I’m not under any misguided belief that I’m a serious journalist. I’m a magazine writer who spins candy floss into fun! positive! upbeat! exclusive! feature-ettes. At the moment, it seems, I write endlessly about the Kardashians and various tabloid-worthy Hollywood stars and, on occasion, how to lose 5kg in 5 weeks. You know, those magazines. The ones you don’t read unless you’re in the supermarket queue or at the hairdressers, right?
But in my defence – if that is what’s needed – at this moment in my life, I only work part time and this is easy, and thankfully, regular work in a climate where writers are often expected to work for free. Also, I love the clever, funny people I work with and, even better, it allows me to put aside a few days a week to write words I’m truly passionate about.
However, I also enjoy this kind of magazine writing. It’s fun and silly, sure; it’s looked down on by the general public and, morally, well, that’s a moot point too. But I find this kind of regular, churn-it-out work is good exercise for my brain and, to an extent, keeps my writing skills sharp.
There are other parts of it I enjoy, too. When I’m writing about the actress who has rebuilt her life after an ill fated dalliance with a bad boy or a couple on the verge of splitting who seem to be keeping things together for the sake of the children, I don’t kid myself that it’s anything other than voyeuristic entertainment for the reader. But I do think there’s a kind of (dark) art to this kind of writing. There needs to be a hook that can translate into a tantalising cover line as well as a rhythm or beat that carries the reader seamlessly through the story. And, like any good soap opera, the piece needs to be part of a never ending story arc that will keep readers coming back week after week, to learn more and want more. Like cheap, tasty, but probably unfulfilling, junk food I suppose.
These stories are usually short and to the point. Most writers will agree that it’s harder to write to a strict word count than meander over many hundreds, if not thousands, of words. So I also get a certain satisfaction when I type the last full stop and check my word count and often find I’m within just a few words of my limit. My candy floss is artfully shaped and presented, even if it’s as nutritious as a puff of pink cloud.
Over the years, I’ve covered all sorts of weird, wonderful and random subjects. I’ve written about kids flying through the air on roller-skates; billion dollar TV distribution deals and Tunisian feminists. I’ve interviewed people suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s and celebrities about the contents of their fridges; I’ve ghosted a reality TV personality’s weekly column and gently rewritten the memories of the recently bereaved.
After seven years out of the work force, proper – thanks to emigrating and having young children – the subjects I write about aren’t so varied at the moment. I hope they will be again. I hope I’ve got a lot more stories to tell. I hope I can remember how to tell them.