Write Heroes

Professional Heroes

A hero of profession may not have degrees, practices or medals, but they still flaunt their expertise.

Following my previous post I believe that the great heroes of profession, inspiration for treating writing professionally, are not ‘pure’ writers who have spent their lives solely as novelists and storytellers.

They are not ‘pure’ because they came to writing with a professional attitude from elsewhere that enabled them to reach the top.

What unites them are two things – a dedicated, professional approach to their work, and their skill at engaging their audience.

These are the two crucial skills I wish to emulate and formulate the base principles at Considered Words.

Burgess, Dobbs, le Carre, Forsyth

The writers

Writers come in many forms and background. Frederick Forsyth was a journalist when he wrote The Day of the Jackal to the same principles he used at his paper. John le Carré was an MI5 and MI6 agent whose spy series continues to enthrall, Michael Dobbs, ex-MP, created one of the modern age’s most memorable PMs, Francis Urquhart. Similarly, Anthony Burgess was an accomplished musician, teacher and government communications man long before he was a successful author.

I couldn't possibly comment

The union

What unites all these authors, other than being the kind of High Tory who would take a stout stick to me for both having this site and suggesting that they were worthy of emulating, is their positions required audience engagement as vital to success.

Their backgrounds are those that typically require long, thankless working hours that nevertheless hone their skill to a sharp point.

Likewise, their success is based on how successfully they engage their audience – the newspaper reader for Forstyth, his informers and sources for le Carre, votes for Dobbs.

Penless writing heroes

It’s not just writers who are worth emulating.

Mick Jagger is a professional hero of mine, and not just because he was a generous Old Boy to my school (sadly too late for me to benefit).

Not only has he (along with his glimmer twin Keith Richards) written some of the world’s best tunes, much admired by other prominent artists – so much so that Martin Scorsese can’t seem to make a film without using Gimme Shelter – but he got to the top partly through his dedication to his art and engagement with his audience.

The Glimmer Twins

Give us a glimmer

Despite his physiology-defying drug and partying lifestyle, he was dedicated enough to devise his own workout routines at an early age that he followed strictly. When others where hungover, he was working or working out, ensuring that his gigs where full of energy and a pleasure for the audience.

From musicians to ad men, David Ogilvy, is another non-writer whose professional attitude – particulalry his devotion to researching his field – is why I’ve already dissected him at length.

The future

These are just some of the dedicated individuals myself and others will be looking at in our Professional Heroes series.

These profiles will, if not encourage, at least show that there is hope yet to anyone who wants to improve their writing, whatever their background, as long as they dedicate themselves to it, work at it and engage their audience. It’ll require huge work.

But as David Ogilvy once said, “hard work never killed anyone”. And going by Jagger and Richards, it may even offer protection against other things.

By Jonathan Richardson

Jonathan Richardson is a writer and the editor of Considered Words.

He's worked as a journalist, writer and analyst for organisations including the BBC and Which? He's also written for the stage in Cambridge, radio and sketches at the Edinburgh festival.

He's now a freelance writer and data analyst.

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