Jon Ronson: “Don’t let your writing be a dead shark”

As a New York Times-bestselling author, journalist, documentary maker and now screenwriter, Jon Ronson has a unique take on the fringes of human experience. Always fascinating and entertaining, his latest collection —Lost at Sea— follows stories including the life of emotional robots and the work of amateur nuclear physicists. We asked him how he works.

How do you write? Do you have a specific routine or approach you take?

I work from 7am until about noon. I’ve worked out those are the hours when my brain works best. If I carry on much after that I make things worse. So find the hours you write best, if you possibly can. It can be good to go to another room if you run out of inspiration.

If somebody asked you for tips on becoming a better writer, what’s the one thing you’d tell them?

Empathy. Try and see the world from the eyes of the person you are writing about. Also, tell stories. Stories connect more than anything else.

Also, writing is like what Woody Allen says relationships are like: sharks. They have to keep moving forward or else they die. You don’t want your writing to be a dead shark.

Cut and cut. If you find a superfluous word, cut it. Finally — never send something off the same day you were writing it. You’ll always find flaws the next day.

This interview was previously published in Overmatter, the weekly email from digital longform publisher MATTER. Sign up for an account today to receive a weekly dose of great stories, enthralling links and insightful tips.