"Join over 25 million other readers that have been educated and inspired to transform their life and business"

Start Your Online Side Hustle. Click Here

The Joys and Struggles of Being a Professional Writer (Episode 193)

Julie and Jean-Benoit are not just seasoned authors but also accomplished entrepreneurs.

For over three decades, they’ve run a thriving freelance writing business, gaining invaluable knowledge on how to navigate the world of sales and entrepreneurship.

Their latest book is “Going Solo: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Business and Succeed as Your Own Boss”

What you will learn

  • Are you an aspiring professional writer? Julie and Jean share their best advice
  • Discover different writing routines to kickstart your creativity
  • The significance of reading in shaping your writing style and gathering ideas
  • Secrets to distilling complexity into structured content
  • How to effectively organize messy content in writing
  • The benefits of allowing writing to breathe between drafts
  • Learn about the critical importance of a compelling first sentence
  • Unpacking the ongoing debate regarding the role of AI in writing and its potential impact
  • The joys and struggles of having a writing career
  • Plus loads more!

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:05 - 00:01:46

Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow. Now we might shorten their names to JB because my name's JB. So there's three JBs on this show and we could get very confused. But anyway, just a bit about Julie, Julie grew up in Hamilton, Ontario and has been working as a freelance writer since 1995. She writes for magazines and newspapers in Canada, including Chatelaine Report on Business and L’actualité, maybe I haven't got that right. But that's okay. And has published in the New York Times, USA Today and is the Author of eight books, including The Bonjour Effect. Julie is presently developing a TV documentary series based on a book, The Story of French written with her husband and partner John-Benoit. She lives in Montreal with Nadal and their two daughters.A little bit about Jean-Benoit Nadeau , born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and a political science graduate of McGill University. Jean-Benoit Nadeau once held a job for a total of 29 days and has been self-employed for 35 years. Either the people won't employ him, he doesn't want to work. Either one of those two you can choose. A regular reporter and columnist to L'actualité, Canada's main national French magazine and I'm sure I'm saying that completely incorrectly, but that's okay. He is also a past contributor to the Report on Business Magazine and signed papers for various American, Canadian and French publications. His freelancer status has allowed him to live in various venues like Phoenix, Toronto, Paris and Montreal, as well as undertake radio, film and book projects with his partner Julie Barlow. Welcome to the show, guys, an absolute pleasure. And I'm sure we're gonna have a lot of fun talking about words and books.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:01:47 - 00:01:49

Thank you for including me for the occasion.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:50 - 00:02:28

So guys, you're dialing in from the other side of the world. I'm in Sydney and you are in Montreal and Montreal is a beautiful city. I have been there and loved it. I was there during fall with beautiful autumn colors and there's nothing like autumn colors in that part of the world. So I'm gonna ask both of you and you can have a fight over who will respond. But what, how come you got into words, book writing and decided not to have a real job. How did that all start? Maybe you can answer that individually and then we can do it communally.

Julie Barlow

00:02:29 - 00:03:42

I would say that, you know, I didn't get into words, words sort of got into me and I, but, you know, as I said to my kids, there's really no other thing I do better in life or well enough to pay the mortgage and, you know, pay the bills. So I started writing quite young and tried other jobs and ended up writing at my other jobs inevitably. So I decided, you know, when I finished my education to just jump in and make myself a career as a freelance writer. So I, there was a time when there, you know, my parents would have probably, well, I don't know. My parents expressed nothing about it whatsoever but from where I came, people normally got a job and that's why they went to university but there were not that many jobs. I don't know if you remember in the early 1900s university graduates with a master's degree in English literature. So I just dove in and started writing magazine articles and I've been a freelancer ever since and I was tempted by a job. I had a job for about two months working as an editor, but more interesting adventures popped up and I took off to, in that case, live in France and continue writing as a freelance writer. And then we went on to write books together and so on. So that's my story.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:03:42 - 00:04:48

Yeah. Well, me, I began as a playwright between 18’ and 22’. That's where I was. And then I moved to our journalism for the idea of getting a more regular income. But as a journalist, I was unemployable. I have no, I was not very competent as a journalist, as the beginning and as I made my way and made my place in it, someone finally offered me a job where I stayed for 29 days and didn't like being an employee and I returned. And then I became self-employed by choice. But what I realized later, is that being self-employed as a creator allowed me to do things in my own terms. If I wanted to dedicate, sometimes, writing a novel, I could, if I wanted to move the head office to Paris or to Phoenix, it was possible, I didn't have to explain myself to a boss. I was the boss and I think as a creator, it probably is the only way really

Julie Barlow

00:04:48 - 00:04:51

To do what you want to do all the time. I would agree, yeah.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:04:51 - 00:05:07

But naturally, people sometimes have to compromise if they are in a business, for example, writing poetry, they absolutely need to have back. There's no revenue flow being a poet aside from being a professor at university.

Julie Barlow

00:05:07 - 00:05:18

Yeah, we're fortunate we're nonfiction writers. So there's always a market for nonfiction writing and we can always find a way to have some revenue. We've never had to fall back on a teaching job or.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:05:18 - 00:05:37

Public speaking. And also journalism, it's a continuum I mean, we often use articles to feed the book feeds articles. We give a kind of public speaking based on the articles and books. It goes together.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:37 - 00:05:50

Yeah, it's, I love your phrase Julie. You said that you didn't get words, words got you. When did you realize that?

Julie Barlow

00:05:51 - 00:07:46

Oh, very, very. I mean, I was always good at writing and I, you know, worked as actually, I started my writing career as a music critic. I came from a music background and started to write about music, you know, you can tell when you've got the stuff and I can tell now when I look at young journalists and I can tell when they've got the stuff, it sort of gradually comes in, the problem is that I didn't come from a background with any kind of business entrepreneurial thing. Like nobody, I didn't even know what it, you know that you could be a freelance writer when I grew up. And so that was the real transition for me, understanding that I could turn it into something that I could actually make a living at, and of course, as I just explained, I was sort of forced into do it in the sense that there were no jobs. So I didn't go looking for a job. And, but it came upon me that way, I suppose. And, but like Jean, you know, I realized that very quickly and that this is the way to do what you want to do. And even if I had taken a job as a writer, I'm not sure I would have had the freedom to move to Paris and write the books. And then we moved to Arizona and back to Paris and, you know, developed the kinds of projects that we wanted to develop. So now, you know, I don't think we're any more. I don't think we're employable now for sure. I mean that, but we do quite well and, you know, for the record, our parents are very pleased with how we turned out. It's not, they don't mind at all. And speaking of which I was fortunate as a writer to be married to someone whose father is an entrepreneur. And to get a lot of the business advice from him that made it a lot easier for us to pull off what we pulled off. We learned how to manage money, we learned how to pay taxes. I mean, we learned a lot of stuff about just running a business from him, which is, you know, what inspired the book that we wrote on the —-.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:47 - 00:08:07

So we're gonna, I wanna, so the latest book, Going Solo: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Business and Succeed as Your Own Boss is quite a long book. It's over 400 pages, isn't it? I've heard it described as being the dictionary for people who want to go solo or start their own business. Is that correct?

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:08:07 - 00:09:32

Well, we wanted to do a book that would answer sort of questions. And that would be useful, not just to writers but to people who want to work creatively in whatever field they are in, you know, whether a dog groomer, a graphic art, graphic designer or a consultant. And one of the mistakes I did as a beginner and quickly got out of at one point is that I would not earn more at a certain time. There's only 40 hours and 45-50 useful hours in a week for working and at one point they're full. So you're not going to gain more by working more, you're going to gain more by researching, bettering your ideas to develop what has more potential, negotiating better, collecting better, managing better your daily stuff. Producing better, not more, better, which is for example, that when you produce, you have to maintain good communication with your clients, be able to renegotiate as things change as you do them. Good, give good after sales service afterwards, collect quickly the money that are coming to you.

Julie Barlow

00:09:33 - 00:10:17

A lot of creative people fall into a trap. I mean, we see it all the time. People who start out doing whatever their passion is, you know, don't necessarily take care to learn the business aspects of it. And I guess the book really is for anybody who, you know, has a passion and we're saying, you know, steps, take it one step at a time, make a business plan, learn about producing the message that you're trying to sell, you know, the, you know, we really start from the beginning and take people all the way through to paying your taxes and managing operations and negotiating. And, you know, we sort of cover everything. It's all the advice we wish we had all in once when we started.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:10:17 - 00:11:38

Some people ask me, how can I become a writer? And it's true about any business, really. And how can I become a journalist? And the first question I asked is, do you write? And they say, oh, I'll go, I'll only write when I'm ready. You'll never be ready, you know, you have to write, you know, and it's the same with whatever business you want to start if you want to be a graphic artist. Well, do you do graphic artist, artistry when you have nothing to do? No, I only do it when I'm ready. Well, you're not going to be a graphic artist. You know, you're never ready. It happens to me to write a, sometimes I have to write a column. I wake up in the morning with a very vague idea of what I'm going to have to write and I write and I trash it. And at the end of the day I have a column and sometimes I even tell jokes that I didn't know as I write them. And then I laugh, you know, that's what writing is. I have an editor once that said writing is a dirty business because you're constantly writing by induction and deduction and iteration. And sometimes you, there's a word in the paragraph you develop on that word and you end up having a full column on that single word. That's what writing is, that's what creating is in the act anyway.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:38 - 00:13:17

Yeah, I, it's yeah, I fell in love with writing when I started my blog in 2009 because of intense curiosity about social media. So I ended up writing every day, getting up at 4:30AM and writing before I started my day job. So I was writing five posts a week and I did that for about four years. I got up at 4:30AM. It was like this force showed up and just drove me. I was channeling this energy from somewhere and I'm still intrigued how I did that. But I got up at 4:30AM and wrote and I was, my mission was to get something out by 8AM and then the rest, next hour was to actually promote it, get it out on an email, get it out on Twitter. So, and now that leads me to the next question I wanna ask you guys, basically Seth Godin talks about a thing called The Practice. The Practice is the ritual of doing something that you love doing, but it's not about, well, I'll get around to writing and I'll be a writer when I sort of get to it. But tell, I'm intrigued by and I wanna hear from both of you. What is your ritual for writing? What does that look like every day? Is there a set time? Is there a set number of hours there? A set number of words? Some word, some writers go, I'm going to write 1000 words every day. Some people say I'm gonna write for three hours every day. Some people write from 9AM. What is your ritual for writing?

Julie Barlow

00:13:18 - 00:13:20

Well, you know, the first.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:13:20 - 00:13:44

Depends on the type of writing. If I'm creating, I just, the thing I do best in the morning when I wake up until about noon at the most. If I'm editing my own work, it's something I actually do better at the end of the day. So that's pretty much it.

Julie Barlow

00:13:44 - 00:14:39

It's not that complicated. Not for me either. I get up in the morning. I have my little morning ritual. I think, you know, for me it's best to be writing when I'm in a kind of routine and I know when my, everybody I think learns when their good hours are. So, you know, you need to work your routine around making sure those good hours for writing. And the same as Jean, like in the morning, if I need to write the morning is the best time, like nine to noon. And then I take a break every day, I leave the house, I go out because, you know, you only have so many hours of good writing in you at a time, I think. And you know, give it another shot in the afternoon and then the afternoon may be good writing or maybe more like editing. But routine is kind of like we're pretty surprisingly routine. You know, we get up, read the paper, have our breakfast, work, take a break, work, you know, we have a family as well.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:14:39 - 00:15:00

It comes a little bit from what Hemingway said about inspiration, he said, if you wait for inspiration for writing, it will never come. He said, you have to put yourself in a situation of receiving inspiration when it flies by. Which is, you write patiently every day, even if it's no good, you write, you keep writing.

Julie Barlow

00:15:00 - 00:15:05

Because inspiration doesn't come when you want to come. So you have to be there when it comes, you have to be on the computer.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:15:06 - 00:16:07

And, but, Hemingway was a type of writer as an author who was cultivating his voice. It's a bit different. Exactly. It's not, but for me it's the idea of, I wake up and I write it's, and I try to avoid what I write best when I actually, I'm able, not to look at emails before sometimes it's necessary because I have to write and function of what someone has just written to me. So I have to go consult them. But most of the time, I try to avoid it and sometimes even cut off my Wi-Fi so that there's no noise. Radio,okay, no problem with the radio, music. But the noise, the cyber noise on the computer. That's it. Yeah. Attention grabbing that’s.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:07 - 00:17:54

It's very interesting you talk about not looking at your email and I would totally agree. Because some people think that answering an email you're actually productive but you're not, you're just, you're essentially, you are on someone's to do list that sent you an email to get a job done for them. It's not a job done for you. So, I try to avoid opening it. I don't even usually open my email in the morning at all. Don't check my phone on it. I will sit down and read for a while. I will take notes and then that leads to me writing after that. So, my rituals changed over the years. But I love the fact that you said creativity comes out of processes effectively or routine because it's, if you wait for inspiration to strike, you'll actually almost never start, inspiration strikes while you're actually in the middle of sitting at, you know, sitting down and starting to write something, whether it's just the topic. Now, the thing I'm intrigued about is where do you start? Is it a headline? Is it a topic? Where do you, where does it start for you guys? Like you might? Is it is. So, because as writers, you come up with ideas and I will get my phone out and make sure I write a headline down or a topic that intrigues me that might have come out of my reading because I find that my inspiration, we need input to produce output for me and writing because, and for me and I think Stephen King said it very well. If you want to write a lot, you gotta read a lot. There is no other way. How does reading fit into your writing?

Julie Barlow

00:17:55 - 00:18:55

Well, it depends on the kind of writing I'm doing. I mean, we read everything and we read all the time from different sources. We're magazine writers and nonfiction authors. So, you know, essentially a nonfiction book will involve reading a lot of other nonfiction books for information. But I do read a lot, to get ideas about how to write too. I mean, there's a lot of change in the style of how nonfiction books are written now. So I spend a lot of time picking things up and looking and reading to see how a certain author, you know, gets inspiration from how a certain author approaches or deals with the topic. So, yeah, I mean, reading is very, very much part of, it's the background to all of everything we write basically. I mean, we're in the field doing interviews as well, obviously and observing, but it's a big part.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:18:55 - 00:21:35

I'm an active reader. I read with a pen, even the newspaper. And so I think, I drop notes and sometimes it has happened that I would find my notes a year later and then it would say, oh, I would make a connection with something else. Books are the same. I take a lot of notes in the margin and, but I write a lot with a purpose, you know. I either, I've been assigned an article or I've sold an article I didn't, I have to do it. So, the writing actually starts more with interviewing and then one thing I've found and it's the same with writing nonfiction books. What I found is I debriefed myself at one point. I used to write magazine articles and be interviewed on the radio about the article and start saying things that are actually not written about the article I was, developing a new text around the article that I had written. And I realized that as a writer, I'm an expert, I become something of a small scale expert on that topic. So I, what I do and it helps me enormously in my writing process is I debrief myself. I literally do a mental interview of myself and write it. And how would, what are the five things I saw? What are the five things I heard that made an impression? And what are the five ideas that I gathered? And then generally after that process of debriefing myself, I have the core of the article or the chapter that I am about to write and it's pretty much there. So I synthesized, synthesis, and analytical writing. You can just with computers, it's extraordinary, you can write the amount of information anywhere you want between two lines and the computer just fills it, you know, it can be impossible with a typewriter. But the act of synthesizing this, which is the essence of writing that is done through experience and the test of debriefing of writing, as I was speaking, I would be speaking it is probably the best way of coming to a synthesis. The writing allows me to put it on.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:36 - 00:22:39

I'm intrigued by it and I totally agree with that. I mean, we mentioned before that writing is messy, okay? It's really messy and the thing you've just described is you have this conversation in an interview and it's messy, it bounces around. This is a messy conversation we're having right now. It's not, we're not doing this in chapters and bullet points, we are having a fireside chat, but it's to take that complexity and messiness and distill it and synthesize it. And so it makes sense to the reader or listener. I think the gift of a good writer is to synthesize, as you said, this messiness and complexity and take this messy cloud and produce something that has some structure and makes sense. So Julie, how do you find that? What are your thoughts on that?

Julie Barlow

00:22:40 - 00:24:15

On the messiness of it? But it's interesting because it's hard. I find it hard. Like us, there's moments that we enjoy in writing. I like having written the most. There are moments you really, like, find difficult, you know, and the beginning of any nonfiction project is like slapping a whole bunch of ideas and information and stuff in a kind of box. It can be a draft or it can be in your head and sometimes it's just like, I don't even like thinking about it. It's just chaos and disorder and then slowly you shake something into your order, you know, and you take stuff out and you have stuff, there's like a process of going from something very scary to something a little less scary or something that gets nicer and nicer, you know, and it feels so good to be like there when it's not frightening anymore, but it's organization and I'm always surprised when I write at how much I'm removing. Like, there's a lot of words that don't mean anything. And I'm always surprised by how much I turn into something, how much it takes to make something small and, you know, a chapter or an article or whatever. It's amazing how much there is. It doesn't make sense and it's not necessary and becomes very, you know, but that's my kind of writing. I mean, we both enjoy a kind of very, I don't know, clean is not the right word for it but, not too much decoration am I writing, you know, that's so that process involves a lot of head spinning, I guess that's what it is. Like, it's like, throw that, throw, that, throw that and make, and things and put things back together in different forms.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:24:15 - 00:24:58

My father is an engineer and he had his own consultancy, grew it through a fairly large concern at one point. But I remember you didn't know much about writing really, but the problems he was facing as someone running a business and making plans and making lists of material that had to be provided to contractors and stuff like that. The thinking process was in the end pretty much the same in the sense that you would, you didn't think exactly in a creative way the way I can think of when I write a novel, for example. But you did have to make sense of a mess of information.

Julie Barlow

00:24:58 - 00:25:06

You have to let your imagination, let it all happen and then start to figure out what you actually need. I guess that's what you're right.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:25:06 - 00:25:37

You have to find the time of doing that while running a business, while negotiating contracts, while doing all that stuff. And so that's why. And in fact, in effect, during the time that he had his mind because he now suffers from dementia. But that he was a very good mentor for writers, even if he was, would never have considered himself. And he was not an artist or anything resembling a writer, but he was a good mentor because he.

Julie Barlow

00:25:37 - 00:25:42

Plus he taught us how to deal with banks.

Jeff Bullas

00:25:43 - 00:26:38

Yeah, it's true. So it's basically life's messy and we're trying to make sense of it. So that's our entire life journey quite often, isn't it? Trying to make sense of it? And we, as writers, the word I like to use is word wrangling and idea wrangling. And I think the other thing that you also mentioned Julie, that I found intriguing and very interesting is that you're trying to, you're distilling it down to making sense and editing becomes very important and it has been said that don't edit your own work. And I'll be intrigued about that in a minute. But the other thing that the quote I've just remembered is, I don't know whether Churchill did it or whoever it was, but it's, I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time.

Julie Barlow

00:26:38 - 00:26:47

Ain't that the truth? Yeah, definitely short writing is tough for the reasons, I just.

Jeff Bullas

00:26:48 - 00:27:24

Because less is more otherwise you can overwhelm the reader. So it's really, really important and the trouble is as writers, we quite often fall in love with our own words. And Stephen King said this about writing. He said, and editing, he said that it's like killing your own children cause’ you brought forth the words, right? So editing is painful. It's like, no, no, no, I need this. Whereas an editor can come in and remove 10, 20, 30% of a book. And you're going, oh, no, I've had all my children killed.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:27:25 - 00:27:54

Well, that's why writing, we sign articles and books but, you know, it often is a teamwork and I often thank my editors, correctors. They play an essential part at one point. You just do not have the distance even with and you need someone who looks at it and says this part, this part, not necessary.

Julie Barlow

00:27:54 - 00:28:35

Doesn't work. So, one of the good advantages of working with a, you know, partner who writes as well as we do read and edit each other's work and we need each other for the distance, especially when we're writing books together. I'll do my chapters, he'll do his chapters. We'll look at them and, you know, cut stuff and rearrange stuff and say it doesn't make sense and it's all very, you know, painful. Yeah, It's hard to give stuff up sometimes. But, you know, we've been doing this for, you know, three decades plus. So we're used to the idea of it having to be cut. We know it's going to be better in the end. We know the sacrifice is worth it all the time.

Jeff Bullas

00:28:35 - 00:28:45

So how's the negotiation of what stays and what goes, how does that go for you guys? Are there some strong arguments and strong discussions?

Julie Barlow

00:28:45 - 00:29:25

Oh, yeah, I don't know what else to say. Yes. That said, we do come from the same school of writing. So we were both magazine journalists. We worked for the same editors, in fact, at the beginning of our careers. So we agree, at least on the goal and we don't, you know, we're not coming out of left field. We really, most of the time we end up agreeing. But of course, it's still, even after three decades of writing, you know, you still feel humiliated, your feelings still hurt when something that you think is great just isn't. But, you know, a day or two later I understand why it wasn't and get over it.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:29:26 - 00:30:14

Editing yourself or translating yourself is also a very interesting exercise. And I've done it a couple of times and in one case, I ended up completely rewriting a book, even the chapter. I went from 20 chapters to 35 with the same book. And another time I translated it almost verbatim. So sometimes you realize when you consider, reconsider your work that you took the right decisions and sometimes, well, you took the right decisions that you could take at the time you took them. But with a little bit of distance the decisions were not that great. But so.

Julie Barlow

00:30:14 - 00:30:57

So one of my tricks though is when I'm working on something is to give myself time, you need to let that resting time, writing needs a resting time between drafts, you know. So I make sure that I've got the time to do a draft, let it sit, let sleep on it once or twice, one or two nights and then start it again. And so everything I write has some time to breathe and gives me some space from it. So I get that perspective and I can look at it a little freshly because honestly, you can't look at anything freshly when you've been working on it for too long. It starts to all move around on the screen. So that's a writing trick I use. And makes sure I don't run up against last minute deadlines too much.

Jeff Bullas

00:30:58 - 00:31:06

It's good to let it sit overnight and then go back with fresh eyes the next day, isn't it?

Julie Barlow

00:31:07 - 00:31:12

It's amazing how bad it can look sometimes after a night and good sometimes looks good, you know.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:31:12 - 00:32:25

You alluded earlier about how it's simpler to write long than short and it is true and in fact, that's in our book on, right on, self employed, going solo. We have a chapter or two on negotiating and we often explain the big mistake that people make when they begin or sometimes even when they, if you think that you negotiate the price, in fact, price is only one of the six things you negotiate. When you go to negotiate, you negotiate the job, you negotiate the conditions, price, yes, and fees and then terms and even ownership in the case of copyright as a consequence, you know, in writing, then that's a problem right now is that rates have not evolved much in the last 20 years. But, you know, I often find that I actually earn more just because I negotiate better what the job is and what the job is. And I try to negotiate longer than shorter, all the time and longer pays more and it is easier to write than short, which pays less and is harder to write.

Julie Barlow

00:32:26 - 00:32:29

There's experience to fool the system. Yeah.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:32:29 - 00:33:49

So there are tricks that are important to understand and that art of negotiating and negotiating, not just before the work, but during the work also because sometimes the assumptions on the work change and if you don't discuss with your client, those assumptions, even the deadline, but sometimes it's even the angle. I remember once having proposed an article and a big multinational engineering concern in Quebec called SNC Lavalin. And in fact, my idea was to do a profile of the CEO. The CEO turned out to be the most boring person on Earth, but the company was not. So I had to inform my client that, okay, let's change angle. It's not going to be a profile of the guy, but the company profile, turns out to be a very good piece, but I had to renegotiate the take on the article and the end product in the middle. And if I had not understood that formally, I would have made the mistake of writing an article that didn't correspond to the expectations of the client and he would have been surprised or disappointed. So that's experience.

Jeff Bullas

00:33:49 - 00:34:44

Yeah, it's looking for the X factor where it maybe isn't obvious. And so, and quite often where you finish is different to where you started. And that's one of the joys of the creative process as well. Now, Julie, you mentioned there's three things I actually have been raising about the last time I've been chatting. Number one question I have, Julie, you raised was nonfiction writing has changed. The next question I want to ask after that is what different authors inspire you for writing. So the next one is gonna be about ChatGPT and its role for writers and its impact on writers. So let's go to how nonfiction writing has changed. I'll be interested in your insights on this.

Julie Barlow

00:34:45 - 00:37:51

Yeah. Well, the writing itself, I'm not sure the writing itself has changed. Like things are, good writing is still good writing, things are shorter so things sort of swing back and forth, things get very short and then editors want things that are longer and now you can find places where people are really actually interested in quite a bit longer stuff. For quite a while, there were very like blog posts, inspired by very short writing and we had to learn to write in short chunks. Our magazine writing things are divided up now. It's like people's expansion, attention spans aren't that good. So everything I write now has subsections with subtitles in it because when I started writing, we never did that, you know, it was but, you know, everything changes and it actually works quite well most of the time and it's a new technique that I don't really mind. But the business has also changed my, you know, we're speaking about editors, but most of the stuff I write, not all, but most is published online, in online magazines and it has to be impeccable in a way I don't write and the technology allows that and I guess we can segue to the ChatGPT question with this. But technology enables us to do more, to add hyperlinks and to do all sorts of stuff that we, you know, that would have been an editor's job before. And to add the sections and the subtitles and everything like it all has to be sort of perfect. Now, that's what I find is the big difference and it seems like writing would be easier because of a lot of the technology that we have at our disposal. But the expectations have gotten higher too. I find we have to have stuff that's more polished and that editors don't do it. It's harder to find editors to do the kind of work that they did on the stories that I wrote early in my career. And I feel for young writers now because it's hard to find the people that you need to mentor you and to, you know, help you develop your craft. It's tough and I was fortunate, I think to have started at a time when that was possible. And I had some very, very excellent editors who helped me out, one of whom became my publisher of this book. Actually, that we're here today. We were talking about, he was my first, the first editor at my magazine. And there you go, what comes around goes around. Yeah, as far as authors who inspired me, I mean, I could not possibly list the authors that inspired me. I read everything, fiction, nonfiction and I pick up things and tricks here and there. You know, I'm very, scavenger-like about my reading. That's a nice way of putting it, scavenger. Like, oh, I like that. Oh, I like that. I like that and I try to fold that into it, you know, but, you know, I like clean, straightforward nonfiction. I like, I mean, there's some, you know, there's some powerful writers but they're as powerful as in fiction too. So, yeah, so I wouldn't even name a single source off the top of my head.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:37:51 - 00:37:58

One you mentioned was the one who wrote Cod and Salt and you often came back and yeah it's up here.

Julie Barlow

00:37:58 - 00:38:14

But it was, like a kind of book that I saw too. It wasn't even his writing. It was like a kind of book. You can write a book about fish. Let's write a book about language, you know, so why not? It doesn't have to be exciting to make a good book.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:38:15 - 00:38:17

And the British Museum book.

Julie Barlow

00:38:17 - 00:38:19

I loved that, yeah, hundred objects. What was it called now?

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:38:19 - 00:38:21

History of the World in 100 Objects.

Julie Barlow

00:38:22 - 00:38:29

These short articles all put together in a long book about the British Museum. It was amazing.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:38:29 - 00:38:35

It inspired us for a project that didn't work, which was Expo 67 and 67 Objects We Wanted To Do

Julie Barlow

00:38:35 - 00:38:43

I'm looking around my office for the book. I don't know. Oh yeah, I see the History of the World in 100 Objects. Yeah, that's what it's called, that’s what I see on the shelf.

Jeff Bullas

00:38:44 - 00:38:48

The world in a hundred. History of the world in the 100 objects, is it?

Julie Barlow

00:38:49 - 00:38:50

The museum objects and the history of it and everything.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:38:50 - 00:38:56

A picture, a very beautiful picture of the object and four pages on the meaning of that object.

Julie Barlow

00:38:56 - 00:39:22

So, what we do is kind of challenging our nonfiction work about language and culture can be really challenging because we're not digging into some sort of sexy story. We're really trying to explain stuff to people. So, one of the challenges we have is finding ways to make that stuff engaging and keep people, I forget who said the job of writers is to make them read the next word. I mean, that's what we're doing. And so we're looking around all the time for interesting ways that people do that.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:23 - 00:40:23

Yeah, we'll get to ChatGPT next. But there's, I'm torn between two types of writing for nonfiction. And I, they may be appropriate for different things. One is a very funny journalist, car journalist, Jeremy Clarkson who will write a car review and the first 80% of the article is a story very well told with lots of humor and then the car review is like two paragraphs at the end. So to get to the end, you enjoy the journey getting to the review. On the other hand, you've got people like the newsletter company Axios, which is basically, give them the meat, something interesting that I don't know, upfront and then you can go deeper later. So I'm torn between the tension of those two. In other words, storytelling leading to the point or the point leading to going deeper. I'd be interested in your thoughts on that of those two approaches.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:40:24 - 00:41:10

Personally, I'm an impatient writer, so I like a reader, sorry. I'm an impatient reader. So I like reading something where the point is fairly clear. I have a lot of difficulty reading narrative nonfiction that is a lot too long on the experience of the writer and long chapters on, same with documentaries like My Friend, The Octopus where the guy talks to 10 minutes about his experience of swimming before we get to the octopus. And I want to get to the octopus. So I'm like that. So I tend to be more of the by reflex, the going to the topic.

Julie Barlow

00:41:10 - 00:41:33

Yeah, me too. I think by the second or third paragraph, I mean, it depends on the scale of what you're writing, but by the second or third or fourth paragraph you should really know what you're getting into. You should really know what the point is of what you're reading. And that's what, that's the way we're trained as magazine writers with, you know, introductory paragraph and then, and that graph and we need to know what we need to know what's up. We need to know the stakes, we need to know what we're going to learn.

Jeff Bullas

00:41:34 - 00:41:58

Yeah, I'd like the comment you made about the job of the first sentence is to get you to read the second sentence. And it's totally true is that the headline has gotta get you to read the first line, the first line's gonna get you to read the second line and that goes on and on. So this is where the distillation out of the messiness becomes really, really important, doesn't it?

Julie Barlow

00:41:58 - 00:42:00

It's messed up with too many words. People lose interest.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:42:01 - 00:43:00

Well, sometimes, and I remember some of my first lines that I'm very proud of. I have a little, because those first lines are sometimes difficult to come up with, you know, I remember, someone, just before publication, stopped the publication of an article because I had come up with the first line. It was a good first line, you know, and it was a profile of a man named Garfield Mahood who had in Canada, created the first laws to restrict publicity on smoking and on cigarette packs. And I wrote the entire profile. And then just before publication, I just got the line, which is that all cigarette makers want to make an action with the head of Garfield Mahood. That was the first line and everything proceeded from that. I wrote that 30 years ago and I still remember it. I have a couple like that in my.

Julie Barlow

00:43:00 - 00:43:09

Which is to say that often the best way to start a piece happens when you've written it already and you get to the end and then you get the idea about how to start it messy.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:10 - 00:43:11

Then you often get something else at the beginning. Yeah.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:43:12 - 00:43:24

However, in my writing process, I'm very, I often seek the title. If I, even if it's not going to be the final title, I have to give myself a little title that helps me.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:24 - 00:43:26

Not for you, Julie, you don't need a title.

Julie Barlow

00:43:27 - 00:43:33

Doesn't help me. I need to find it somewhere afterwards.

Jeff Bullas

00:43:34 - 00:45:12

That's why we've all got to find our own ritual and process, don't we? It's really, really important. So there is no one truth for a writer. It's, but I think the daily practice is actually a truth that we need to do. The other thing you mentioned before was that you used to write notes, okay? You'd read a book and you'd write on the edge of it and you'd make a notebook. I've, I'm totally different. I actually don't write much because the trouble is, it's not searchable. So for me, my phone is my notebook and guess what? My phone is always with me. And so I use just a very simple my notes function app on my iPhone and that's where I put all my ideas and then it can pop up on my computer, I can search it's, that is where I start out, read, take notes, but it's digital notes. And for me, then I, if I have an idea, that's what I, an idea about something is about artificial intelligence or it's a ChatGPT and I can put that in and bang. There it is. And it might have happened years ago. That's my process for the start and the inspiration and I have to start with a headline or a title that might change. But because I'm looking for will people actually click on this is the other thing I've got to ask, is it as boring as bat shit or is it interesting?

Julie Barlow

00:45:13 - 00:45:16

Yeah, you never know.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:17 - 00:45:47

So one of your headlines I like from your book. We still haven't got the ChatGPT but we will, I do like the headline. 60 Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, which has been one of your best books and it was written in 2003 and it's in six languages. Tell us why 60 million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong. I'd maybe disagree with that. But it's okay. I love the headlines. So tell us about the book.

Julie Barlow

00:45:47 - 00:45:48

Well, first of all, the title though.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:45:48 - 00:45:57

The title is a cold porter, is a paraphrase of a cold porter musical called 50 Million Frenchmen Can't be Wrong. That was.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:57 - 00:45:59

So you stole the headline. There you go.

Julie Barlow

00:46:00 - 00:46:08

He got the title really for that book though. It was, and it really sings, it really has become a thing like we.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:46:08 - 00:47:54

The subtitle of the British edition and nailed it said What Makes the French so French? And we were in France in 1999-2001 with a grant from an American Foundation to study why the French resist globalization that was there. And after two or three weeks, I found out that they're not resisting globalization at all. And I decided to ask, why do we ask silly questions about the French that don't apply all the time? And so the point of the book is describing the French in their own terms, really, and their society is organized in a certain way. The French are the Aborigines of France. They are their own people. They are an ancient people, very modern at the same time and they have their own idiosyncrasies and if you do not understand those idiosyncrasies, you cannot understand how they behave or how they organize themselves. So the book really was about that. The two books because in fact, we wrote another book called The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of the French Conversation much later when we went back to France 10 years later. And it was another take on, this time, how the French relate through speaking and what's behind that. It was a more specialized look at them. But 60 Million really was about French, the mentality and how they organize themselves. Why did they use absolute power, president, for example? And an elected monarch? Why is that? Well, there are reasons for that et cetera.

Jeff Bullas

00:47:55 - 00:48:05

And you went and lived in Paris for a year, didn't you with your children? And tell us a little bit about that and the insights you gained from that year.

Julie Barlow

00:48:05 - 00:49:22

Well, it was really, it was originally we went back to write the book, The Bonjour Effect. So we were all thinking about speaking and how the French talk and about why they say certain things that people don't understand and how they can be so irritating when they say no all the time. And you know, we started with that, but we had our kids with us, which we didn't have when we wrote the first book. And the girls were, we have twins, they were 10 and we, they were, of course in school, they were in French school. And so we learned a lot about how we just learned firsthand, how the French are educated and that contributes a lot to their character. So they learn to speak, they learn to memorize, you know, much, much more than they do here in Canada. But they learn, not just they learn this trick in school that becomes very hard for people to deal with the French, which is that the French never say no, they never say, they don't say they don't know. They always say no. So the girls were raised and taught, like, how to always have an answer for everything and never say, I don't know. And so this was really, like, eye opening for us to see, you know how, and they absorbed it, you know, by the end of the year they were pretty much acting like French kids. It was amazing.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:49:22 - 00:49:28

In fact, when they say no, they don't mean no, they often, they will often say it doesn't exist. It's impossible.

Julie Barlow

00:49:29 - 00:49:34

When they say no, but that's the other thing we learned that they don't say they mean that all the time.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:49:34 - 00:49:44

They mean, they often mean they don't know, but it's not acceptable to say you don't know to someone you're not acquainted with or well.

Julie Barlow

00:49:45 - 00:49:48

So you'll say or no isn't like that

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:49:49 - 00:50:21

And, then you, the secret for that is you make, you keep talking for another 15, 20, 30 seconds a minute, you make them get time to think about it and then they suddenly come up with answers and explanations and oh, this and that they but saying, whereas, and when they know you, they constantly say they don't know, when you are acquainted, they are friends with them saying no talking about money, the stuff that they would not do in public they'll do in private and.

Julie Barlow

00:50:21 - 00:50:32

So both books were very much about understanding, you know, them in their own terms. And makes living there a lot easier in the end, traveling a lot easier.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:50:32 - 00:50:44

Giving their name to a stranger, something they don't do, but they'll tell you that they don't agree that they'll do, but that is acceptable behavior. But giving your name to someone you don't know.

Julie Barlow

00:50:44 - 00:50:54

For some reason, like everyone who travels in France thinks that the French are just like us, but they speak French, but they're really different. That's the bottom line and they really think about the world differently. So it's good to have that.

Jeff Bullas

00:50:55 - 00:51:09

And I think that's what's great about travel is that it helps you create more self awareness about. The fact is we are all unique and different and you can't put countries or people into the same box as much as we like to.

Julie Barlow

00:51:10 - 00:51:13

We try to because it's more comfortable for us.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:51:13 - 00:51:56

Words don't translate well, socially. They have it like yes and no, we know that that translates. But the social charge of that word is not the same in a language. For example, the Japanese will never say no to someone or to a client. So you go to Japan and you ask a question and they don't have it and they will not say no, they will do a little misa saying in order to, oh, I have to find it and find Japanese pick it up right away and they say, oh, I'll go somewhere else and they're very happy. They haven't said no to you. But if you come to say no, they were humiliated by that. So the significance of the term is completely different.

Julie Barlow

00:51:56 - 00:52:02

But, you know, once you figure it out, it's pretty easy to follow the, you know, it's pretty easy to trust, that's the amazing thing, so.

Jeff Bullas

00:52:03 - 00:52:05

It's so much like saving face, isn't it?

Julie Barlow

00:52:06 - 00:52:10

Yeah, a little bit. But we all do it in our way. That's just a French way to do it.

Jeff Bullas

00:52:10 - 00:52:18

Yeah. Very interesting. Because when you hear just a straight, no, from a French, when you think they're just being arrogant, what they're really saying is that, I don't know.

Julie Barlow

00:52:19 - 00:52:21

Keep talking.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:52:21 - 00:52:24

Keep talking and they give them a little bit of time to.

Julie Barlow

00:52:24 - 00:52:26

Think of how to put things well, or.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:52:27 - 00:52:41

Yeah, or say, oh, someone else has got the answer and then they'll be extremely helpful once you put them at ease with the fact that you're not going to judge them that they don't know or that they need someone else to help you.

Julie Barlow

00:52:42 - 00:53:04

The second book is called The Bonjour Effect because if you don't say Bonjour first in any conversation with the French, they're not going to be nice to you. They're not going to answer you. They're not going to help you. And it's like you just have to learn to say it all the time that it's like ABC nobody thinks about it. Nobody really realizes you can't say, excuse me, you have to say bonjour.

Jeff Bullas

00:53:04 - 00:53:07

I'll take note of that next time I go to France.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:53:07 - 00:53:09

Oh, yeah. works like a miracle.

Jeff Bullas

00:53:10 - 00:53:11

Works like a miracle, okay.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:53:12 - 00:53:24

Because even in a department store, the employee in the department store in France, other, in her ali she, it's her home. So if you do not greet her by saying bonjour, you're an intruder.

Jeff Bullas

00:53:24 - 00:53:26

Right. Okay.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:53:26 - 00:53:38

You're an intruder. So that is also true from the merchant who's at the bookstore. And if you don't say bonjour, you're like a kettle, they'll ignore you.

Jeff Bullas

00:53:38 - 00:54:06

Well, I need to read both books before I go to France next, because obviously I've been pissing a lot of people off, apparently. So let's move on to ChatGPT and I'd be intrigued by you guys with your thoughts on it. So ChatGPT. Is it good or bad? I'd be interested in what you guys think for writers.

Julie Barlow

00:54:06 - 00:55:54

I don't use it at all. I wouldn't say that I won't use it, but I haven't needed it. It hasn't been anything that would help me in any way so far. Let me put it that way. I use other AI tools that really do help me. Automatic translation gives me good drafts, automatic transcription gives me decent drafts. But I guess that's the thing about it, like what writers are saying about ChatGPT which seems to be a little scary is, you know, what it produces is medium to crap. I mean, it's not the kind of writing that I'm paid to do. So it could help me potentially as a draft and give me something that I would then be paid to improve upon. It's like mediocre writers. It's like it's replacing mediocre writers. The other problem with it is it's not accurate. Everybody knows by now that ChatGPT when it doesn't know the answer to something fills it in with something that's not necessarily true. And as nonfiction writers, you know it's our craft, it's our trade to verify information. And we can't afford to, you know, the, I'm a little afraid of a world where I'm gonna be reading a lot of writing that comes from AI and we're not gonna know anymore how to verify it or who wrote it or whether it was produced by a human or not. It's a little bit scary. So right now it's not a useful tool for me and it's a bit of a frightening future. But, I'm reassured by the fact that it's not that good so far as writing.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:55:54 - 00:57:07

I think artificial intelligence is a misnomer because it is not intelligent. It's algorithms that gather statistical stuff and a character like the one I use called Antidote, which is brilliant is essentially a set of algorithms that opens 10 dictionaries on the word at the same time simultaneously. That's all it does. Then goes into a bank of grammar and spelling and says, oh, there might be a mistake there. It's a good software because it doesn't try to correct. It just tells me it flags stuff. Deepl or translators are already problematic because they translate and don't tell you when they tried something and they're not sure. And that one of the problems with ChatGPT, as I understand it is that it's fairly sociopathic as a software, it doesn't know it will come up with an answer and that is not good communication if, and as a professional you can, it's actually unethical and unacceptable.

Jeff Bullas

00:57:07 - 00:57:10

Yeah. And the term for that is hallucinate, I believe.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:57:10 - 00:58:14

Yes. And normally if that software was well done, it should tell you when it's going and when it's starting to improvise answers and bullshitting, it doesn't, it is a fairly serious design flaw. That said, I still have to try ChatGPT on my own. I think it's very good for producing summaries. For example, if I gave a chapter of my book and I said it, give me an abstract of 12 lines in that chapter and do not read anything else. It would probably do a fine job just by just reading it. But it's dangerous to confuse well put sentences with intelligence. That and that I think is the marketing BS of artificial intelligence or conversational agents like ChatGPT. Writing is not making nice sentences.

Julie Barlow

00:58:14 - 00:59:21

I attended a seminar with fiction writers about it and it was interesting because there was a Canadian author, Sean Michaels by his name, who wrote a book. That's a story of a poet, writing a poem with a machine designed to write a poem. It's really interesting. It's a really great novel and he was there speaking. But the person who hosted the conference started out, a journalist that I've known for years, began the conference by introducing everybody in such a strange and dull manner. That was so off what I was expecting from him that I thought maybe he had a stroke or he had Parkinson's disease and then he stood up and looked at us all and we knew what was up. He had written his introduction with ChatGPT and he said, and that's what you get. And then he did a real introduction like, oh God, thank God, he's okay because it just sounded conventional and dull and, you know, just kind of bullshitting to be honest. And I knew he would never do that. So that was my, it was a very, very great way to show us the power and the limits of it so far.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

00:59:22 - 01:01:22

We will probably go through a difficult time because a lot of I would not say publishers but owners of publishing companies and people who were assigned were writing. For example, professional writers who are not necessarily writers will confuse nice sentences with writing and will go through a phase of artificial intelligence, substituting, trying stuff to find out that they need editors. And in the end. In Canada, a recent article showed that since the introduction of automatic translation, Deepl, for example, and the like there's the number of translators in Canada has grown by 18% when the total labor force has grown by 6%. So the software has created, has reduced the barrier for entrance into, for entry into translation. And then people still need to realize that they need an editor translator to actually edit the stuff. So they actually need someone who's trained to still compare the copy and in the end produce a good result or better. And so I think ChatGPT will automatize some parts of writing. For example, Julie already uses AI for the transcript and then you could say to AI use the transcript and nothing else to do an article with it or something, a treatment of my interview. And that would be a basic first draft or very rough beta version of an article that would still need to be worked on.

Julie Barlow

01:01:23 - 01:01:23

But you'd have to check it all.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:01:24 - 01:01:41

They check. Yeah. But the minute the computer takes your chapter and starts going into the world bank of information that is untried, untested and unverified, the result will be even worse.

Jeff Bullas

01:01:41 - 01:03:19

Yeah, I think we're getting three types of writing. I've been thinking about this recently, we're gonna get people that solely do ChatGPT to write and that's happening on Amazon and on Kindle. And Amazon requires that if it is authored by AI, it needs to be written, told, disclosed. I think the next part is what writers are gonna be using, it's gonna be a hybrid model to writing, using ChatGPT and human writing. Then I think the last one is where people just like yourself, Julie, do not use ChatGPT at all. In other words, pure human writing. And ChatGPT is at the moment quite imperfect, but it is gonna get better. That's the thing we've got to realize too. And I saw a speech by Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli writer who wrote Sapiens, which I've read all his books, a gifted historian writer. So he's a bit scared by the rise of AI and its use of words because he believes that words are the magic that is written, the myths and stories about humanity. And he says that AI is starting to, not master, but is starting to master the power of words. It's an interesting article. I'm interested in what you guys thought about that, not now because you haven't seen it, but he's worried about what AI and ChatGPT could potentially do in the future by. Sorry?

Julie Barlow

01:03:20 - 01:03:22

The language itself?

Jeff Bullas

01:03:23 - 01:05:29

Yeah, it's, he's worried about, I suppose. Well, the issue with AI is, there's two types of AI, one is generative AI, which is what we have today. In other words, we give it a prompt and it generates stuff out of human information, the web and so on and uses all the disinformation that's around as well to write. General intelligence is the next step in AI. So this is, but anyway, it's an interesting 40 minute YouTube. It's on YouTube about what he thinks about ChatGPT and AI starting to master words because words become myths and legends that gets to the core of being human. So, but it's, for me, it's the start but where's it gonna finish up is the challenge for all of us I think. But yeah, ChatGPT, yeah, it does, it generally does information quite well but you do need to check the facts because the information but it's not good in imagination. And I think that's the other thing that true human writers like the word the opening sentence you used, you know, something from 30 years ago. What you mentioned is that you've got it up there. This is my opening word about, you know, the cigarette tray or whatever it was. So look, sometimes you look at what you've written and you're going, that's really good and sometimes you're going, well, it's crap and you need to keep working. I stumbled upon an article I wrote in 2010, which was just a bit of a fun creative post. It was 10 Reasons Why Ducks Don't Get Social Media and it was just a fun take on ducks in the pond about how they're shit at social media. But it had a, it did have a point at the end but it turned up I didn't.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:05:29 - 01:05:32

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

01:05:33 - 01:05:56

So, yeah. But guys, anything else we like in terms of writing? It's been a fun conversation about words and about your process and routine and ritual. And Julie, you never mentioned any writer that inspires you. Surely you can give me two or three.

Julie Barlow

01:05:56 - 01:06:16

Well, the writer that you just mentioned, Harari, he's excellent. I'm looking at my shelf right now. I'm trying to think of who I really loved. I mean, I read in English, I read in French. It all gets mixed up and I honestly don't have, you know, specific writers that.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:06:16 - 01:07:16

In fiction, I read a lot of Stephen King and I, but there are others I reread constantly. Tolkien. I must have read it. Reread, Victor. There are no books like this. Sometimes I like revisiting books I read a long time ago and just to see what I liked in it and would I still like them. Sometimes, I'm surprised I, we have this famous writer in French called Rome Gary. He actually is the one guy who wrote that won the Goncourt twice because the second time he won the Goncourt, he won it under a pseudonym. And the biography that was written of him 35 years ago, shortly after his death was excellent. And I, very inspirational.

Julie Barlow

01:07:17 - 01:07:43

I recently discovered Donna Tartt, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer who wrote The Goldfinch that I was astounded by in fiction. I loved Sean Michaels. This writer that I just mentioned to you, this Canadian writer who I had never read before either who wrote and this AI inspired book called Do You Remember Being Born? And, who might have been.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:07:43 - 01:07:53

On my table, The Killers of the Flower Moon. I can't, it's the next book I'm going to start, I'm impatient to read it. I'm certain it's going to be very good.

Jeff Bullas

01:07:54 - 01:08:42

Yeah. It's the one you mentioned, Tolkien, Lord of the Rings. I remember reading that when I was about 12 or 13. And it took me on a journey which I think made me fall in love with books even more. But I remember I fell so much in love with books and reading and words that I used to read at night after mum and dad turned the lights off at 8:30PM. And then I would go good night mum and dad, lights are off, off to sleep. And then for the next two hours, the bed lamp was hidden under the bed covers while I read about pirates and adventures. And, I've been in love with books ever since I discovered words I think so but.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:08:43 - 01:08:56

Everybody who loves Lord of the Rings remembers when they read it first. I was 19 and I have very distinct memories of reading it. Yeah, Julie doesn't like that.

Julie Barlow

01:08:57 - 01:09:13

I mean, there is, you know, the greatest writer in the English language for precision and concision is Jane Austen and there's nothing ever like her. So I have all the Jane Austen novels.

Jeff Bullas

01:09:14 - 01:09:18

Yeah, books we love are such a personal thing, aren't they? Really?

Julie Barlow

01:09:19 - 01:09:28

I don't know what affects me as a writer, you know what even inspires me as a writer. Like I said, I'm kind of a scavenger for influences.

Jeff Bullas

01:09:28 - 01:09:48

There's nothing wrong with being a scavenger because we can find gold in all sorts of places, I think. And one of the books I, that's helped me with writing quite a bit was, the book by Stephen King on writing.

Julie Barlow

01:09:49 - 01:09:53

It was a great book as I recall. It has been many years since I've read it.

Jeff Bullas

01:09:53 - 01:11:12

Yeah, and I discovered from him and others that there's a thing called rhythm in writing. And I really went and some of the fun I've had with writing now is to try and during the pandemic, I actually got into what I call a phone poetry. In other words, I wrote poems on my phone, on my notes. But what I loved about that was because the screen is so small, you can't write long sentences. So you've really got to actually write, I used notes and then I find that writing poetry on a phone is great because it's constrictive and restrictive. In other words, it keeps it short rather than long. So, but rhythm in writing, I didn't know it. And I went, wow, so that transformed my writing. And, the only other thing you mentioned, Julie, is about writing change. You mentioned that attention spans are shorter. So I think that the other thing that I'm intrigued by is nonfiction writing has changed because shorter attention spans. But on the other hand, it ebbs and flows between long form content and short as well.

Julie Barlow

01:11:13 - 01:12:06

And there's still a market for long form, it's still crave it. So I wouldn't say like it changes, I'd say, I wouldn't say it has changed, it changes all the time and, you know, editors, publishers are magazines, they're all businesses, they're all trying to find the next thing that's gonna work well and be popular. So they're always open to, you know, things shift, trends come, trends go, you know, that they're no more immune to it than anybody else is. So writers over the decades, you know, we've had to watch trends come and go. And we can remember being a little bit scared by, you know, a certain kind of cheap short writing, it fell to us that it had become popular and then in the end, it didn't last because cheap short writing isn't that interesting but not just that it swung back to the kind of writing we do.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:12:06 - 01:13:27

There's a famous columnist and columnist theory Quebec wrote, if we keep writing for people who don't like reading, we're going to forget the people who like reading. So he said, maybe we should write for people who like reading instead of trying to write for people who would not read anyway so or hardly read. And you know, it's true that the temptation of the new technologies that you get, that allow you to reach a new public, but you're still trying to talk with the, in terms of writers of nonfiction, the I, in a country like Canada which has 40 million people, the one two million people to read books, you know, like the US market doesn't exist. It's not true that there's a US market of 350 million people for books, you know, in the US is what, five, six, seven million people who buy books, read, you know, and read them. Like, there's people who buy books to give them, there's plenty of them vice president, you know, but to read, to really read the people who read like, 10, 15, 20 books a year. No more than six or seven million in the country of 350.

Jeff Bullas

01:13:28 - 01:15:34

Yeah, I love reading and I get frustrated by long videos because I can read far faster than I can watch. So if I would rather give me a good transcript of a video and I'll read it and look at the points and you can see it distilled in words. I, that's how I operate. I've got that modality. But, I read about 50 to 60 books a year. It's, I spend hours a day reading and some of its research, reading, some of its other reading. But I give myself, and this is a thing I struggle with in reading . It's like a guilty pleasure because I actually enjoy reading and going, this is not work. This is wasting time, but it's not, it actually leads to inspiration. So, but yeah, you're right about this, the market size. It's not 350 million. It's five or six million. So, but they're passionate about reading a lot of them. So guys, just to wrap it up, I just generally ask this question and seeing, I've got two of you. I might have two different answers. Number one is what brings you deep joy and happiness in life, whether it's business or whether it's what you do personally. And it could be one and the same, the second question. And I want you to reflect on this in the nanoseconds I'm giving you. What in terms of the challenges that life's thrown at you? What's been your biggest learning from those challenges or a challenge? So number one, what brings you great joy and happiness and also what have you learned, I think cause’ in Western society we quite often see problems and challenges being, you know, they shouldn't be happening, but reality is that they do happen and it's part of like we need to learn from those challenges. So first question, what brings you guys the deepest joy and happiness in life?

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:15:35 - 01:16:01

Well, Julie, I think she was right. She said you really get a rush at understanding something and it's true. I like and I think the best articles I've written were on very complicated questions and I like understanding. I like the act of understanding and grasping the whole thing. I think this gives me immense joy, I would say.

Julie Barlow

01:16:01 - 01:16:17

Me too, except one step removed. It's having written the explanation, not the understanding, but like it looking good on paper, it makes sense on paper. Yeah sure. It gives me a lot of joy. I mean, I assume you're asking about our professional joy and not our personal joy. Our personal joy is.

Jeff Bullas

01:16:17 - 01:16:25

Well, I think what you guys do is what you do personally so it becomes your profession and your purpose.

Julie Barlow

01:16:26 - 01:17:34

I would add like one of the great, you know, we both love writing and reading obviously, but in order to have had a career as writers, we have to do a lot of other stuff. We have to mix it up. We have to not be too obsessive about writing and we're pretty good at leading a pretty good balanced life, you know, with our kids, we do lots of sports and stuff. I mean, I think it's important for people to understand that the great satisfaction of writing is sort of a product of a whole bunch of ingredients that come together in our life and we see people burning out on writing. Whoa, like, and we see people not getting that balance that they need to keep up the rhythm for all those years. I mean, it's important to be balanced and personally gives me a lot of, I mean, it's fun. So it gives me a lot of joy, I guess. I don't know. We're very like outdoor sports people. So we, you know, we really do mix it up

Jean-Benoit Nadeau

01:17:34 - 01:18:08

Regarding your second question. Life lessons. In my case, I would say, patience. It's something I had to learn, patience. Sometimes it can take years and, for a large project to mature and to and suddenly you have to do it and then you have to be impatient and do it. It's, but being patient is something I had to learn. I still have to, I'm still learning patience.

Julie Barlow

01:18:09 - 01:19:21

I have, I struggled and still struggle. And this is not so much with writing because writing itself is something that if you set out you do. There's no, there's nothing standing between me and something I'm going to write. But working as a freelance author has periods where there's lots of work and there's less work and projects don't work out too well. And, you know, you have these periods where it's very low and I've struggled and I think, learned to put it all aside, not get bummed out because something didn't work or something didn't like something. And, you know, to carry on and to take advantage of the slow times when you're a writer because there will be some to develop new ideas, like to keep my morale up. You know, that's been my, that's been my struggle is not getting bummed out by things, getting slow or, you know, really projects that didn't work out. So I've learned how to do that. But with this patience thing, it's still a bit of a struggle. Patience too. Honestly, it's not that easy for me either. But anyway, we're doing okay.

Jeff Bullas

01:19:21 - 01:21:14

You are doing okay. And I think there's a Japanese term called ikigai, which is the intersection of, basically experience, expertise and purpose. It's, and part of that matrix of that intersection is what does the world need as well and what will the world pay you for? And you guys have discovered, I think that intersection perfectly, perfections, maybe not the right term because nothing's perfect. But you've discovered a way to, you've discovered your purpose and passion and you've worked hard at the practice and ritual of writing and the world is paying you for it. And I think that is something that is amazing. So, congratulations to you guys. You've actually cracked the code that a lot of people would love to crack. And you've found your ikigai and thank you for sharing your passion and purpose and your experience and we could have a much longer conversation, but maybe we'll continue in a little while another year or so. But anyway, thank you for sharing your stories and for your passion for writing and look forward to checking out your book Going Solo: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Business and Succeed, which you guys have done for your passionate purpose. But I am gonna read 60 million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong because I need to understand the French a little bit better. So, thank you guys. It's been an absolute pleasure and a joy to have a fireside chat and look forward to maybe catching up in person in Montreal next time I'm passing through which hopefully will sooner rather than later but or maybe Quebec if you're on the way anyway.

Jeff Bullas

01:21:15 - 01:21:17

Thank you guys.

Julie Barlow

01:21:18 - 01:21:18

Bye.

Traffic Guide

Free Download

The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business