Catching ire, or how to write a daily column

26 Sep

I have a daily column over at the Vine. It’s the Ten Things roundup. Here’s what the first week looks like:

Monday: Welcome to the Terrordome
Tuesday: Your Frights at Work
Wednesday: Airstrikes for everyone!
Thursday: It was the best of things, it was the blurst of things.

Ten Things was previously ‘the’ thing of Andrew P Street, a man I got to know over a hungover breakfast in Sydney one morning while debating science, sex and satire and who later became on of my most dearest friends. He’s the sort of awesome friend you can text at an unreasonable hour (5am, in my case) and get a reply 10 seconds later. He’s one of the best examples of why writers make the best friends in the world.

When Andrew and his editor Anna Horan offered me the gig, I spent a week thinking about it, dramatically telling everyone I wouldn’t, etc. I knew how much effort APS put into the column and it’s a scary amount of work. Also, because the column is news and politics based, I naturally reacted with BUT I DON’T KNOW NEWS OR POLITICS WHAT? WHO ARE YOU? WOMEN DON’T DOWNPLAY THEIR KNOWLEDGE EVER WHAT? I then spent a week writing mock versions and thought they were ok.

I’m glad I changed my mind.

Here’s how you write one: 

  • Go to all your favourite news sites and apps (Al-Jazeera,, Guardian, Fairfax outlets and Reddit) and watch your half-built computer shit itself from the amount of tabs open.
  • You’ll be looking for articles with certain themes – I aim for local news, world news (US/Europe/Middle East/Africa), science news, Indigenous issues, feminism and science – but the stories need to be 1-2 hours old or be sufficiently interesting/stupid to merit something different/amusing said.
  • Arrange them and the appropriate links for further reading
  • Try to write them quickly and fail – I can’t even admit how long it takes at the moment but I’m aiming to get it down to 1.5-2 hours.
  • Write it in your natural voice – the voice you would use to bitch with your best friend? Use that.
  • Find some funny – the more out there it seems, generally the better it will be.
  • Trust your voice and the reader – writers are notorious second guessers but the more we trust our first instinct, the better our writing can be. Listen to that little voice that says “oh, that reminds me….” and follow it, because connecting information is the most compelling thing a writer can do for readers.
  • But make that trust work for it – you’ve written an item, now push it. Is it funny enough? Does it say something different? Does it capture the situation? Push it until it does.
  • It’s now 2am and you hate the world. Take a selfie, go to bed.
  • Holy fuck it’s 6:30am and the world sucks. Get up, see what news has come in in the four hours you slept, revise if necessary.
  • Reread your work again and edit because you have a shitty habit of typing like an excited cocker spaniel who’s all “LOOK AT ME I AM TYPING BASH BOSH BISH BASH” and forgetting basic grammar, punctuation and sometimes entire clauses.
  • Copy into the CMS while swearing frantically (you’ll be on your 4th smoke for the morning at this point and will have drunk 1 litre of filtered coffee)
  • Post live, share to social media
  • Reread and immediately correct 79% of the mistakes you missed before you hit publish and then republish another 7 times
  • Sleep for an hour, get up and work on other shit
  • Probs take another selfie
  • Reread the piece and work out if you need to do anything differently.
  • Rinse and repeat, motherfuckers

Speaking of, here’s some other work I’ve done recently:

Eric Abetz’s abortion backtrack: an opportunity to study Liberal spin in its natural habitat

The Age:
Sexting: it all comes back to religion

Kings Tribune:
Lewis’ Law and online misogyny,
Quarantining depression,
My 40th job application,
Australia’s useless rage and calm brutality,
Why do we hate the poor?,
St Vitus Dance and modern hysteria

And a bunch of other stuff I’ve forgotten.

Other stuff: 
Books: I have been working on two books of late which are wildly different, impossibly hard to write, all consuming in their focus, challenging to research and have me hopelessly besotted.

Talky: I have a guest lecture session coming up at RMIT soon and continue mentoring sessions with a young group of writers who are supremely wonderful. This all taps into my obsession with talking about writing with other people because I’ve become a complete fanatic in learning how others work, how I work and if there are general lessons available.

NYWF/TiNA: I’m heading up to Newcastle for the writer’s festival and will share a sneak peek at one of the books in  a reading and then do a bunch of panels to talk about writing (see above) and sit in various gutters dodging cockroaches while hanging out with friends. Here’s a list of where I will be when not in the gutter.  If you’re going to be in Recent-castle, please come up and say hi.

3 Responses to “Catching ire, or how to write a daily column”

  1. Hilary September 26, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    perfect. accurate. especially the part about the cocker spaniel.

  2. Jane Bryony Rawson September 26, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    holy crap you work hard. Are either of the books fiction?

  3. matthewzamudio January 3, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    Love your stuff. I follow you on twitter and somehow ended up here. Anyways, I followed you. Follow me back if I’m worthy.


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