Short Saturday: How Did You Become a Writer?

The American Scholar is a quarterly magazine of public affairs, literature, science, history, and culture published since 1932 by the Phi Beta Kappa Society. There is also an online version, which features a blog called Epiphanies, about “stories that nourish and sustain us, and the small miracles of everyday life.” Author Brian Doyle presides over the blog.

In this post, Doyle says the short answer to the titular question is By writing. But there’s more, of course:

My dad was a newspaperman, and still is, at age 92, a man of great grace and patience and dignity, and he taught me immensely valuable lessons. If you wish to be a writer, write, he would say. There are people who talk about writing and then there are people who sit down and type. Writing is fast typing. Also you must read like you are starving for ink. Read widely. Read everything. Read the Bible once a year or so, ideally the King James, to be reminded that rhythm and cadence are your friends as a writer. Most religious writing is terrible whereas some spiritual writing is stunning. The New Testament in the King James version, for example.

This wonderful (and short) piece is just lovely. Perfect for a quick weekend read. Enjoy!

Tweet: How did you become a writer? Short answer: by writing.

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  1. Michelle Ule says:

    What I appreciate about this article is there is nothing about sucess–you don’t have to be published in a magazine or produce a book, just write.

    Many other writers have made the same observation about the King James version of the Bible, especially in regards to the psalms. Since the Bible is the basic canon for English literature, a working knowledge, at least, is helpful for anyone who wants to understand and write literature.

    • Jamie says:

      I blogged awhile back about Christopher Hitchens’s thoughts about the KJV. It is a huge part of my personal frame of reference, and I like to think that it was an influence in my love of words and language.

  2. Ellen says:

    What do writers do? They write. So easily said. So simple a concept, yet how I find excuses to avoid sitting at the computer.

    Yes, I believe frequent reading of the KJV is essential for getting the feel of the language. May I also recommend early versions of The Book of Common Prayer?

    • Jamie says:

      I meant to point out in the post how important a sentence’s rhythm is to me. I often edit out altogether or change a word simply for rhythm’s sake.

      Book of Common Prayer is also lovely and from roughly the same time period, no?

  3. Ellen says:

    Yes, and the BCP has gorgeous rhythms. Worth reading cover-to-cover just for the rhythms and sentence structure. “It is meet and right so to do,” is one of my favorite. Some rites are more formal than others.