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The Sizzling Inspiration of Mid-Summer: How It Fires Up Writers! -by C.S.

Hello there, fellow wordsmiths and literary enthusiasts! As the sun reaches its zenith and the temperatures skyrocket, we thought it would be the perfect time to explore the intriguing effects of mid-summer on writers. Whether you're a seasoned novelist, a budding poet, or just a passionate journal-keeper, you might be surprised to learn how the summer heat can ignite creativity and bring a unique flavor to your writing. So, let's dive deep into this scorching topic and explore the sizzling inspiration that mid-summer brings to the world of words.


1. A Change of Scenery: In the heart of summer, nature embraces its vibrant colors and comes alive with beauty. From lush green parks to sparkling blue waters, the outdoors become an endless source of inspiration. Writers can escape the confines of their desks and venture into the great outdoors, immersing themselves in the sights, sounds, and smells of summer. Whether you find yourself scribbling away under the shade of a tree or soaking in the golden rays at the beach, this change of scenery can invigorate your creativity and infuse your writing with a fresh perspective.

2. Tapping into the Energy: The long days and balmy nights of mid-summer bring forth an undeniable energy that's infectious. The buzzing streets, bustling cafes, and lively festivals all contribute to a vibrant atmosphere that writers can't help but absorb. This heightened energy can trickle into your writing, injecting it with a sense of urgency, passion, and excitement. So don't be surprised if your characters become a little more animated or your prose gains an extra spark during these warm summer months.

3. The Melting Pot of Emotions: Ah, summer, the season of love, adventure, and self-discovery! Mid-summer is a time when emotions run high and inhibitions melt away. Relationships are formed, hearts are broken, and life takes unexpected turns. As writers, we have the privilege of capturing these whirlwinds of emotions and weaving them into our stories. So, take advantage of the summer heat and let your characters experience love, heartbreak, and personal growth. The mid-summer setting can enhance the authenticity of these emotional journeys and make your readers feel like they're right there with your characters, basking in the heat of the moment.

4. Embracing Slow Living: While summer may be filled with excitement and adventure, it also encourages us to slow down and savor the present moment. The lazy afternoons spent lounging in hammocks, the leisurely walks on warm summer evenings, and the late nights under starlit skies all invite writers to embrace the art of slow living. Take this opportunity to observe the world around you and soak in the details that often go unnoticed. From the delicate whispers of a warm breeze to the rhythmic chirping of crickets, these subtle nuances can add depth and richness to your writing, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in your stories.


As the summer sun casts its golden glow upon us, writers everywhere have the chance to harness the unique inspiration that mid-summer brings. Whether it's through exploring new places, absorbing the vibrant energy, capturing the emotions of the season, or embracing the art of slow living, this time of year holds endless possibilities for igniting your creativity. So, fellow writers, go out there, bask in the summer heat, and let it infuse your writing with a touch of magic.

Stay inspired and keep those pens blazing just like summer! Then, show us what you've done!


(Note: While mid-summer can be a delightful source of inspiration, it's important to remember that creativity varies from person to person. So, if the summer heat isn't your cup of tea, fear not. Inspiration can be found in every season and in the most unexpected moments.)


(Previously appeared in the newsletter by Famous Writing Routines)


Welcome to this edition of The Weekly Writing Dispatch, where we are delighted to welcome esteemed American journalist, author, and screenwriter, Matt Bai.


With an impressive background covering politics for major news outlets such as The New York Times and Yahoo News, Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of political journalism. In this interview, he discusses his book All The Truth Is Out, which explores the week politics went tabloid and its effects on American politics and media. He also shares his insights on the evolving relationship between politics and media and the process of co-writing the screenplay for The Front Runner, based on his book.

We hope that this interview will not only offer valuable insights into the creative process but also encourage readers to explore their own writing and connect with the literary community. So sit back, relax, and join us as we dive deep into the mind of one of America's most accomplished political writers.

Hi Matt, welcome to Famous Writing Routines, great to have you here with us today! Your 2015 book, All The Truth Is Out, explores the week politics went tabloid. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for this book and how you went about researching and writing it?

I’m honored to be asked, so thanks for having me. I think your site is very cool.

Sometimes you don’t choose stories so much as they choose you, if that makes any sense. I met Gary Hart twenty years ago now, and the few days I spent with him then really stayed with me, especially as I watched our political culture deteriorate. I became convinced there was a connection to be made there, something more that needed to be said. It became a kind of obsession. I sat with the idea for several years, but I probably wrote it in eight months.


What do you think were the long-lasting effects of the Hart affair on American politics and media?

The book ended up being a critique of my own industry, but I didn’t realize that until I was finished. I feel like that moment in 1987 was a turning point for political journalism — it’s when we started treating our politicians more like celebrities. And if you treat politicians like celebrities, you will inevitably get celebrities as politicians. That was my central point, and of course I never imagined how literally that would come to pass with Donald Trump.


In your opinion, how do you see the relationship between politics and media evolving in the future?

Well, that’s more clairvoyance than opinion, and I’m not a very good clairvoyant. Right now I feel like it’s very broken — I used to spend tons of time with politicians, and I don’t think any reporter can really do that anymore. I also feel like they flat out lie more often than they used to. It’s really up to the voters to decide whether that’s something they care about.


You co-wrote the screenplay for The Front Runner which is based on the book. Can you tell us more about that process? How did it feel to see your work adapted into a feature film starring a major Hollywood actor like Hugh Jackman?

That was really one of the great experiences of my life. “Magical” is the word that comes to mind. Hugh is an amazing person and actor, and Jason Reitman became a good friend and taught me a ton about screenwriting. Everyone associated with the film had a blast making it.

It’s a shame that very few people saw the picture, or even knew about it, but commercial success is something you just can’t control, in books or movies or any kind of writing. I always recommend the film to people because I think it’s excellent and one of Hugh’s best performances.

Your work often explores the intersection of politics and culture. How do you think these two areas of our lives influence one another, and why is it important to examine that relationship?

That’s true. We tend to describe our politicians as leaders, but actually they’re followers, and that’s by design. Our government is designed to be responsive to the mood of the people — however the country is changing, Washington is almost always the last to reflect it. So if you want to know where politics is headed, you need to understand the trends in business and technology and entertainment. I try to connect all that.


You currently write a column for The Washington Post. How do you decide what topics to write about each week, and how do you approach writing about political issues in a way that’s accessible to a broad audience?

Most often I see something in the news and it jars a thought or a memory, and an argument takes shape. Sometimes my editors will have a topic they’d like me to think about, which I like. I’ve always written about politics — in magazines or books or columns — as if I were speaking to a friend, someone with a genuinely open mind who wants to wrestle with the complexity of an issue, as I do. I know a lot of columnists now make their living preaching to the same choir over and over. Honestly, that would bore the crap out of me.


In addition to your work as a journalist and author, you’re also a screenwriter. How do you think writing for the screen differs from other forms of writing, and what do you enjoy about the process of writing for film?

I never really aspired to be a screenwriter, but now I love it. It’s incredibly fun as a writer to be able to learn a new format and get better at it. And I enjoy being untethered from reality for a change. Plus you don’t get to write sex scenes in a column.


As a seasoned journalist and author, what advice would you give to aspiring writers and journalists looking to make an impact in the industry?

I think that’s a way of saying I’m old? I actually struggle with this question. The economic models have changed so much that I just don’t understand how people get started in the business now. How do you teach people to be reporters when there aren’t any small papers? How do they learn to be great writers when “longform” can be 500 words? I think if I were starting out now, I’d be laser focused on finding a talented editor who could help me refine my skills. Where you write is less important than for whom you write. The craft doesn’t teach itself.


Can you tell us about your writing routine? What does a typical day look like for you?

One of the things I love about my current existence is that there is no typical day. Some days I’m a columnist. Some days I’m a screenwriter. Some days I’m driving my kids to sports or the doctor. Today I answered reader mail and talked with my Post editor about a long essay I’m finishing, and then I worked with my producer on a movie pitch we’re doing, and now I’m talking to you. Pretty great, right?

My writing routines changed when we adopted a puppy during the pandemic. Now I spend mornings at the dog park, and then I eat breakfast and read the papers and do the Times crossword, and then I’m pretty much using the rest of the morning to organize my thoughts and exercise. Afternoon is when I’m usually cranking away on something. Most writing happens in your head, anyway, and not on the page, so even when I’m walking my dog, I’m getting work done.


If you could have a conversation with any author throughout history about their writing routine and creative process, who would that person be?

Probably Bob Dylan. He’s the famous person I haven’t met whom I’d most like to meet (followed closely by Derek Jeter). I’m just fascinated by how that kind of genius operates. Like, is he sitting at his kitchen counter and suddenly “Tangled Up in Blue” pops into his head? Or is he fiddling with a melody and then has to find a story for it? I think such a large part of creativity is just learning to clear your head long enough for the words or ideas to make themselves heard.


I’d love to know about the books you’re reading at the moment. What have been some of your favorite recent reads?

I recently read Ian McEwan’s Lessons, which was beautiful, and I’ve got a few pages left in Andrew Sean Greer’s Less, which I’ve really enjoyed, too. In between those two, I read Bo Jackson’s autobiography from the 1990s, and I also read an advance copy of Mark Bowden’s forthcoming book, Life Sentence, which is absolutely brilliant.

Sometimes when I read something not good, it throws me out of my reading groove and I have trouble getting restarted. That’s when I reach for Haruki Murikami, who can always pull me into a story immediately. Most recently I read 1Q84, which is wild. Murikami taught at Tufts not long before I was a student there, and I really wish I’d been able to take his class, so he’s another famous writer I’d like to meet.


What does your current writing workspace look like?

I have a standing aspiration to go paperless, but I never quite get there. So my desk of the last 20 years — a Danish modern thing I bought at a consignment store in Washington — consists of a 24-inch Mac, a laptop, and some piles of paper related to various projects.

I’m also drowning in books, even though I tend to read digitally now, because people keep sending them to me. On my walls I’ve got a couple of framed New York Times Magazine covers, and the first Times crossword in which my name was an answer, and some “Front Runner” memorabilia.

My office is off the entrance to our house, and my desk faces the door, so my kids can’t slip in or out without having to say hello or goodbye, which is how I like it.

***

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That is the question, indeed, especially these days. So, what is true about the last two articles posted here? Let’s break it down into the positives and negatives by looking at each article side by side.


  • On the plus side, the article by Chat GPT had some objective and factual points made, it was written in very little time, and at almost no cost… but overall, felt very two-dimensional. It came across as quite impersonal. It might have listed a few obvious almost mechanical, elements, but with very little soul.


  • The author’s article, on the other hand, was very personable, conversational, and intriguing. Actual examples came to life with the author’s retelling of his lived experiences. This creates for a more relatable read. We champion Victor Prince for his ability to try something deemed difficult after succeeding at challenging himself previously hiking across Spain.


Where the AI bot may shine:

  • AI can write articles at a much faster pace than humans, which can be an advantage in the fast-paced and demanding world of content creation. With AI, businesses can generate a high volume of articles or blog posts in a short amount of time, for very little cost.

  • AI-generated articles can be free from human biases and errors. Human writers are prone to making mistakes, but with AI, there is less room for error–however, it is not infallible and must be fact checked by a human and checked for plagiarism. AI can also eliminate any bias that may exist in human-written content, making it more objective and reliable.

  • Time is definitely an advantage with AI, which can analyze vast amounts of data to generate insights and different perspectives. By analyzing data from various sources, AI can identify patterns and trends that may not be immediately obvious to humans, in next to no time. This can lead to the creation of more informative and practical articles than would be humanly possible in the same amount of time.

  • AI can produce articles on a variety of topics, even those that are not commonly covered. With AI, businesses can create content on niche topics that may be hard (though not impossible) to find a human writer for.

  • AI can help reduce the costs associated with content creation. With AI, businesses can save money by not having to pay a human writer to create content.

In favour of the author:

  • AI-generated articles do lack the hallmarks of human touch and thus achieves no emotional connection with readers. Human writers can connect with readers on an emotional level, which is hard for AI to replicate. This can make AI-generated content seem stale, cold, impersonal and even robotic.

  • AI cannot understand the cultural nuances and context necessary to write effectively for a particular audience. Different cultures have different ways of communicating, and AI simply cannot pick up on these nuances. This can lead to content that is just not relatable, or even interesting enough, to the target audience.

  • While AI may produce articles that are factually correct, they clearly are not as engaging or interesting to read. AI may well be able to produce informative articles, yet it fails to create content that is equally engaging or truly captures the reader's attention.

  • While it may be tempting, businesses will need to resist the urge to rely on AI-generated content instead of creative content from human writers. As businesses increasingly turn to AI for content creation in order to cut costs, they run the risk of alienating their audience if they are not careful.

  • AI-generated articles may lack the creativity and originality that human writers can bring to the table. Only human writers are able to bring their unique perspectives and experiences to their writing, which makes for lively, interesting and engaging content.

Afterall, when the reading audience is human, which it invariably always is, the skill of a creative human author tips the scale in its favour.

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