How to write

How do you like that? Dow off 43 on Friday. No bounce back from the big loss on Thursday. And gold just keeps going up and now seems to be aiming for $1,400.

Remember the sentiment at the end of 2013? Gold was sure to go down – everybody said so. Instead, gold and gold mining stocks have done quite well, thank you.

And US stocks appear to be very vulnerable. Want to make a great trade? Sell US stocks; buy Russian stocks. Almost sure to pay off. Everybody loves the US, as evidenced by stock prices. Everybody hates Russia.

We spent the weekend at a horse show. ‘Eventing’, it is called, with three events – dressage, jumping, and cross-country. We were not so interested in the horses or the competitions as we were in the subculture and its people.

Riders came from all up and down the east coast, often with a trainer, several horses and grooms to take care of them. The whole kit and caboodle comes down to South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida for a few weeks in February and March.

They rent a stable for the horses and rooms or apartments for themselves. The horses are expensive – anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to $100,000 and more. So are the rigs that you need to move them around.

Last night, we went out to a pizza joint for dinner with a few riders, trainers and grooms. We ordered a glass of wine. Then, the waitress floored us:

“Can I see your ID?” she asked.


“I need to see your ID.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes… the manager says we have to ask for IDs from everyone… so there aren’t any grey areas.”

“Grey areas? I’m clearly not in a grey area. When I was 21, the Lawrence Welk Show was still on the air, the US still had conscription and we had our last real balanced federal budget.”


“Oh, never mind.”

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Most of our career has been spent sitting in front of a typewriter. It seems like a wasted life, in many ways. The outside world has so much more to offer. Sun, sea, mountains, green meadows, old, half-mad bums shuffling down St Paul Street. Bag ladies sitting all night at the bus stop in front of Enoch Pratt public library.

We might have been an engineer, building bridges and skyscrapers, or a chef, making delicious canard à l’orange, or maybe even a decent brick-mason. Who knows? Instead, we work with words. We bend them, twist them, and dragoon them into our service.

Once enlisted, the words are ready to do our bidding. Like callow youths from the farms and suburbs, the recruits don’t know which way to turn or what to do. But they stand at attention. They salute. They do as they are told. And then, later, they mutiny when our back is turned.

Did we tell you how we became a writer? We were in Mrs Marshall’s sixth grade class at Owensville Elementary in 1959. We were given an assignment: to write a story.

We sat at our desk. Our chin up. Our head cocked to the left and our eyes drifting up to the ceiling. It was after a couple of minutes in this posture that Mrs Marshall called us to account.

“Billy, what are you doing?”

“I’m thinking.”

“Don’t think, write.”

That’s what we’ve been doing ever since. We’ve been writing this daily blog since 1999… or was it 1998? Five days a week. One thousand-plus words a day… What’s that? Five thousand words a week… times 52 weeks (we rarely take a vacation) is 260,000 words a year, times 14 years. We have sent out more than three million words.

Why do we write so much? Why? Because it’s easier than working for a living. And easier than thinking too. In a business and in life, there’s a hierarchy. The easiest thing to do is something silly, like reading the paper, watching TV or playing gold. Then, there are meetings. Then writing. Above that, is real problem solving.

For us, writing is a comfortable spot where we are in control. Time, characters, facts – they do as we command. The world is a complex, confusing, and threatening place. It is a chaos of motion, ambiguity and nuance. It is as undisciplined as a Kiev mob and as unpredictable as the stock market.

But with our words, we rush in and impose order. We choose our targets. Our enemies. Our version of history and the facts. Why satisfy ourselves with the dolts and dullards who populate real life? We invite the angels to join us, we sup with the gods, we beckon forth real heroes.

We don’t truck with anybody whose personality we have not shaped with our own words, nor do we have any use for a fact that we didn’t make up ourselves. As for the story, why not tell it the way we want?

At the keyboard, we are like a Field Marshal with his own army immortals. No fort is too strong to withstand our attack. No army is so well-captained that it can resist encirclement and annihilation. Before you know it we are taking prisoners and shooting them in the back of the head.

When we write, we make things turn out the way we want. That poor man, wandering down the sidewalk, tattered, dirty pants, shuffling feet stuffed loosely into old running shoes, with the heel sticking out the back, a black beard on a blackened face.

The bag lady, sitting under the bus stop roof, enormous sacks at her side, dirty quilts around her fat body, sleeping against the steel rail, sitting up.

He is a former stockbroker who couldn’t stop gambling on gold stocks.

She is a former ballet dancer who couldn’t stop eating.

And now – why not – we make them fall in love!

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  • Joao Baptista

    Great writing! Thankyou, Bill, for the enlightening words.

  • Nodrog, Coventry, UK

    “Please keep your comments relevant to the main topic”.
    Bill Bonner’s relevance with this particular article to my reason for subscribing to Money Week?

    @ Joao Baptista

    Was your comment sarcasm or did you really mean it?

  • Warun Boofit

    Time to buy Russian stocks , I dont think so , its going to get a lot worse before it gets better . Whats the point in investing anywhere outside the US when even DOW companies have more than enough volatility to make nice returns and even if they stand still or go down it dosnt matter you can still rent your shares out and make money, theres nowhere else you can do this. I feel sorry for BP once Putin gets in a bad mood about his cronies being unable to shop in Harrods, I think he will do something not in the best interests of the shareholders.

  • Joao Baptista

    I mean it. Writing is easier than real work. But good writing is not.


    PS – The relevance of a topic is not in the topic itself but in the insight which uses the topic as a pretext or as an illustration or proof of a deeper issue. Bill Bonner is able to deal with the few themes which are important in life from different standpoints with an acute sense of humour. The opposite of irrelevant writers mimicking serious thinkers.

  • Ianben1

    Thank you Mrs. Marshall. His writings give us pleasure.

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