at a Washington D.C. speaking engagement for Walter Isaacson. The name was news to me, but a little digging (with a Google shovel) showed that he is president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He also authored a biography of Steve Jobs, the late and much-heralded leader of Apple.

Walter’s advice has to do with writing. The two most memorable ear nuggets he offered my note-taking nephew were these: Don’t own a TV and spend at least two hours writing every day.

Alarmed? If you’re an American with writing ambitions, I can see why. Not own a TV? Oh your God!

Isaacson claims the empty corner gives him three more hours a day over the average person (average persons, you may now wave from your computer monitors).

If I took his advice and dumped my TV, I would save a lot of extortionist cable TV company money, for starters. And I wouldn’t miss it as much as my wife would. I no longer follow any television series to speak of. It’s come down to this: I only watch Red Sox baseball games (and even those serve mostly as background noise while I do other things) and UConn basketball games (admittedly, these exercises in “Jekyll or Hyde tonight?” torture get my undivided).

Could I learn to live without these televised sporting events? Sure. But once the Wicked Witch of the East’s snazzy socks curled up and disappeared under the foundation, there’d be the Wicked Witch of the West to contend with: the surrogate TV I’m watching right now as I type this post.

Uh-huh. Computer time. Every bit the match for TV time when it comes to ambition-suckage. And a distraction I would miss more than my wife would, making us even in our venial sins.

What about two hours of writing a day? This is tougher still for those of us working full time. Especially if, like me, your best hours are first thing in the morning. And you’re due at work by 7 a.m.

True, I could take the Walter I. plunge after supper, but I’m a shell of my former creative being by then. By 7 p.m., fatigue is my muse.

Nevertheless, Walter Isaacson’s are words to mull like unsipped cider. Getting published is not for the faint of heart; it is for serious warriors. Who don’t pay cable TV bills. And who “type the type” for at least two hours a day.

End of wannabe story.


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