I wanted to draw attention, briefly, to this essay we published at World Hum last week: Inspiration, Travel Writing and L’Esprit Frondeur. It’s by Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Tayler, and it’s about how he became a writer. I always get a kick out reading the “how I got started” stories of writers I admire, but I especially appreciated this one for making an important and surprisingly regularly overlooked point:
I’d like to clarify something fundamental. I take for granted that if you want to be a writer, you’re a wordsmith, a lover of the classics and a connoisseur of literature. Writers must, initially and throughout their lives, be readers first and foremost, and readers not primarily of journalism, but of the classics, both modern and not-so-modern. I also take for granted that aspiring writers know how to compose a proper declarative sentence and don’t misuse words. Reading the classics will help hone your ear, but there are many good books on usage out there and writers should read and digest them and reread them. Inspiration and an esprit frondeur won’t help aspiring writers who don’t know the basics of their craft. No matter what motivates you, no matter what experiences you have and seek to put down on paper, editors buy well-written words, and your writing has to be exceptional if it is to see print.
In all the talk about building your online brand, social media, and so on, this basic point – that aspiring writers should love words and know how to use them – can sometimes go overlooked. So thanks for the reminder, Jeffrey.