How to become a rich and famous columnist

I am in the writing racket and a student has asked me to please go ahead with some pointers on how to become rich and famous as a columnist. Now my wife wants to know where I am hiding all that money...

Jack Engelhard, | updated: 06:05

Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Once in a while against my better judgment, I teach a master class on writing. Writing, as we know, is not a perfect science, so there isn’t much to teach, except to practice…practice, to borrow the advice on music when someone asked Heifetz for directions to Carnegie Hall. Some say it wasn’t Heifetz, but the advice still stands.

For some reason, the best student in my class is Gilda, yes, like the movie, with Glenn Ford, in which Rita Hayworth is so sensational. In class, it’s no secret that Gilda is my favorite. She’s from Finland. I like that about her, and how she puts in double time on the American language and the craft. Practice…practice, that she does.

She is resolutely serious about writing and for the longest time, she tried fiction, for which I could never give her a good grade. I suggested she try essays – column or blog writing. She handed in an opinion piece. I said it needs work, but it’s much better, indeed, with practice, the way to go.

Why, she asked, is the narrative voice so different from the one to the other – from my novels to my columns. In the novel, then, opinions and characterizations vary from one extreme to another, and a wise novelist will let the chips fall where they may. In writing Opinion, the writer is generally restricted to a single point of view.

I explained that a novel operates in a separate universe. Different people live there. I say so best in this novel, where I say of someone, “He can write. But he is not a writer.”

There’s a world of difference between the two, but nearly impossible to explain.

As for opinion prose, no one did it better than Mike Royko, or does it better than Mark Steyn or my teammate at Arutz Sheva, Giulio Meotti.

Almost forgot – Oriana Fallaci, who taught everybody, including this writer, the blood and guts it takes to make art.

Okay, Gilda saw the future, for her at least, so column-writing it would be, because, she said, “I want to be rich and famous like you.”

About rich, my wife, I explained, would like to know where I am hiding all that money, and about famous, honest, I have relatives who still do not know what I do for a living. Mostly that’s the case among extended family I haven’t seen for a while, who slap me on the back, saying, “So, how’s it going in the advertising racket?”

No, Harry, I am in the writing racket…and so Gilda has asked me to please go ahead with some pointers on how to become rich and famous as a columnist, and perhaps, she suggested, I’d want to do a series on the subject, since there is so much to say. Agreed! So, upon the proposition that there 100 rules and regulations, but for another day, we’ll start with…

Number 1 – Never assume that today’s readers have a sense of humor. Those days are gone. So don’t even try.

They will misunderstand nuance, irony and whimsy and because they take everything so literally and so
People stopped laughing for the joy of it in 1968. From then on it’s been heartbreak hotel. Even Seinfeld now stays close to home...won't go to any college campus.
seriously, they will react angrily and try to skin you alive.

People stopped laughing for the joy of it in 1968. From then on it’s been heartbreak hotel. Even Seinfeld now stays close to home. He won’t take his comedy on the road to any college campus. The kids have become so humorless, so grim and so intolerant. The light’s gone out. They sit as jurors. Every word must conform to PC standards. Otherwise it makes them “uncomfortable.”

2. The best writers make you uncomfortable. Just now the American Library Association snubbed Laura Ingalls Wilder for failure to meet community values. How odd!

Once a year, the ALA celebrates books that have been banned. Now even they do the Index.

3. Trust your friends to read you, get you, and like you.

4. Nonsense. Writers have no friends. It’s dog eat dog.

5. Never read the comments or the reviews. The good ones you won’t believe and the bad ones will break your heart.  

6. Never write anything unfavorable about Donald Trump. That’s a mild caution.

7. Never write anything favorable about Donald Trump. That’s a warning. You won’t be doing lunch anywhere anymore.

8. On Israel, write about it only as if King David is looking over your shoulder. If Tom Friedman is more your style, then you are both on the wrong side of history.

9. On politics in general, be the cool head in the crowd. Stay neutral and objective and speak for both sides of the argument.

10. Unfortunately, that means neither side will respect you in the morning.

11. Do not let your spouse read your column, if it’s only praise you’re after. Who needs the grief?

12. Keep in mind – few of us can truly call ourselves writers, but everybody’s a critic.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He is the author of the international book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and most recently the two inside journalism thrillers “The Bathsheba Deadline” and “News Anchor Sweetheart, Hollywood Edition.” Engelhard is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com




 



 








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