There’s one writer who has always had a massive influence on my style
Published 6:38 pm Friday, March 18, 2016
As a student of mass communications and journalism, I’ve studied a lot of great writers and pieces over the years.
My college professors would hand famous out articles and features from Esquire Magazine, Rolling Stone and even Playboy (yeah, there are articles published in there, apparently) for us to take home and read. We’d pick them apart, study what made them work and bring those tools to our own keyboards as we wrote our own pieces.
A lot of writers have influenced and inspired me, especially during those early years where I deeply fell in love with the art of putting words to a page. But I can’t say there is a single wordsmith who has had more of an impact on my craft than Hunter S. Thompson.
Email newsletter signup
I was afraid of that. For as big of an impact he had on what you read every day in a magazine, newspaper article or on a blog, it’s disappointing how few people know about Mr. Thompson.
Back in the late 1960s, when illegal psychedelic drugs were an awfully popular form of recreation in this country, Thompson made a name for himself. He invented a form of journalism called Gonzo Journalism, a practice that is mimicked and replicated to his very day. But nobody did it better than Hunter.
Gonzo Journalism is immersing yourself in what you’re covering, partaking in every detail and aspect so that you can soak up enough information and write something that teleports the reader right there to the scene. My favorite example of this is in Thompson’s first magazine article where he covers the Kentucky Derby. Nothing in the article even comes close to what actually happened in the race. Rather, he spends the majority of the piece talking about the outrageous situations he puts himself in with the other attendees. It’s strange, it’s blunt and it’s eloquent.
Another wonderful work of his is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You might have heard of the movie, where actor Johnnie Depp portrays Thompson. It’s a wild ride that is sure to have your eyebrows raised so high they’ll be on the back of your head when you’re done. And yet it is studied and praised for a reason.
While I haven’t practiced Gonzo Journalism myself, I have looked to Thompson’s prose as an inspiration in my own writing.
Lines like, “I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours,” and, “Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used,” have always struck a chord in me.
If you haven’t explored the work of Hunter S. Thompson and are looking for something to read that is simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and deeply introspective, check him out. You won’t be disappointed.