On writing a book

Writing a book is easy, and also hard. It turns out that the easy bits are also difficult when it comes down to it. The easiest bit is the idea, but it doesn’t stop there: you have to finish what your brain starts. Around three years ago I was sitting in the bar of the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath in Birmingham with my friend and artistic collaborator Danny Smith. We had done a couple of articles togther, had launched a magazine with some degree of sucess and basically liked drinking with each other. Then Danny—definitely Danny—said he wanted us to visit all of the piers in England and write a book about it.

We laughed, came up with a title, and then; did nothing. Nothing at all for at least a year.

It turns out that this was one of the hardest parts. You see when you have an idea and you ignore it, push it to the back of your brain like a washing machine pipe bracket in a kitchen drawer just in case you ever get round to doing anything with it, it pokes out at awkward times. Not only does it see itself reflected in other things you see or do it provides a worry that someone else will do it before you do, and it catches on the lip of the drawer when you’re looking for batteries. Worst is the nagging feeling that you get, reminding you that you’ll evenutally have to go through with it.

Writing the book is also the hardest part, two things get in the way. One is confidence, with every word you put down you feel useless and unfit for the task, with every book or article by someone else you read you feel you can’t live up to it, and every time you open the keyboard there are websites about obscure ’70s celebrities to look at—that’s something you know you can do well.

The other is life. Life gets in the way when writing a book. You have to work, rest, play, move house lots, move jobs, get married, be in love. Some of these are wonderfull but they are all rather difficult to do at the same time as writing a book.

Editing two sometimes contradictory accounts together may be the hardest part—but it’s what we’re going to do now. Danny is already on the coach to Oxfordshire, my shed is waiting us both. We’ll be finished on Sunday, we promise.

Actually going round the country as you’ll see in the finished book: that was the hardest part.

14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands 2008, subsequently not placed. His new book about visiting every seaside pier in England and Wales — Pier Review — has been described as “On the Road meets On the Buses”, it's out now. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama to be performed on Twitter and founded the famous blog Birmingham: It's Not Shit.

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