Writing gives you a sense of clarity and a better understanding of what you really think about a subject. You can refine your perspective on art, travel, whatever you write about—even your own character. And of course if you love of language it’s even better. Ultimately, writing is about self-knowledge, and so is dressing for that matter.
Reading helps you know an author, of course, which is very specific and personal. But it also gives you access to whole others worlds, and access to different eras—whether it’s Evelyn Waugh writing about World War II or Tom McGuane writing about fly fishing in Key West in the 1970s. I think we get locked into social media and our devices—I do too—but it’s good to get away from the hum and spend time with a book. It returns you to a more natural pace of mind. Writing is the same way. You slow down, you come to terms with what you think and reconnect with the analog pace.
I met some pilots late one night in a Scottish bar in Paris watching an American football game - already an improbable situation. One of them found out I was a writer and said he had a good idea for a story. A lot of people say that, and usually their ideas are not too hot (which is normal since a lot of writers’ ideas are not too hot either). Anyway, he told me about an airline, I think it was called Evergreen Air, and it was the private airline to the CIA. As he told it, some very accomplished pilots would basically sit around in a hangar and when the phone rang they would fly huge Boeings wherever the CIA needed them, often in intense situations. Completely amazing. So I went to my editor as soon as I was back in New York and told him about it. He asked “How did you hear about this?” And I told him. He said, “Well we have a writer working on the exact same story.” So that was tough, since the story was so great. Then he added: “And it’s already been optioned for a film.” That was even rougher. I don't know if the film ever got made, but that’s about as close as I ever got to Hollywood.