Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hack Writing

Hack writing is a journalist's survival mechanism. And there's nothing wrong with being a hack writer, sort of . ...

Many famous writers have done the hack writing gig, they take the salary and write editorials they don't believe. Example: Michael Foot, later the leader of the British Labour Party, did this early in his career. He wrote for Lord Beaverbrook's conservative papers for many years.

I wrote hack editorials for The Journal of Martinsburg for many years. Give me a topic, a point of view and I could dash out a decent editorial quickly. I much preferred my columns, where until the last year or so I could write as I pleased. The last publisher I worked with though, didn't believe in standing up for his writers and I had to constantly self-censor for the last year or two I was employed by what I hesitate to now call a newspaper.

But back to hack work ... other hack work includes writing pieces quickly just to earn a few bucks and make sure there's cereal, milk, potato chips and tuna around to munch on.

Like a lawyer, a good writer is a chameleon, taking on the job whether he likes his client, or topic, or not. In fact, it's usually weak writers who get all high and mighty about the subject of hack writing.

Yet, in the end, your writing is better if you believe what you write. Orwell wrote in the essay "Why I Write", that his writing didn't really reach its potential until he wrote for a cause, and wrote what he believed. In Orwell's case, that cause was democratic socialism. Whatever a writer's cause, I think Orwell, as usual, was correct. If you really plan to make a mark as a writer, you must move beyond the hack work and take chances.

You have to believe, and you have to write as you please.

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