Words Matter: Embrace Your Inner Hack

by Randy Murray on December 3, 2012


While Randy is on hiatus recovering from a writing-induced ailment, some friends have been taking up the slack. However, today’s post is by Randy himself — he wrote it as an ‘extra’ just before he went on hiatus.


I have been puzzling over something recently and I’m trying to get the issue straight in my head. It’s that lament that I hear from so many who say, “It’s so hard to write!”

I’ve tried to look at it many ways. I write for a living, and, more specifically, I write for others to make my living. I write all manner of marketing materials, from brochures, to web sites, books, white papers, presentations, speeches, and virtually any type of material that contains words. I’ve been doing that my entire career.

And I do a LOT of it. It’s great work and I enjoy it.

So it puzzles me when well educated, otherwise professional people, people who claim that they want to write more, bemoan the fact that they’re not writing at all.

Perhaps I’m just some sort of mutant super-genius. That’s probably not it.

Perhaps I’m just in touch with my inner hack.

The word ‘hack’ and the more recent ‘hacker’ have taken on meanings referring to rogue or unauthorized computer programmers. When they are applied to a writer, though, it’s not a nice term at all. “He’s just a hack.” That phrase is used to denigrate a writer who churns out writing while others struggle. Hacks used to work at newspapers and magazines and for publishing companies, and could churn out words as though they were on a factory line. In a very real sense they were, and they were paid by the word, sometimes just pennies a word.

There are many hacks among my favorite writers. Fredrick Brown could churn out westerns, mysteries, romance, and science fiction novels as each assignment called for it. Isaac Asimov wasn’t just a hack line worker—he was a whole damn writing factory. Robert Silverberg seemed to be a writing blur. The list is endless.

‘Hack’ doesn’t mean bad writing, even though that’s what many mean when they say it. To me a hack is someone who has a job to do and that job is to write.

That’s my job, so I do it. I write fast. I write a lot. And, because I’ve been doing it for a long time, my work, while I’m no Fredrick Brown, is pretty damn good, if I say so myself.

Perhaps you need to get more in touch with your inner hack.

Start here: don’t shoot for greatness or even for ‘good.’ Just aim for ‘good enough.’  If you let the words flow you’ll eventually find ‘good.’ You may even stumble upon greatness. When you trip over it, wave, and keep writing.

Because that’s what we hacks do.

The Words Matter: Embrace Your Inner Hack by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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