by 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.