Re: Hack Writers

Subject: Re: Hack Writers
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 1995 13:56:37 PDT

From robert Fri Apr 28 13:55:40 1995
To: atc -at- corte-madera -dot- geoquest -dot- slb -dot- com
Subject: Re: Training a hack writer
Status: R

>> By comparison, it's easier to turn an engineer into a writer, in my
>> opinion. Two years, tops.

>Of course, few engineers are sufficiently
>> motivated to even consider such a course of study.

> Arthur Comings:
>That's a very large caveat. I think that a love of words and a
>curiosity about them -- which impels one to an ongoing investigation of
>how they're used -- is a sine qua non for a writer. Not all tech
>writers share these characteristics, of course, but I'll bet the good
>ones do.

You are essentially making the point that someone who would enjoy
writing as a hobby will succeed as a professional writer. Maybe.
But the converse -- that someone who hasn't shown any great interest
in writing cannot become a writer -- is questionable.

In the profession we've been using for contrast, engineering, I've
known people who went into an engineering cirriculum with no love
for the topic who emerged as excellent engineers. They acquired
an interest for the topic after being immersed in it.

This is true of writers as well. We are all born illiterate, after
all -- no one is born with writing skills. We generally decide that
we are good at writing after doing it for a while. So what's the

The difference is that there is a lengthy, difficult course of
instruction to turn someone into an engineer, while technical
writers are mostly self-taught in their own profession. Self-taught
people generally learn best in topics that fascinate them, so the
best self-taught technical writers are the ones who are fascinated
by technical writing.

But this fascination merely provides the motivation to keeps studying
and learning; it's not a magic decoder ring in itself. A less-
fascinated but equally motivated person who learned the same material
would do just as well.

So, while the traditional view of what makes a writer is,
"infatuation with writing, then love, then marriage," I claim that
arranged marriages sometimes work, too. In fact, I'll go so far as
to claim that most people find writing to be immensely attractive,
but have no idea how to press their suit, so they get all bashful
in its presence.

-- Robert

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