I feel need to debunk a myth as this seems to be recurring theme in my life.
People assume that the life of a motoring journalist is filled with adventure, beautiful cars and exotic drives. I would like to state now that for the non-Top Gear folk who churn out the majority of what you read in magazines, that certainly ain’t so!
The vast majority of my time is spent like an increasing amount of the population. Behind a computer screen. I spend a lot of time talking to club folk and specialists as I research features which very often have a lot more to do with corrosion and other worries than driving experiences. So far this year, I’ve written over 30 features, with about 75% of those over 1000 words. That doesn’t include features where I’ve got 1000 words in, decided it’s rubbish and completely re-written it. I’m not really one for tweaking. Either it’s right or it’s not.
Nor does it include the ramblings contained within this blog. I do that just for fun!
Now obviously, I still consider myself pretty lucky. As jobs go, this is a very pleasant one, but I do want people to understand that very little of it actually involves cars in a physical sense! Nor does it pay well. I think people must see what Jeremy Clarkson earns and then assume that anyone who writes about cars can afford two large country houses and a London flat, plus whatever latest powerful sports car is on the market. I am not wealthy. Sure, I don’t work full-time, 37hrs a week, but you only have to look at my cars to known I don’t have a lot of money. They’re generally old wrecks or, in the case of the 2CV, purchased when it was pretty much worthless (£450 in 2000). As it happens, that fits in with our new lifestyle very well. My wife and I quit our steady day jobs in 2010 to make an attempt at becoming more self-sufficient. I basically earn money so I can indulge in my motoring hobby and buy meat. We can’t afford to go on holiday, but we don’t mind as the work/life balance is firmly tilted towards life at the moment. It’s idyllic most of the time (but usually hard work!) but there are times when we hope there won’t be a big bill due before pay day. (for firewood for example).
It works well because I write when the mood takes me. That might be 9pm on a Sunday night or it might be 8am on a Monday morning. I write quickly and that’s a big bonus as deadlines can sometimes be many and tight. I’m fortunate in that words tend to come quite easily to mind – which is odd as I’m generally rubbish at conversations as my brain doesn’t seem to work quickly enough. It’s not like I type slowly either. I can nudge 80 words-per-minute when really flowing. Years of working in boring administration jobs actually proved a good grounding!
So there you have it. I might occasionally get out and drive some nice cars (once this year so far) but the life of a motoring writer is much more about the writer bit than the motoring bit. If you fancy having a go at this writing lark, join a car club and speak to the editor. They’ll probably be delighted to have you write something for them and as I discovered myself, it’s very useful practice. You may discover that this writing lark is actually pretty demanding! Or you may decide you love it. This is a job where it’s good to like cars, but it’s REALLY good to like words.
2 thoughts on “Debunking a big myth”
I spent many years in the motor trade and while I never enjoyed sales targets and corporate stuff, the bit I really enjoyed was driving the all different cars I could get my hands on easily. It means I have driven a large number of 1980s and 1990s models and even now I will take the opportunity to drive a different car new or old when I can. If you don’t drive the cars how can you write about them?
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE driving cars – whether it’s a 1930s Rolls-Royce or a 1980s Wartburg. However, I don’t see it as essential to have driven a car to write about it, in the same way that I won’t dismiss a historic article about 16th century monarchy just because the author wasn’t there. The vast majority of my writing centres around buyer’s guides. You don’t need to have driven the car you are writing about to describe where it rusts.
However, in over three years working in staff roles, I did drive an awful lot of cars. Yet even then, weeks could go by where I didn’t drive one. As now, the vast majority of my time was spent in an office, and that’s what I was trying to get across. It’s just not true that I spend my life driving cars and occasionally writing about it.