A week or so I talked about the 130-odd writing books I have in my bookcase, and how I’ve read all but a dozen of them.
Well, I’ve actually read some of them three or four times. Not to learn anything new (although I seem to every time I read them), but to be reassured that I can do it for a living. I can find good ideas. I can find the right magazine to pitch them to. I can find the people I need to interview. I can write the piece and get it published.
But sometimes I need something a little different. Sometimes I need to actually feel what it’s like to be doing it—chasing the stories, finding the interviews, and… well, being a writer.
And that’s where I turn to novels and movies.
Sure, they may be way off the mark compared to reality (though most of the novels I’ve read were written by newspaper reporters). But for me they’re not so much education as inspiration. They help me remember why I’m doing this in the first place, how much better I’ll feel doing it.
I’m sure there are dozens of movies and hundreds of books out there that could do it for me, but here are the ones I’ve found so far that work for me. (If you have any suggestions on what else I can read/watch, please let me know.)
The Jack McMorrow series by Gerry Boyle. I picked up one of the books at the LifeLine Book Fair, and it sat on my bookshelf for ages. Finally got around to reading it, and loved it so much I started scouring second-hand bookshops to find the rest. (And I’ve just found out there’s a new one coming out in May. Woo hoo!)
The Britt Montero series by Edna Buchanan. Can’t quite remember how I got hooked on this series (it may have been after reading an interview with her in Writer’s Digest or something), but I’m glad I did. Not sure how closely this resembles the police beat on a newspaper, but I really don’t care.
The Jack McEvoy books (“The Poet” and “The Scarecrow”) by Michael Connelly. Found out about The Scarecrow on Twitter, and then discovered The Poet also had a newspaper reporter as the main character. Enjoyed them, but it’s a pity Jack got thrown off the story so early in both.
“Dinner for two” by Mike Gayle. Okay, so the main character in this one is a music writer turned agony uncle. But it still gives me the feeling of what it would be like writing for a magazine. And I enjoy his writing.
All the Presidents Men. When I started my journalism course I bought this, watched it, and then read the book. Whenever I got a bit discouraged about my assignments (my court reporting assignment was almost a complete failure) I’d watch this movie and feel like a journalist again.
Finding Forrester. Okay, so this has nothing to do with freelancing or feature writing (well, not much). But after watching this I feel as if the words will come quickly and effortlessly when my fingers hit the keys. And sometimes it actually turns out to be true.
Shattered Glass. Okay, so this may seem like a weird choice. After all, the character turns out to be a complete fraud. But I like to think I can be the writer he pretended to be—the one who met some amazing people and got to write about them.
I’ve probably forgotten a heap of movies and books I have in my collection. But I know there are plenty more books and movies about the writing life I haven’t even heard of. So please, let me know what they are, and what they do for you.
After all, why should my office bookcase get all the attention.