Sunday, September 9, 2012

Two years as columnist: still not worth a hill of beans


At a dinner for the writers who'd appeared at Wellington's Writers and Readers' Week in March this year, a visitor from the UK mentioned that he'd read my column in that morning's newspaper. That particular column had been about my time at the Perth Writers Festival the fortnight previous ("if you're lucky a well-respected novelist will skull the last of their wine and admit they think their most recent book is by far their worst"). 

I made the sort of pat, 'Watch out, I might write about you!' joke that I don't find funny but persist in making. Ha ha ha.

Wine glasses were emptied and refilled. Emptied and refilled.

At some point in the evening we got in a heated discussion about Woody Allen.

For badmouthing the execrable Midnight in Paris I got a hand shoved over my bad mouth.

'Say what you will about his recent films,' said my interlocutor, his sweaty palm still pressed against my lips, 'but you mustn't say a bad word against him. The man is a genius.'

My eyes, cartoon-wide, stayed that way even when he withdrew his hand.

He then said something embarrassing about me being a good writer (based on a snippet of a short story he'd heard me read a few days ago that the wine had ratcheted up to something approaching significance) and that my column wasn't worth a hill of beans. In the great wash-up, it was only proper literature (and, I suppose, films) that mattered.

I nodded. I agreed. At least that my column wasn't worth much. I mean how could it compare to a hill of beans?

The image in my head is a Mayan pyramid of baked bean tins, but perhaps he was thinking of a large mound of dried kidney beans or a verdant pile of freshly picked runners? All three crop up on a Google Image Search for "hill of beans" and all three would surely trump a fortnightly 500-word braindump. I mean, a hill of beans would feed a lot of people. Okay, a hill of beans might need a bit of security or someone to patrol for vermin, but it wouldn't come with the same sense of constant failure (failure to be interesting, failure to be funny, failure to be topical, failure to avoid the humblebrag) and the dread that any day you'll get the email that tells you you've been shitcanned. Format changes. New directions. Thanks and best wishes in future endeavours.

But so far, this email hasn't come.

It's been two whole years, which means 52 columns (as of Saturday). Marcus Lush (I think) recently said on Twitter that most columnists only have three good columns in them. Hopefully I write those three before I get that metaphorical sweaty palm across my lips and am told there's no slot for me next Saturday.

En masse, these 52 columns might not be worth a literal or a proverbial hill of beans, but if you stand back far enough, it's neat (yes, I just said 'nea't) that I've been paid to write about:
  1. Writers with day jobs, coming out (as a writer)
  2. Engagements, diamonds, crazy fiancés
  3. Paper books, vandalism, my father
  4. Music, getting old
  5. Short story competitions, mingling, Lloyd Jones
  6. Koru lounges, first times
  7. Paint colours, advertising
  8. Getting up early, writers with day jobs
  9. Weight gain, Don DeLillo
  10. Blood donation, squeamishness, cancer
  11. Agapanthus, pure hatred
  12. Week in the life, writers with day jobs
  13. Buttermoons, wedding prep, Vietnam
  14. New music, getting old
  15. Old teachers, receiving praise, gesundheit
  16. Airport terminals, Singapore
  17. De facto wedding anniversaries, gifts
  18. The internet, research, Moby Dick
  19. Writers festivals, Auckland, Sydney
  20. Travel envy, brothers, Alexander the Great
  21. Landlords, Edinburgh, mullets
  22. Writers with part-time jobs
  23. Kiwis, research, Zealandia
  24. Wedding prep, music, Stevie Wonder
  25. Poetry, furniture polish, Ian Wedde
  26. Libraries, writing, plumbers
  27. Writers festivals, Melbourne, Titirangi
  28. Skin cancer, sunscreen, Vikings
  29. Bad reviews, McDonalds
  30. The internet, privacy, shame
  31. Friends, double-booking, weddings
  32. Stag parties, cross-dressing, heights
  33. Weddings, the big day
  34. Honeymoons, Germans, mistakes
  35. Honeymoons, B&Bs, mistakes
  36. Deadlines, writing, blowouts
  37. Architecture, substations, Wellington
  38. Albatross, Otago Peninsula, awe
  39. Writers festivals, Perth, hotel bars
  40. Writers festivals, Wellington, ambushes
  41. House hunting, open homes
  42. House hunting, first home buyers, tenders
  43. Translations, short stories, shame
  44. Architecture, council housing, Wellington
  45. The Queen (smiling), gin and Dubonnet
  46. Short story competitions, judging, Grizz Wyllie
  47. Doctors, men, Monty Python
  48. Track pants, mistakes, pyromania
  49. DIY, homeownership, Donald Rumsfeld
  50. Job interviews, Australians
  51. Impending fatherhood, names, advertorials
  52. The past, First Crossings, Bear Grylls

Of course, the hope is that during this time I've been doing something that might amount to more than a hill of beans. Perhaps it's THE NOVEL. Perhaps it's the bump I wrote about in column #51 (a well I will no doubt return to, craven and unapologetic, a few more times before December). Who knows? Who cares? Sometimes it's just nice to have a deadline and the chance to talk about track pants. 

It sure beats a sweaty hand across your mouth.

1 comment:

Ana E said...

Do you know the 2 biggest reasons men and women stop exercising?

1) Lack of time
2) Lack of motivation

Let's tackle "Lack of Time" today with 5 ways you can get your
workouts done faster. After all, no one should spend more than 50
minutes in the gym.

Here are 5 ways to cut time from your workouts.

a) Supersets

I use "non-competing" superset. This means, choose two exercises
for different muscle groups - and preferably completely opposite
movements. For example, choose a push and a pull. That way, one
muscle group rests while the other works...and you cut the rest
time you need between sets.

b) Choose a better warm-up strategy

Don't waste 10 minutes walking on the treadmill. Instead, use a
total body circuit of bodyweight exercises as a general warm-up, and
then move directly into specific warm-up sets for your first two
exercises.

c) Pair dumbbell and bodyweight exercises together in your
supersets

This saves you time at home (you don't need to change the dumbbell
weight between exercises) and in the gym (you don't need to fight
for 2 sets of dumbbells).

d) Choose Intervals over slow cardio

The latest research shows more weight loss when people use
intervals, and intervals take half as long to do.

e) Limit the use of isolation exercises

Pick multi-muscle exercises, such as squats, pulls, pushes, and
rows. If you have time, you can squeeze in some dropsets for arms
and shoulders if you want. However, if you only have 3 sessions of
45 minutes per week, isolation exercises must be the first to go.

In addition, don't spend more than 10 minutes per week on direct ab
training. It's not efficient and won't give you rock hard abs
alone.

Get your very own copy of Turbulence Training & the Nutrition Guide here: ===> 5 Ways to Cut Your Workout Time <=====

Workout less, live life more,

Craig Ballantyne, CTT
Certified Turbulence Trainer
Creator of Turbulence Training

PS - Don't know where to start?

If you are a beginner, start by reading Dr. Mohr's nutrition
guidelines...eating properly will be the biggest factor in your
early success.

Beginners should also start with the Introductory TT workouts to
prepare their muscles for the upcoming intense training.

For others, it's best to start with the Intermediate Level TT
workouts. If those aren't enough of a challenge, you can move onto
the Original TT workout and follow the 16-week advanced program
right through.

If at any time you need a break, try the TT Bodyweight 4-week plan.

And then finish off with the TT Fusion Fat Loss program followed by
the 30-day Maximum Fat Loss program to cap off a full 24 weeks of
Advanced TT fat loss workouts.

After that, choose between the TT for Women or TT for Muscle
programs to help put the finishing touches on your physique. All of
these are included as bonuses with Turbulence Training.

Get started on the road to fat loss with your very own copy of
Turbulence Training, ALL of the bonuses, & the Nutrition Guide here: ===> Fast fat loss workouts... <=====