How It Works

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No other writer has ever made me laugh out loud as much as A. A. Gill. His wit is razor-sharp and so are the images that his essays conjure up. Although he has written about many topics, he is best known for his travel writing and his restaurant reviews. 

It was while reading A. A. Gill is Away that I discovered his essay How It Works which gives us generous insight into his personal approach to writing.

Here I share with you some of my highlights:

  • Never write with a view. Face a blank wall. The world is a distraction. 
  • Write funny and write in the first person – both of which will help you find your voice and maybe a job. 
  • To Paul Klee, the art of drawing was the art of omission. The art of writing is also omission. What you leave out is as crucial as what you put in. 
  • Every city is an anthology of stories. They fade in and out of each other. Stop and start. Places are an endless index of beginnings. 
  • Every story has a key. An image that unlocks everything else. On the page, it may not be obvious to the reader but for me, it is the fixed point around which the story grows. 
  • I never do any research. I travel light. You’re taught to go and find out as much as possible, to talk to old hands, trawl the cuts and the stuff on the web. Well, I’ve done all that – been diligent and professional – and what happens is that you arrive with a mental I Spy list of things to tick off and yards and yards of preconceptions. You then look for confirmations of what you’ve already been told. We end up adding other people’s prejudices to our own and also their ideas. 
  • You need to value your own prejudices and challenge them through your own experience. 
  • What I write are essentially impressions. I need them to be as vivid and surprising as possible. 
  • Time doesn’t allow you to see further or clearer or with greater insight. It’s all just a matter of emphasis and importance. 

Which one speaks to you the most?

*Photograph taken by Tom Craig of A. A. Gill in Vienna

Thinking of You

Photographs taken during the time I lived in Bari. Of the thousands I took, these are my favourite.

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