There is something inside you constantly threatening to explode; an urgent feeling that simply refuses to be ignored. It keeps you from focusing on conversations. It keeps you from sleeping. It tears at the very fabric of your existence.
Now, unless you have recently ordered the taco salad at Chipotle or travelled interstellar space with Sigourney Weaver, these symptoms suggest you might be a writer.
Ned Hickson knows these feelings well, and recounts some of his own experiences in his latest book Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 Shucking Years as a Columnist.
In many ways, the book is a writer’s version of that dreaded conversation between a child and loving parent/teacher about sex…and it’s just as awkward.
In his own nervously jovial way, Ned tries to encourage writers to explore their budding bodies of work and yet caution them about the challenges that lie ahead without scaring (or scarring) them into creative celibacy.
Without photos or illustrations, Ned routinely contextualizes the lessons he is giving with self-deprecating anecdotes—like that time he walked around a mall for four hours before someone mentioned his participle was dangling. The point being (I think) to highlight that even with these personal failings, he still managed to fool people into reading (and paying for) his stuff.
Given the subtitle, I originally expected this book to be a chronicle of things he’d learned in his day job with Oregon’s Siuslaw News, a newspaper for which he is Editor and writes a syndicated humor column.
Instead, I found a book that covered all aspects of writing from understanding the inherent urges to the mechanics of satisfying wordplay to dealing with the social and legal ramifications of your actions…hunh, this really is about sex.
And speaking of sex, Ned’s book isn’t very long (97 pages) but what he accomplishes in those short, floppy pages is quite effective in nurturing new talent, as well as reminding those of us sliding into senescence why we write.
Whether you are a writer or know someone wanting to act on those urges, I highly recommend Pearls of Writing Wisdom as a way to bolster courage and encourage good practices, and maybe laugh a little.
P.S. If Sigourney Weaver happens to read this review, I would happily risk alien infestation to meet you at the Chipotle of your choosing.
Humor at the Speed of Life (Ned’s blog)
Humor at the Speed of Life (Ned’s other book)
Port Hole Books (Ned’s publisher)