Happy Birthday, Mr. Bryson!
Bill Bryson is most famous for his books on travel, although he also wrote about science, the English language, and other non-fiction topics. He gained widespread recognition after publishing his exploration of Great Britain: Notes from a Small Island. On World Book Day in 2003, British voters chose Notes from the Small Island as the book that best sums up British identity and the state of the nation.
His A Short History of Nearly Everything is also widely acclaimed. It is a popular science book, five hundred pages long. Bryson explains science with passion and enthusiasm, and, most importantly, in an accessible way. He also reveals the often funny beginnings of sciences. One scientist allegedly jokingly described it as “annoyingly free of mistakes”. This book won many prestigious awards: the Aventis Prize for best general science book 2004, the Royal Society of Chemistry Award for advancing the cause of the chemical sciences in 2005, the EU Descartes Prize for science communication 2005, among others.
His other popular books are A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: Travels through my Childhood…
But we are more interested in Bill’s writing advice:
“I think the main thing is to just write. There are an awful lot of people that just talk about a book they are going to write, but they never get round to writing it. I think that unless you just get on with the writing, there’s no way to tell whether you’re a good writer or not.
Also, I get an awful lot of people writing to me asking for advice on how to write a book. Instead of doing that they should just write the book. People just seem to put it off. Also, don’t be afraid of rejection. There are all kinds of reasons why articles and books don’t get accepted. You shouldn’t take it personally.”
Well, he didn’t exactly discover hot water, but sometimes the simplest advice is the best. So, just get on with it!
Bill also says: “One idea to a sentence is still the best advice that anyone has ever given on writing.”
Once again, it doesn’t sound like a higher knowledge, but the most valuable truths always sound simple.