Jim Chapman talks about his new book 147 Things and the most mind-blowing fact
Find out what Jim loves about writing and why he defends YouTubers as authors.
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Jim Chapman is a YouTuber, blogger, presenter, contributing editor of GQ, model and now officially an author. Following the release of his debut book, ‘147 Things’, we had a chat with the man himself about his work, criticism of YouTuber books and his love of writing.
Hi Jim! For those who have been watching you on YouTube for quite some time, they may remember you talking about releasing a book more than two years ago. What made you decide that you were going to create a guide to the universe?
I guess it was always going to become that, whether I knew it at the time or not. Everything fascinates me and
as I started to write it became more and more eclectic but the theme remained: Life is weird and wonderful
and glorious and deserves celebrating. The massive and the tiny.
147 things is a lot of things, but which was the most mind-blowing, shocking thing you’ve learnt that features in this book? For us, we’re kind of still thinking about the lobsters…
I already knew pretty much everything in the book. That was kind of the point – it’s about the things I know and
how they affect me. The one that I got really carried away with though, was the one I open with. The odds
against you, or me or any specific person existing. There are less atoms in existence across the entire universe than there are chances of Sandra from number 26 becoming a living thing. And it’s not even a close call. Each of us is about the rarest thing to come into being. Ever.
You share a few very personal snapshots from your life in this book. Was there anything you really considered putting in the book but thought it may have been a step too far into your personal life?
I used this book as a chance to talk about things I had never mentioned before. I like to keep my videos upbeat
so that the people watching them can take five minutes out of their day and leave feeling happy. I would hate to burden them with my problems, but the book gave me the opportunity to think about every word and the lesson I learned from the experiences. I think I covered all the important bits of my life that needed talking about.
How did you make the decision to share such intimate moments? Were there any moments of hesitation?
Not really. I wrote about the death of my step dad the day after he passed because I needed to get the feelings
out. It was cathartic and I wanted to do him as much justice as I could because he deserved to be immortalized in someone’s book, somewhere. The other more intimate parts of the book fell out of me in a similar fashion. The experiences I’ve had are not unique to me but I have come out the other end, and maybe there are people reading it who are currently living something similar. Maybe it will help them in some way.
This book has been a year in the making. What did a typical day of writing look like? Was there a specific place you felt comfortable being when writing or something you needed to fuel your creativity?
It basically came with me on the road. I travel a lot for work, and the beauty about writing is that you can take it
anywhere. I did struggle to find time though. Initially, I set myself a target to write one ‘thing’ a day, but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen as I would go days or weeks snowed under with the rest of my job and not get anything done. I loved the process though, and whenever I found myself with an hour or so, I would get my laptop out and start writing.
There tends to be a lot of criticism about YouTubers releasing books, with your friends like Zoella often getting articles which paint her in a bad light. What would you have to say in defence of your community writing books?
There is absolutely no reason why we can’t make videos on the internet and write books. I’ve found pigeon
holing a bit of barrier in this job. Some people struggle to look past your social media following and it ends up
defining you. I’m a human being the same as Zoe, or you, or Brad Pitt, and there are lots things that interest us
and lots of things we want to achieve. I already write for magazines, so it’s not like it just came out of nowhere.
We couldn’t agree more! And we know books are something you love to talk about on your channel. in particular, during a ‘favourites’ video, what books have you been reading lately that you feel the need to tell the world about?
To be honest, while writing ‘147 Things’ I barely read anything because all of my free time went into making it
happen. Since finishing, I have read a couple of Neil Gaiman books and I’m about to start ‘The Secret History’
by Donna Tart.
Despite the fact this is your debut book, you’ve made writing a fair part of your career, from your blog to writing for other media outlets. Why do you believe writing for you is a good way to get word out about what you’re thinking?
I just really enjoy the process. It’s so different to presenting and making video content, which is all about pace
and engagement. I can take my time when writing and really think about where every word goes. Every time I sit at my laptop, I spend about five minutes just thinking, “What am I going to do here? I’m out of ideas.” But after the first line, the rest just flows. I love it.
Writing is a wonderful thing (we do it for a living!). What kind of encouragement and advice do you think is vital for someone considering to pursue it that they may not have already been told?
Just get going. The more you do it, the better you get at it. I would definitely advise planning. I know that if I
don’t have at least a semblance of structure, it all turns to waffle. But if you want to do it, there is nothing
stopping you but you, so go for it!
‘147 Things: My User’s Guide to the Universe, From Black Holes to BellyButtons’ by Jim Chapman is out now in the UK and in the US.
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