In this episode of 1WineDude TV, we’ve got our first video in my on-going Going Pro saga, in which I talk about something very simple that every budding wine writer should do to vastly increase their writing skills.
A couple of points for you before watching:
- The reason I’m flushed and sweating (gross!) in this vid is that just before filming it I ran for three miles, showered, and then got dressed and jumped in front of the camera – basically, I didn’t give myself any real cool-down time. I know, rookie error… just try to ignore it…
- This advice is going to seem obvious and maybe even stupid to a lot of people. If you’re among their ranks, rather than tell me I’m a shallow idiot in the comments, I humbly suggest that you forward this advice to a blogging friend who needs to see it – and I personally guarantee that you know more than one who needs to see this (if I’m wrong, then you can call me an idiot in the comments!).
Mentioned in this vid:
31 thoughts on “1WineDude TV Episode 20: A Simple Way To Vastly Improve Your Wine Writing (Going Pro)”
"I ain't into all this reading and s***." Seriously, what a concept. Learn sentence structure from those who have been successful in creating sentences. Of course, I feel blogs are more informal, so the language can follow suit. Ending a sentence with a preposition on a blog is not kill one's credibility… at. Also like the music reference. I'd note that listening and playing (and reading) different things make one better. I always only played 12-bar blues on my bass- because I was comfortable there- but guess what? All I can play is 12-bar blues. To that point, reading can go beyond wine books and magazines. Who knows when a Lord Byron reference will be needed in a post about Thunderbird? And sorry about the sweat- I've been there.
Well Joe, all I can say is: you are an idiot!
I come to that conclusion mainly because I saw not one of my three books on your shelf, which can only mean that you can't read. ;)
What do I have to do to get you to read my books? Send samples?
Seriously, as a pianist myself, I believe that the analogy between reading/writing and listening/playing is spot on, but like suburbanwino above says, reading, like playing, requires that you stretch your boundaries. In fact, after decades behind my piano, I am going to try hard to use more than just c, f, g chords from now on…
Joe, Going Pro is a great idea. If you can figure out how to make money at it, please let me know, but READ MY BOOKS. I'm a pro who needs to earn a living too.
Thom – yes, send the samples! :)
Ok, okay…. adding them to my reading wish list now…
I can totally relate to the red-faced bit. If I go to the gym, it takes my face a good 2 hours before it looks normal again and I've often been asked if I'm okay. Everyone, I'm just really pale and this is totally normal. Carry on.
Anyway, onto the meat of this post. You're spot on. I came into blogging thinking I was a good enough writer but now looking back on some of my posts, I realize that I could be better. I find that reading books even completely unrelated to wine gives me an inspiration to really take what I'm doing and just be better. It's not always enough to make sure you have no misspellings in a post.
Amanda – I'm *always* thinking the writing on 1WD could/should be better. I think folks like you who are reading / viewing, well, you deserve it because you're smart!
hmm. let me get back to you on that one.
Joe, if you're gonna hem & haw about it then I rescind my offer! ;-)
now that's negotiating. You have all the leverage now and can probably downgrade the relationship to "sweat cousins" and I won't be able to refuse.
Rule #2 of negotiating: never admit to the other party that he has the leverage. Crap!
Joe – HA!
So, so true. I have always found that I become a better writer when I read great writing (and when i read mediocre or poor writing, I suppose). In fact, when I was toiling away, writing a book, I would handle writer's block by grabbing a book and reading for an hour. It's inspiring.
I just picked up the new collection of essays by David Rakoff. When people talk about America's best writer, he's my answer. He's simply unreal. If you haven't read his three collections, I can't advise it strongly enough. Funny, poignant, brilliant. I love reading his books for the pleasure I receive, and in knowing that I can't help but improve when reading something so outstanding.
Evan – thanks for the recommendation, I will be checking Rakoff out ASAP!
While we're at it – Joe, what's one wine-based book that moved you?
Thanks, Julie – OMG, the "Harvest Widows" blog idea is AWESOME. Talk about an interesting niche with personal insights, that's just a "textbook" great idea for a blog! Cannot wait to check that out.
Joe – I will definitely send it along to you once we're up and running! Should be within the next two weeks or so and we'd LOVE any feedback that you may have. Basically it's three of us ladies looking for an excuse to get out and explore Napa and wax poetically about our adventures in wine country :-)
I'm sure you've heard the old writer's saying: all writing is re-writing. To be effective, blog writing should be no different. Hardly any thoughts come out in the right order and clearly on the first pass. It's never good enough, even after it's published–especially after it's published.
The other interesting thing about writing is that it often comes from a storage well that the writer doesn't even know exists inside him or her. Once it's out, it has taken on its own life. For that reason, so many times writers don't recognize their own writing after the fact, and I don't mean because someone else edited it.
Thom – funny you should mention that, as I've recently had something I wrote some time ago sent back to me for confirmation before publishing and I was like "uhmm.. I'm not at all sure that I wrote this!" :)
Jon Bonne recently referred to Neal Rosenthal's book as too self-indulgent, but I had no similar issue. I thought Reflections of a Wine Merchant was spellbinding, wonderfully written. Of course the great Terry Theise is on the list. I had a lot of fun reading Sergio Esposito's Passion On the Vine, and yet strangely I find his book not to relect his store's philosophy. Benjamin Wallace's The Billionaire's Vinegar is exhaustively researched and just fun as all hell. Most of Matt Kramer's work is of the highest order.
I enjoyed George Tabor's Judgment of Paris, but his recent book was a big letdown for me. I won't list the disappointments, but there are some. I have The Wild Vine on order.
You'll enjoy Wild Vine, Evan – it's a great read and actually a fairly emotional one as well. Billionaire's Vinegar is a page-turner, great stuff there.
Joe, how refreshing to hear someone endorse writing and reading skills! No matter how visually-oriented communications become, the essence of communication is still language. That's true in any medium, old or new. Writing shorter is no easier than writing at length; in fact, it's more challenging to squeeze meaningful content into short and pithy blocks of text. So my only quibble with your video post is…. where's MY book?
Thanks, Paul! Your book… must be on order…? <logs onto amazon.com to order…>
The ironic thing about improving reading and writing is that I discussed the topic by using video! :-)
Awesome post/video. And great advice. I've always been a voracious reader and it's helped in alot of ways — because like you mention, you've got to expose yourself to the really good stuff in order to "up your game." One of the categories of books I can't seem to get enough of are food and wine related ones — everything from Julia Child to Kim Severson to Jay McInerney to Ruth Reichl, and even Robert Mondavi. And one of the things that stands out is, you can absolutely write in your own voice (which I know people struggle with when they start out blogging), and still write well. All the writers mentioned here do that — their voices and writing styles are all very different, but the writing itself is skilled, engaging, interesting, and well-crafted.
Can't week for next week's "lesson"/installment!
Thanks, Kimberly – great point, NO ONE should fear that their voice will be somehow obscured by reading great writing; in fact, just the opposite should happen so long as you're not trying to cop someone's style. A great way to sample and adapt techniques, in fact, is to deliberately write like someone else (over the years I've done this to Calvino, Joyce, Faulkner, Hugh Johnson, and the God-Among-Men Hunter S. Thompson).
The other thing I should mention is that if you read a lot, getting an eReader (Kindle / nook / etc.) is a godsend. I avoided this for a while, but after the paperbacks started piling up I was like "screw this!" and we went to the local B&N to check out the nook and bought two of them on the spot (the e-ink version, not the new color one which to me just seems like a large and slightly-disabled android smartphone). Anyway, the nook will probably feature prominently in next week's video :-).
Thanks for the tips! When I was an English major in college many years ago, I had to read most of the writers you mention, and I knew writers in the creative writing program at the time who practiced that exercise of deliberately writing like the great writers. I see the utility in doing that, but I'm just way too lazy to do it myself. Reading the great writers though — there's nothing better for expanding your mind and your knowledge of all the many creative and awesome ways to express an idea.
Now about the Nook . . . I can't make myself go there yet, but maybe someday soon. Next week's video may even change my mind!
Kimberly – another English major in undergrad? I *knew* I liked you! :)
Great video. I would add two pieces of advice from my experience with Palate Press, and some of the best wine writers on line or in print.
First, work with an editor, at least some of the time. A second set of eyes will make you better.
Second, read Meg's 24 Theses. Print them. Tape them to the wall wherever you write. Read them before, and after, you write every story. http://palatepress.com/2010/08/thank-you-meg/
Thanks for sharing the link to Meg's pointers, great stuff there!
I loved your video. It's like a cool PSA for reading and writing. You could probably get it aired on television.
You never did say much about what you actually read that's not wine-related. I would like to know more about that. I agree with you that reading helps you to write more effectively, though it also can be very rewarding for its own sake. I wonder why people are doing less of it?
Stevie – I'm all about getting on TV, man; except for the fact that I'm short and ugly… :)
Stevie – sorry, just realized that I didn't answer about what else I read!
I did a MASSIVE intake of fiction in undergrad and so fiction now constitutes a significant *minority* of what I read (though some items, like Tom Robbin's work and a few classics here and there, always work their way into the reading list!). Poetry has taken a FAR backseat (probably unfairly, but honestly poetry is NOT easy to read for me).
So, the majority right now for me are non-fiction items, which I think is a bug that bit me from some close friends of mine who studied History in undergrad and grad schools. It's an eclectic mix most of the time and usually I'm in the middle of 4-6 books at any given time. Right now the list is:
Linchpin (Seth Godin)
The Greatest Show on Earth (Richard Dawkins)
Founding Brothers (Joseph J. Ellis)
This is good advice for any writer, no matter what their subject/genre/form. Also, congrats on the video – I've considered dabbling in video blogging myself, but I think for now I'm going to remain off-camera. I'm far too self-conscious for that ;) It adds a great personal dimension to the blog, though (which I also just noticed is re-designed – cool beans).
C'mon, Mel – are you kidding me… if *I* can do video surely ANYONE can do video!
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