The right rite to write

For more than 30 years I had a dream job.  Working in Canadian intelligence, having access to very sensitive information that could make a difference in my country’s political, military or economic strategy, and being asked to write about it on a daily basis.  What is not to like about that?

Since my retirement from CSIS in 2015 all that has changed.  I no longer craft 1-2 page briefs for senior officials and experience the rush that used to come with that.  I won’t lie: I miss that.  But being ‘retired’ (NB my kids tell me constantly that I seem not to have grasped what ‘retired’ means!) does not mean inactive.  Far from that!

Yes, some will use their post-work years to engage in activities they did not have time for while they were at the office/factory/coalface.  Activities like golfing or fishing, travel, hobbies, spending time with the grandkids and such.  I have all that – well not golfing or fishing since neither appeals to me – and more.

I write – every day.

Sometimes my writing takes the form of tweets on Twitter or slightly longer posts on LinkedIn or Facebook.  That is indeed a form of writing but it is not what I want to focus on here.

Since 2015 I have written six books on terrorism, countless op-ed pieces for Canadian media and hundreds of blogs (on my Website, all on some aspect of terrorism and/or intelligence.  That takes a lot of time, especially the books!

I have also maintained a habit I gained while working in intelligence.  In order to be able to do what I was called upon to do I needed to read – a lot.  I had to be up on the latest intelligence available as well as follow breaking news in open source.  If I was asked to comment on something I had to know everything possible about it.

To this day I still read – a lot.  Every day.  The only difference is that all my sources are open: accessing intelligence at home seems to be something only US presidents can do!  Besides, if I did try to read secret stuff in my pyjamas I would likely be charged under the Canadian Criminal Code!

I have identified somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 websites I trust to get their facts right.  These are mostly news sites around the world, although I throw in some thinktanks as well.  All this consumption eats up 2-3 hours daily, more if I am called upon by Canadian media to offer some intelligent comments on a developing situation.

Luckily for me I like reading.  I always have.  I believe that to be a good writer, especially on national security issues, you have to be an even better reader.

Take my word – my written word  – for that!

This article was contributed by Double Dagger author Phil Gurski.

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