The Difference Between Making It and Not Making It as a Writer

48B pen and paperby Mike O’Mary

In my role as an editor, I sometimes see it as my duty to dole out encouragement. (Okay, perhaps I’m not your typical editor.) In any case, I told a writer who seemed self-conscious about her lack of formal education in creative writing that I know people who would trade their Ph.D.s to be able to tell a story in an engaging voice. A friend then confided in me her belief that formal education is not the main ingredient in great writing…that great writing is a combination of instinct, intuition, rhythm, experience and heart.

I agree with all of that…there is definitely something to be said for somebody born with those gifts. At the same time, I have tremendous respect for journalists who, in my experience, have the enviable ability to day-in, day-out either take or leave things like instinct, intuition, rhythm, experience and heart (which can also cause writer’s block if they happen not to be available when you call upon them), and just write the damn story! So add persistence or perseverance to the mix of desirable traits, too.

One of the most insightful things I ever heard about the art and craft of writing came from my friend, John Rember, who is the best writer I know. John once told me that the difference between making it as a writer and not making it is simply sitting down and writing every day. You can have all the instinct, intuition, rhythm, experience, heart AND education in the world, but if you don’t put pen to paper, no one will ever experience your gifts. So grab a cup of coffee. Pick up a pen or sit down at your computer. And write. We’re all waiting to see what you have to say.

Mike O’Mary is founding dreamer of Dream of Things, a book publisher and online community for writers and other artists.

5 thoughts on “The Difference Between Making It and Not Making It as a Writer”

  1. Mike,
    I completely get what you’re friend was saying. There has been days in my ‘I’m going to bblog each day this year’ where there is sinply NOTHING in my head. Yesterdays post was the biggest example. I mean, I had nothing.
    But I have found that if I just keep writing, I take things out, put things in, and at some point it turns out to be an alright piece. Keep going.
    On the other hand, there is nothing greater than those days when it flows without effort! I hope that is today! I adore you and hope your week is great! Dina

  2. Thanks, Dina. You know I’m a fan of your writing and admire what you’re doing. Keep it up! (And yes, spell check is good, but worrying about spelling on a first draft is sort of like walking into the Sistine Chapel and telling Michelangelo that he’s dripping some paint on the floor. Don’t worry about it!)

  3. Isn’t it the truth – no matter how many books one reads on the craft, no matter how many books are written on the craft, nothing happens unless words are being put on the page – electronic or old fashioned. I recently read (although I forget which writer said it — maybe Bukowski) that a writer is only a writer when s/he is writing – the rest of the time s/he is something else…the act of doing creating the act of being.

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