The Secret of Success…

The secret of success.  At least in journalism.  It’s from Chesterton’s Autobiography ( a great read if you haven’t read it already!)

“The profound problem of how I ever managed to fall on my feet in Fleet Street is a mystery; at least it is still a mystery to me. It used to be said by critics that falling on my feet was only a preliminary to standing on my head. But in fact Fleet Street, not to mention my head, was a rather seasick and earthquaky sort of thing to stand on. On the whole, I think I owe my success (as the millionaires say) to having listened respectfully and rather bashfully to the very best advice, given by all the best journalists who had achieved the best sort of success in journalism; and then going away and doing the exact opposite. For what they all told me was that the secret of success in journalism was to study the particular journal and write what was suitable to it. And, partly by accident and ignorance and partly through the real rabid certainties of youth, I cannot remember that I ever wrote any article that was at all suitable to any paper.

On the contrary, I think I became a sort of comic success by contrast. I have a notion that the real advice I could give to a young journalist, now that I am myself an old journalist, is simply this: to write an article for the Sporting Times and another for the Church Times, and put them into the wrong envelopes. Then, if the article were accepted and were reasonably intelligent, all the sporting men would go about saying to each other, “Great mistake to suppose there isn’t a good case for us; really brainy fellows say so;” and all the clergymen would go about saying to each other, “Rattling good writing on some of our religious papers; very witty fellow.” This is perhaps a little faint and fantastic as a theory; but it is the only theory upon which I can explain my own undeserved survival in the journalistic squabble of the old Fleet Street.” – G. K. Chesterton, Figures In Fleet Street, Autobiography, 1936


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