Jim Lehrer, host of the PBS NewsHour (formerly known as, among other things, The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour) for over 35 years, is one of my biggest writing influences. During his long and storied career in journalism, he’s written and published nineteen novels. This makes him one of my writing heroes, despite the fact that I haven’t read word one of his books.
So what makes him my influence? He wrote those books while he was anchoring, reporting in, and producing award-winning news shows. And he’s not some Johnny-Come-Lately who decided to “follow his real dream” once he got the NewsHour gig and after getting a bit of fame behind him. His first novel Viva, Max! was published in 1966, seven years before he teamed up with Robert MacNeil, at the beginning of a career that would garner him numerous awards for excellence in journalism.
Do a thought experiment with me. Lehrer’s books get fair-to-middlin’ reviews but let’s assume–purely for the sake of argument–that each and every one of his novels is utter crap (Again, I don’t know this, because I haven’t read any of them). Imagine how much work it would take to produce and publish nineteen bad novels, and you’ll see why I’m impressed.
In short, he’s a guy who gets his writing done, and in the interviews I’ve seen over the years in which he talks about his fiction, he gets it done anywhere and everywhere he can, every day.
I’ve met writers who hold down day jobs and/or are parents (some, of kids with special needs), and/or who are adult caregivers, and/or who are dealing with their own or someone else’s medical/mental/emotional problems. And I look at these folks, and at Jim Lehrer, and ask myself, “What the fuck excuse do I have?”
Does it make you ask the same?