The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Writing a column is like creating and solving a puzzle...

Writing a column is a funny exercise. I used to be a stream-of-consciousness kind of guy. That was mainly because at Business Spectator etc we only had soft word limits. It made life pretty easy. Writing for the Financial Review takes more time as I am much more aware of space constraints.

For a while now I have been ruminating on how I would best describe the experience. This morning it occurred to me that it is like creating and then solving a puzzle..

First you have to work out what the puzzle actually is. That requires a lot of insight. Then you need to grind-out the solution. Again, this is a very creative activity. But it is only half the task. The column requires you to next "shape" all the individual parts of the puzzle. This can be complicated and frustrating. Once you have the pieces prepared you have to figure out how to put them together. Another "crafting" challenge.

Much of the time I need to be in a particular head space. I sometimes call it the "zone". If I am in the zone, a column will be extremely quick--less than one hour for around a thousand words. I will then let it sit (or settle). A while later I will review the column a few times to fine-tune its feel.

You are constantly battling the psychological tricks your own mind plays on you: missing words; missing ideas; logical errors, etc. It is hard self-editing immediately after you have produced the product. Often what you "think" you see is a little different to the actual text.

The best columns have an intangible rhythm to them. If I am not in the zone, I don't normally bother. It is excruciatingly painful if I do try to complete the puzzle. I typically just leave it until the next morning. For some reason that is when I find my writing easiest.

For what it is worth, I am punching out this post right now because I am not in the zone, and procrastinating!