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Friday, March 16, 2012

If you find writing hard — if you have ever been put off writing — you must read this

Stephen Fry is the impossibly accomplished actor and writer who makes both acting and writing look easy.

Fry, who played the brainy Jeeves in the Jeeves & Wooster television series and who has also written some very funny books, says, however, that writing is hard work; he always heaves a sigh of relief when he has managed to meet a deadline. He also quotes Thomas Mann on the subject: “A writer,” said Mann, “is a person for whom writing is more difficult than for other people.”


Fry began writing seriously poetry, stories, and novels when he was about thirteen. But the novels were always abandoned, usually half way through the second chapter. Fry writes: "It took my friend Douglas Adams [author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] to encourage me to go further and he did this by pointing out that the reason I had never managed to finish a novel was that I had never properly understood how difficult, how ragingly and absurdly difficult, it is to do. 'It is almost impossibly hard,' he told me. 'It is supposed to be. But once you truly understand how difficult it is,' he added, with signature paradoxicality, 'it all becomes a lot easier.'"

Fry then offers encouragement to aspiring writers:

If any of you out there have ever been put off writing it might well be because you found it so insanely hard and therefore, like me, gave up and abandoned your masterworks early, regretfully assuming that you weren’t cut from the right cloth, that it must come more easily to true, natural-born writers. Perhaps you can start again now, in the knowledge that since the whole experience was so grindingly horrible you might be the real thing after all.

Of course finding it difficult and managing to complete are just the first stages. They are what earn you the uniform and the brass buttons, as it were. They don’t guarantee that what you complete is any good, or even readable. That is quite a different kettle of wax, a whole other ball of fish.

Read the instructive post in its entirety here: "Emerging into the Light".
  • Time magazine commissioned Stephen Fry to go to Apple headquarters and write about the iPad back in April 2010 when the iPad was about to make its debut. Reading the article Fry turned in provides a unique insight into why Apple is today the world's most valuable company in the world by market capitalisation:
When I eventually got my hands on [an iPad], I discovered that one doesn't relate to it as a "tool"; the experience is closer to one's relationship with a person or an animal.

I know how weird that sounds. But consider for a moment. We are human beings; our first responses to anything are dominated not by calculations but by feelings. What Ive and his team understand is that if you have an object in your pocket or hand for hours every day, then your relationship with it is profound, human and emotional. Apple's success has been founded on consumer products that address this side of us: their products make users smile as they reach forward to manipulate, touch, fondle, slide, tweak, pinch, prod and stroke.

Read the cover story here.