-Joseph, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo
Yaakov Katz is the Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post and a 2020 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature finalist. His latest book, Shadow Strike, was published by St. Martin’s Press in May 2019.
The Drive to Write
Books or newspapers? It is a constant battle.
On the one hand, there is the daily news: keeping up with it, understanding it and analyzing it. On the other hand, there are the stories that I know need more and that the reader needs to be taken into deeper.
Throughout almost 20 years in journalism, I have gone through different periods when it comes to reading books. There have been years when I couldn’t bring myself to pick one up since my attention span wouldn’t last more than the length of a New York Times magazine feature, let alone an entire chapter of a non-fiction book.
Then, there were periods when I couldn’t stop devouring the latest Jewish topical fiction or the newest book on military technology.
I’ve yet to figure out exactly what’s behind it all, and it’s possible that I never will, but I have come to realize that a great article can only give you so much and that readers oftentimes need much more. Those moments were when my books were conceived.
In all cases, they started as ideas for long-form feature articles about topics that I felt needed more space to be told. After starting the research and doing the interviews, though, I came to the realization that they needed more room and words. A newspaper article – as long as it could be – would not suffice.
The advantage in these cases, I found, was that the passion was already there. I didn’t have to force it. I wanted – actually, I needed – to tell the story.
Having that drive, I’ve discovered, is critical, because without it, a busy person who already has a job won’t carve out the time to get it done. You need to have drive to find the time. You need it to force yourself to wake up at 4 am so you can finish a chapter or to stay at work till 1 am so you can finish phone interviews with sources overseas.
The story will only take you so far. Drive is what will you get you over the finish line.