To Serve, And Protect, The Story

A few years ago, in the first few rumbles of the H1-B avalanche that cut the legs out from under a whole generation of young men who had dutifully followed the advice of their guidance counselors into comp-sci degrees, I learned a fascinating phrase: “do the needful.” Indian men of a certain age say it as shorthand for handle your business. “Krishna, we haven’t had a software deployment in three days, so if you do the needful I will restart the broker service.” The Millennials from the subcontinent consider it very fuddy-duddy, like saying “Daddy-O” or, come to think of it, “fuddy-duddy.”

Anyway, last week I “did the needful” and checked my LinkedIn mailbox. It would be difficult for me to adequately express my contempt for the entire concept of LinkedIn in any context other than perhaps an opera of Wagnerian scale and dynamic range. I can see it now, actually. The incomparable Renee Fleming belting out that G6 while she plunges a flaming sword into the heart of LinkedIn’s founder on a Parthenon-esque stage made from the bleached-white bones of every “marketing professional” in the United States, floating in a moat of blood drawn from the jugular of every woman who has ever used “dialogue” as a verb in a meeting. The chorus swells with a threatening minor. Certain chairs in the audience are connected to 500,000 volts of power, frying the skullcaps right off anyone who works for a consulting firm in any main-office capacity. Jesper Christensen leans over to the woman next to him and quips, “Well, Tosca is not for everyone!” You get the idea.

I have to “do the needful” periodically because every once in a great while someone of interest will contact me. Last month I heard from the fellow who sold me my 911 fifteen years ago. I’d given him up for dead. The vast majority of my Inbox, however, consists of LinkedIn spam and “connection” attempts from third-tier PR staff at electronics-accessory companies. Lately, however, I’ve started to notice a new trend: people who want some sort of advice from me about “becoming a writer”.

Here again we can perform a sort of rough reduction. Most of the people who say they want to “be a writer” want nothing of the sort. What they want is to be an autowriter. They want to be the person who attends twenty overseas press events a year, staying at five-star hotels and adding passport stamps at a (Lewis) Hamiltonian pace. They want to drive Chirons and Aston Martins and Bentleys. They want to have an Instagram chock-full of beautiful scenery and exclusive dining. In short, they want to be Basem Wasef, the handsome and cheerful world traveler whose byline can be found small-print-buried beneath the text that grudgingly accompanies the manunfacturer-provided photography for every one-percenter-focused automobile in every glossy travel magazine in every airport bookstore.

I don’t blame them. Basem is quite a fellow. I’d trade places with him, I think. He’s probably asleep in British Airways First Class right now as we speak, jet-setting between two fabulous vacation destinations with a serene expression on his unlined countenance. By contrast, I just had a seven-dollar-and-thirty-seven-cent lunch which I ate on a barstool while trying to rub the pain out of my right wrist and left knee at the same time before walking up a hill back to my degrading day job. In the rain. The worst thing I can say about the man is that he came awfully late to the ownership of a Porsche 993. In this, he is not alone. Tony, Larry, Basem, and all the other media-job 993 nouveauwners are like people who heard Vampire Weekend’s “Unbelievers” on the radio and said I GOTTA GET ME SOME OF THAT FROM THE NEW VAMPIRE BAND WHOEVER THEY ARE. But that’s just me being bitter, largely because the left front bumperette on my impeccably-provenanced 993 fell off while I was parking it last month.

Allow me to return to the point. When these would-be Wasefs think about their future in the automotive business, they think almost exclusively about what they will be doing and very little, if at all, about what they will be writing. They have innocently, and correctly, internalized the mechanics of the business. The trips and the perks and the parties are the point of being an automotive journalist. The writing is besides the point. It’s just how you sing for your supper. If you want to understand why so much of the text-and-context in this business would not pass muster in a freshman college comp course, well, that’s why. It’s not meant to. The people who wrote it weren’t trying to write something memorable or even passable. They were just doing the needful so they could get on the plane to the next trip.

I rarely, if ever, respond to anybody who writes me about “getting press cars” or “how do u get on the trips their cool” or “I want to drive a new Ferrari when it come out”. Those people can, and should, correspond with their local automotive press association, who will tell them how to get on the gravy train. I don’t have time for them, whether or not they ever achieve their “dream”. They are aspirants to the status of background noise, roughly equivalent to would-be backup dancers for Katy Perry. The only way I’ll ever notice them again is if they Left Shark their way into ignominy Scott Evans style.

There are exceptions to the above. Rare exceptions, but real ones. People who want to be writers. Writers whose subject of choice happens to be automotive or automotive-related. That’s a very different thing from being a mere autowriter. It’s the gap between Csaba Csere and LJK Setright. Regardless of their individual merit, you have to agree that one of them stuck doggedly to a hoary, ragged script while the other one tore it up, urinated copiously upon it, then refashioned it into a papier-mache statue of Louis Rene Panhard which he then drowned in a pool of often misappropriated allusions to the classical era or high-school-level engineering doggerel.

What follows is my advice to the would-be writer. It is very simple. Be a servant of the story. This is a basic brief indeed but it has wide-ranging implications. To be a servant of the story is to be in thrall to the story. That’s an old phrase, “in thrall”, thick with connotations feudal, religious, and sexual. It connotes that you have no power, that you will do what the story requires, with no more free will than a bound slave could express.

When you are in thrall to the story, then you will seek it out. You will be a good listener. You will truffle-hunt, rooting up the actions and thoughts and feelings and motivations of your interviewees, your friends, your lovers. Go on. Tell me more. It is said of Michaelangelo that he saw David in the stone and merely chipped enough to let him out. You will listen, read, observe. You will chip until the story is revealed.

If the story is about you, then you will serve the story by being truthful. You will not Mary Sue yourself. You will present your body and soul to the world unedited and unretouched. Oddly enough, most of us who choose this vocation are relatively okay with that level of self-abnegation. The problem comes when you have to do the same to others. The mark of a poor writer is that his lens is Zeiss-sharp when it observes strangers but it seems to wander out of focus when it is pointed at people whom he admires or desires. I do not mean that you have to be cruel. To the contrary. Be truthful, and remember the quote that Mr. Rogers was said to have carried in his pocket: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love, once you’ve heard their story.” That’s a burden that would have staggered Atlas, but it is fair.

Understand that nothing matters until it becomes a story. Nothing is understood. The story is what makes it possible for us to go on. The first storytellers came into existence trying to explain the sun, the moon, the earth, the wind and rain. When you hear the thunder and do not run or cower like a child, it is because you have derived power from a story, an explanation. If you have the belief that life is anything but a series of unspeakable and random cruelties visited upon the weakest and poorest among us, then you are in the grip of a story.

The story is how we assign meaning after the fact, whether we are #ShoutingOurAbortion or gazing at the folded flag on the coffin of our only child. The story has power. It justified slavery and then it ended slavery. It afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Sometimes it does the reverse — hello, autowriters. The story is all that matters. Everything you see, hear, think, feel, and experience is grist for the mill of the story. In the end you, too, will be ground beneath it, grist for someone else.

No individual human being has the power of a story. Stories survive after the mere facts disappear to dust, whether the subject is Beowulf or Christ or Rosa Parks. If you wish to traffic in the currency of eternity, you will serve the story. It is your only chance, and a slight one at that. Otherwise you are here and gone. Two vast and trunkless legs of stone, and all of that.

Not everyone is cut out to serve the story. Nobody does it perfectly. Your failure is predetermined, trust me. The vast majority of what you write will be worthless even to yourself. Still. Somebody has to do it. Somebody has to take up Milton’s torch and explain the ways of God to man. Even if you do not believe in God. If that is your desire — if the story has more power for you than a free flight to Tenerife or a fine dinner or a babbling valediction from the bought-and-paid jesters of the automotive circus — then I am here, and you may ask what you will. I will share that road with you, even if we do not know where it leads. It was once the custom to mark slaves, to mark those who were in thrall. I am so marked. You may recognize me by it. See if you recognize yourself.

55 Replies to “To Serve, And Protect, The Story”

  1. Watchseeker

    So, is Csaba Csere the shill or LJK Setright?
    Honestly, I’ve never heard of Setright, but I read quite a bit of Csaba Csere.

    • rich

      Setright (deceased) used to write for CAR magazine in the UK. He was a gifted writer, who happened to write about cars. Like Jack, actually !

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Csaba wasn’t really a shill by profession, although near the end of his career he did do a lot of advertorial work.

      I was thinking of him as an example of someone who never deviated from the autojourno playbook and never worried about the intrinsic value of his prose.

      • Watchseeker

        Do you remember a guy name Satch Carlson? He wrote for Autoweek back in the mid-late 80’s. He had a Saab 900 Turbo that I think he called “Blackbird”. I always enjoyed his work and your work actually reminds me quite a bit of his.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I’m very familiar with Satch. Read him all the way to his death/retirement in Bimmer magazine. Thank you!

  2. Foxy Wolverton

    This is good. And a nice happenstance to the day job; reviewing and editing reams of interview statements concerning all manners of sexual harassment / discrimination claims arising at a major R1 research university. I write all damn day – telling the tales of the naked University. Its’ certainly sharpened my skillset. Geo-specific Grindr blackmail need not be a dry topic (and I’ll have an article for you at some point Jack). You’ve stated it before, as have others – if you want to write, you have to write every damn day. Something, anything, just write.

    As much as I’d like to be writing about cars, it is not going to happen anytime soon, and at most, may turn into a hobby. I’d rather live vicariously through you and some others. Maybe I’ll say hi at the track. The lot of those seeking advice should do the same.

    One thing I’ve admired about you and Zach Bowman to some extant, is that your writing recognizes that your “id” has consistently driven you towards a series of “unique” life choices that make for great copy. Some might call those destructive. In my daily work, I’d be referring you and your associates to counseling for certain specified conditions. But, all things considered, your bare knuckle honesty keeps me engaged. Aspiring writers – if you do not have this, pray that you can offer wit, or that you can tell a tale in the manner of Peter Egan.

    At some point, I hope I can turn a phrase like the “prime real estate of a woman’s birthday suit.” without a second thought.

  3. zzrist

    So much this. The lack of respect for writing as a craft is appalling. A great writer is every bit the product of talent and work ethic that a star athlete or brilliant scientist is. The idea that anyone can be a Writer is as misguided as thinking that anyone can play in the NBA if they just try hard enough.

    In reality, the most plodding 7′ skinny guy at the end of the bench would absolutely own any gym rat in the nation. In the literary world, Daniel Defoe’s output was near-superhuman (almost as if he wrote something every waking hour of his adult life); committed bon vivant Ernest Hemingway blocked off at least four hours of every day and partied around that schedule.

    Nothing of the bloggist era will survive into the future. Whereas oldies of a certain type fondly remember their automotive and motorcycling passion being fueled by the likes of Peter Egan columns in the 80s, a year from now nobody will give a shit about some dork who punched out several words about driving the new Lexus RC200t.

    Ours is a trash culture and autobloggists spearhead our steady debasement of millenia-old cultural values, all in service of mammon. It’s doing all our heads in. Commentists like us are another indicator: we’re all clamoring to be heard and few of us have anything of real import to say.

    /just had to get the poison out

    • Foxy Wolverton

      Lets set aside “commentists like us.” Many of us here are not clamoring and need not have something particularly important to say. Its a conversational medium- I enjoy reading Jack and Bark, and engaging with them and the audience. Its nice to see Nate drop a line and say hi.

      I discovered Egan in the 90’s, and I confess, I’ve never read one of his motorcycle columns. Peter strikes me as the Norman Rockwell of the columnist world. Rockwell once said that he “paints life as I would like it to be” and that is what Egan does, at least for me.

      • zzrist

        Point taken. The lack of edit or delete button on this site creates a certain self-loathing when one posts in haste or under the influence.

        The healthy interactions on the best sites can be really fun and rewarding. Bikes Out for Harambe was fantastic for me, for example.

      • Harry

        I second the conversational medium. Even when I don’t post post a comment or reply to one I often compose one in my head. Sometimes that is still the best conversation of my day.

        • Harry

          Perfect example, the “still” from the third sentence refers back to a sentence I deleted for not adding anything to the comment. There it hangs, like a turd stuck in a dogs ass.

  4. Dirty Dingus McGee

    I learned, many years ago, that I would NOT be the “Next Great Writer”. Like most other types of “art” (and great writing definitely is an art), it’s nigh impossible to learn to do it at a superb level. Most writers are plodders, and the truly great ones are rare. It’s not just a matter of using big words, or esoteric phrases (see what I did there?), its the talent to have it make sense AND keep the reader interested.
    I resigned myself to the reality that I’m a much better reader than writer.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Only tangentially. It’s been abandoned next to the skatepark where my son and I ride on Wednesday nights. I’ve been wondering what its story is.

  5. ComfortablyNumb

    I’m trying to read the rest of the article, but my mind is stuck on “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit”.

  6. 98horn

    Got as far as LJK Setright…stopped to look him up. Read his article on how to spend 540,000 pounds on cars…stopped to look up Bristol Blenheim, mentioned as an acceptable alternative to a Bentley…found a WWII British bomber…couldn’t be right. Looked up Bristol Blenheim car, and found the quote of the day. “Tony Cook, undisputed emperor of Bristol Motor Cars [is a] short-tempered multi-millionaire who believes that anyone who can’t afford a Bristol is in no position to judge it….”(Robert Farago, TTAC) Too right, old boy, too right. Thanks for educating me Jack!

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The merely rich drive Bentleys. The wealthy drive Rolls-Royces. But Bristols are for the aristocracy, old boy.

  7. KingMAB

    “Do the needful” has become a bit of a running joke in the office since we started having regular interactions with the global team. Part insult, part quiet acknowledgement.

    • ltcftc

      Have you come across the term “pre-poned” yet? Yes, it’s the opposite of postponed and used instead of “made it earlier”.

  8. Tietonian

    You have alluded to your hatred of LinkedIn several times here and other places. Why do you dislike it so?

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      It’s a hugely cynical data farm that runs on two kinds of people:

      * People pretending to be corpo-speak shitbags when they are not;
      * Corpo-speak shitbags.

      It’s the worst.

      • Tietonian

        I’m a Materials Science undergrad and all the career services types recommend using it. I’ve not found it to be particularly useful. Still can’t find a Summer internship…

        • 98horn

          If career services people knew anything about how to get a good job, they wouldn’t be working in career services. You need to network-actually get out (in a good suit) to industry events, introduce yourself, shake hands, and look people in the eyes. It may help if you know what industry you want to go into and focus on that (e.g. automotive, medical devices, ect.). It doesn’t matter what you know, it matters who you know.

        • Djarum

          I actually found it semi-useful when I lost my job a year ago. It allowed me to make contact with folks I worked with whereas facebook couldn’t quite provide me with the contacts. On the whole though, I agree with Jack, its overall pretty terrible. The content, or articles if you will, are overrun with writers who really can’t write and have very little real knowledge about what they write about.

          • zzrist

            That’s what linked-in is for me: it helps me keep track of former colleagues so that we can help each other out when Shit Corp decides they don’t want to pay long-serving employees anymore.

            However, the enterprise system sales douches I have to deal with occasionally are always on at me about “building my brand” on linked-in. Screw. That.

    • Frank Galvin

      As my brother in law described it: Facebook for the unemployed or about to be unemployed. It does serve one purpose, any company that is half-assing a background check or wants to hire an inside or preferred candidate can print out the LinkedIn profile and PDF and throw it into the requisition paperwork. Presto – Qualified! Worked for me.

  9. Ronnie Schreiber

    There’s a strong OCD gene in my family, probably both sides when I think about it. When I started shooting in 3D, I’d take photos of every car at an auto show or concours, filling a couple of 4 meg SD cards sometimes. At the same time, I like to talk to people and a while back at the concours at St. John’s I was really enjoying hanging out with some of the owners, listening to their cars’ stories and theirs too and the light bulb went on. Most people like to read stories about people, not about machines.

    I don’t like calling myself a journalist. If I’m not mistaken, in the 19th century the word meant amateur, someone who kept journals of their pursuits. I’m old enough to remember when most reporters for most major newspapers and news agencies were not graduates of J schools, trying to save the world. If people ask, I say that I write.

    I have no training as a writer and never took a single college level English or writing course. I did, however, learn the basics of English grammar when stuff like diagramming sentences and the proper use of commas was taught. I’m not a great writer, but I’m good enough to have had my work solicited, and some gifted writers like our host here and Roger L. Simon over at PJMedia have encouraged me.

    Still, the fact that I can get paid to do this says something about deteriorated standards.

    I once asked a friend, a gifted graphic artist who can tell you exactly why Norman Rockwell was a great artist and a longtime college art instructor, how I could learn how to draw. It would come in handy for my embroidery business if I could draw better. He told me to get a pencil and draw for 30 minutes a day. I asked him what about technical things like perspective. “Oh, you can learn that in seconds, but to really know how to draw, you just have to do it.”

    When people ask me about working as a writer I tell them to just keep writing until they find their own voice.

    • Frank Galvin

      Ronnie – the fact that you get paid is not an indictment of standards, certainly not deteriorating. If anything, the fact that you have an audience speaks to a positive; the wide dissemination of interesting material. The indictment should be leveled at shit social media aggregators whose articles are barely comprehensible, or the state of the news reporting industry in general.

  10. Robert

    From someone who appreciates your work:

    H1-B Avalanche? Cut the legs out from CS grads?

    The number of H1Bs issued (65k undergrad and 20k advanced degree holders) and the tech industry’s general use (~65% of all H1B visa holders go to tech industry jobs) has been fairly static.

    Hyperbole aside, US CS grads are the highest % to have a job within six months post graduation (depending on which states you follow they are either a point or two behind or ahead of military science grads).

    Depending again on your preferred source of industry stats there’s something approximating 300k CS degree related jobs getting created annually. Lop half off for industry hires and the fact that I don’t personally believe those industry provided numbers accurately represent net (I’ll buy gross growth), and we are still at 150k job openings for new grads. We aren’t pumping out half that many CS grads.

    Finally, having done lots of industry hiring I 1) don’t use linked in for shit and 2) use H1Bs when I can’t solve it otherwise and only as last preference. I want warm bodies and will take a trainable eager college grad (admittedly a growingly rarified find) who can start NOW as my second preference, with my first being a known internal hire who is good that I can steal away from some shitty manager.

    For at least another two decades CS is the equivelant to the 1950’s auto manufacturing job in modern America. Generally upper middle class wages, enviable benefits, and no small number getting high during lunch. And like all waves these jobs are likely doomed in the knowable future, less by foreigners and more by automation.

    BTW: as an aside for future consideration, some of the best Development managers I’ve known were also musicians. Music as code, or some such? The connection has always intrigued me.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      “Music as code” — that’s basically the theme of Godel, Escher, Bach.

      Saying ’65k a year’ doesn’t really do the scope of the program justice.

      There is widespread evidence, albeit often anecdotal, that many of those unlimited “research” H1-Bs are actually just tech workers.

      If you fired a million auto workers, someone would notice. This country fired a million tech workers and replaced them with H1-Bs. And that doesn’t even take into account the amount of offshoring done by the Evil Empire of Wipro, Accenture, and IBM.

      • Djarum

        From the article “programmers and software applications engineers, especially with advanced degrees”.

        While the number of advanced degree individuals for an area may be low, the real need for many of them is just made up by hiring managers. If I were a hiring manager, I’d take a 2 or 4 year experienced engineer over one right out of college with a Masters or Doctorate. This then would open up more opportunities for entry level positions.

        Around here, a Masters in Business on top of a B.S. in CS or Engineer is far more valuable.

    • Djarum

      Ugh. As a software, embedded, and electrical engineer myself, the CS grads are mostly useless. Not that the H1-Bs are any better. If anything, they are worse because in many cases, they don’t communicate as well and there are cultural differences at play. Most 4 year schools spend too much time on other unrelated requirements and not enough on fundamentals of Software Engineering. When one stars out looking for an entry level position, its often hilarious and disheartening at the same time. Company XYZ looking for an entry level programmer or developer with at least 2 years experience. Oh, and then the language requirements. “We would prefer a candidate to know C++, C#, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, Java, Java Script. Knowledge of Fortran, COBAL, and X86 Assembler a plus”. What? What straight-out-of-college kid will have 2 years experience or have any in-depth knowledge of all those programming languages?

      Fundamentally the real problem I’ve ran into with over 15 years in this business is that the way on higher ups think software development is easy and should be cheap. Middle and hiring managers know better, but they still have budgets, and try to hire the most “skilled” developer for the least amount of money, and many of the hiring managers will go down the H1B route because they assume that this is a better bang for the buck. Sometimes it is, most times its not.

      Also, many companies locally who can afford sponsoring H1B usually end up with those with advanced degrees in software like a Masters, which is due to some hiring manager who believes that the expertise level for the job requires such a degree, which is usually incorrect. It costs north of 10K to sponsor an H1B plus the salary for the individual. The salary must be competitive. So the question is why? The only thing I can come up with is that there are more H1Bs with advanced degrees. Thats it.

      Luckily, I work in a defense industry type of town, and ITAR would disqualify H1Bs.

      • Robert

        “As a software, embedded, and electrical engineer myself, the CS grads are mostly useless.”

        A hundred times yes. I’ve hired a lot of software developers over the years. None were H1B, all locally grown talent. The ones with CS degrees have without exception been the most difficult to manage and the least productive.

        As Jack has written elsewhere (Jack, you’re gonna see some oddly specific searches, trying to find the article that says something about all the hard problems in computer science have already been solved) – there is very little computer science left to be done. I don’t need or want architects or engineers. I need carpenters and rednecks who can weld.

    • Orenwolf

      Very much this.

      I suppose if you aren’t living on the polar edges of the US, or in Austin, that *maybe* your CS prospects are lower than average, but speaking as someone who’s done hiring for NY and SF engineers for a *decade* now, the utter lack of folks is pretty striking. We pretty much need to snap up college grads *immediately* before Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter or Apple do. And the pay expectations are crazy as well.

      The recent trend has been to hire folks from all over so we can pay “prevailing wages” that don’t include cost-of-living in NY or SF. Most of these jobs are telecommute friendly, and we’re happy to have a distributed engineering team anyway – puts more folks in seats across more timezones (so the dev workday is 11 hours long EST->PST instead of 8.

      The real Irony? I’m Canadian, in Toronto, doing Hiring for US workers because *I*, despite nearly two decades in Tech management (including at one time managing the entire infrastructure for Wikipedia), can’t find a business willing to go through the crazy hoops required to win the H1-B lottery for me. So instead of me relocating to the US where I can pay US taxes and contribute to the local economy, the money comes to Toronto, and enriches another country instead.

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        “I suppose if you aren’t living on the polar edges of the US, or in Austin”

        And that’s the rub.

        Yes, you can always get work in Silicon Valley, often for $150k or more. $150k in NorCal entitles you to cop a squat with three other dudes and ride the Google bus to work. The same is the case in New York. Gosh, why doesn’t everybody want to live in New York so they can earn $150k, pay $60k of that in taxes, and pay another $3k a month to live in Dumbo so they can have a twelve-hour workday that includes a solid 120 minutes underground?

        It’s one thing to say “You have to live in Detroit if you want to work on an automotive line.” It’s another thing to say that I need to move from Ohio to California so I can manage servers in Colorado. That’s a special kind of stupid. Right now, for my day job, I wake up and drive AWAY from the datacenter, which is 2.1 miles from my house, so I can sit downtown, pay $13 to park, and manage the servers back in my neighborhood.

        Honda was just as stupid. Wake up and drive 40 minutes so you can administer systems in Longmont, CO.

        • Orenwolf

          Yep – as someone who has *literally* spent the majority of the last ten years working remotely, I can say with some authority that having your infrastructure guys centralized is an antiquated notion. Sure, fine, engineering teams *do* perform better in most cases where they can whiteboard face-to-face (unless a lot of work has gone into remote collaboration and everyone’s in that groove) but nowadays either you need the worker near the DC when something needs swapping (or a good DC support tech) , or you’re on the rest of the team who can literally do their work from a beach with a laptop somewhere that happens to get good LTE.

          I feel your pain, Jack.

          • Djarum

            Around here, the higher ups want to know you are working. I don’t get it. If I’m delivering code, writing manuals, and doing my own tests, why can’t I work from home? Somehow I’m getting more accomplished in a quiet office and managers check in once a day with me? No, not really. If anything, I’d be far more creative working from just about anywhere else but at the office. Engineering team? Anything and everything I/We need to have done can be accomplished with Skype or Email.

  11. omer

    damn Jack, while I may not agree with a lot of the stuff you say, you nailed it here. you’ve said what i’ve said (although much better) when people ask me why the hell I write.

  12. Wulfgar

    Very timely article for me as I’m currently working for a smallish member organization and have been called on to cover some product intros. My background is vaguely best described as “management” and what I was initially hired for. But we are a small organization and the joy of writing was spread to me.

    In our arena I’ve found that the manufacturers supply canned photos, canned literature and would really prefer you promote this “canned” value of their product to the consumer. And I’ve seen the coverage my fellow attendees produced from this canned experience. So I struggle. Struggle not just with the writing but also with how to pass along the experience of the event. The product. And add something, even if poorly, of the experience.

    A long-winded way of saying I admire your writing. Because, for me, you put me in your experience. If I can pass along a bit of my experience to our readers I would feel like I’ve actually touched on what it is to be a writer.

  13. TheNorwegian

    Writing about cars. It’s a weirdly specific dream, but not too unrealistic. The problem is you have to throw yourself out there, you need some finished work to prove that you can produce content (which is difficult when you’re not in the writing business to begin with) and you need a venue where people will appreciate your writing. Assuming your writing is worth a damn.

    Maybe in some other life.

    • phlipski

      If Doug DeMuro can make a living writing about cars. Anyone can. He’s proof that persistence trumps talent.

  14. Disinterested-Observer

    I never wanted to be a writer. Never liked writing. Still don’t. I also don’t believe that an author has the right to write about a private person without his or her permission, but I seem to be at odds with everyone from Jack Baruth to Jack Kerouac on that on.

  15. Will

    And the interior of the Tesla Model 3 is terrible! Can you imagine if a company tried that today? Amazing.

  16. Rick T.

    Can’t remember a story you’ve written that I thought was “too long.” I really enjoy your work. You’re a favorite short story writer of mine along with T. Coraghessan Boyle (not his novels) and Crabspirits, of course.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author


      He’s kind of disappeared from TTAC. The current management didn’t make him feel welcome — or that’s what I heard anyway.

  17. VoGo

    If you are going to list yourself as a sandwich artiste, well of course wanna-bes are going to flock to you looking for advice.

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