Jason Bess" />
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Sunday, October 1, 2023


Write passionately, get rich

One of the most difficult things about being a writer is often the subject matter, or even finding inspiration for a topic.’

Grammar can be learned, a voice can be developed and with the invention of laptops, most writers have, at their disposal, an arsenal of tools to ease the physical act of writing.’

Yet, even with all of these amenities, many writers stumble when it comes to the inspiration for a work. This is not the case for Bill Bryson.

Bryson is a renowned author of several best selling works, with topics ranging from travel, science, history, linguistics and memoir.’

He has received the James Joyce Award of the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin and the lauded Aventis Award for best general science book with his A Short History of Nearly Everything.’

He has travelled the globe, from Middle America to Britain and Australia, and has even hiked the Appalachian Trail for his A Walk in the Woods.’

This is a man who likes to see and know everything, and who is not content to be labeled as any one particular type of writer.

‘ ‘Quite often writers will get pigeonholed to a certain style or a certain book,’ Bryson said, ‘but what ends up happening is the person just writes the same book over and over again.’

Bryson was in Houston on Monday for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series at Wortham Center.’

A program like this is important for young writers, and Bryson is a shining example of why. The lectures and readings offered by Inprint give aspiring artists a chance to get to know about how their idols work and how they create the masterpieces they have become famous for.’

In addition, Bryson took an hour aside that afternoon to answer questions during a short campus event hosted by the Honors College.’

About 50 students and faculty were present to hear Bryson talk about his early life, his travels and, of course, his newest book, Shakespeare: The World as Stage, but the most memorable moments of that hour were when he spoke of his craft and his approach to it.

As soon as Bryson began answering the questions being peppered at him from all sides of the room, it became apparent why he is such a popular author on such a varied range of topics: he’s quite simply a fascinating person.

And as with most writers, he works at his art every day.

‘ ‘I try to record everything. I take notes all the time,’ Bryson said, ‘but sometimes the things that stick in your memory are the only things worth remembering.’

After enjoying his first cup of coffee in the morning with his wife, Bryson likes to begin writing with his second cup. He feels that as he starts up his computer, his mind is ‘waking up right along with it.’

Once in front of that screen, however, he is all focus. No checking E-mails. No thinking about the seedlings in the greenhouse and how they’re growing. The writing becomes his entire focus.’

He said that after a short time, usually around 90 minutes, he finds that he is completely engrossed in the writing and is happy to do it.

‘ ‘I wake up every morning with that same blank screen and that same sense of dread,’ he said. ‘Although, I think I’m pretty lucky to have to wrestle with this kind of problem every day.’

He also concentrates on writing about topics that are, above all, interesting to him. He is currently writing a book on the culture of households, using each room of his house as a chapter for the book.’

The kitchen chapter will focus on food, the bedroom chapter on sex and so on.’

He said he got the idea sitting at his coffee table staring at a salt and pepper shaker set and musing on why, in every place he’s been, there’s always salt and pepper on the table instead of, say salt and cinnamon.

It is often easy to forget that writers of the caliber of Bill Bryson are regular people, with the same hurdles to clear as any other writer. Upon hearing Bryson speak, it’s obvious that he is good at what he does because of one reason – he loves it – and that’s the best advice he had for everyone there to see and hear him.

‘ ‘Always do what interests you,’ Bryson said, ‘but try to find a way to get paid, too.’

Jason Bess is a communication junior and may be reached at [email protected].’

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