Training a hack writer

Subject: Training a hack writer
From: Arthur Comings <atc -at- CORTE-MADERA -dot- GEOQUEST -dot- SLB -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 1995 10:03:05 PDT

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

I'm surprised to hear a writer (who presumably knows how rare good
writers are) say that. The only way I can imagine the product of such
a course of study is someone who, in order to keep their job as a
writer, doggedly follows a set of rules that they learned and
practiced in writing school.

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

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.

If you start with someone who lacks such a love and curiosity, I think
five years would be none too long to instill these basic requirements,
plus the tools with which to exercise them. Probably many of the
graduates would never really "get it" and become experts at their
craft, just as many graduate engineers may not be sterling examples of
their profession.

Anyway, if you're saying that in two years you could create a good
writer out of a person who had no particular love of words, but who was
for some reason motivated to be something called "a writer," I would
disagree. If the motivation the person posessed was that love and
curiosity that I mentioned, two years would be more than enough.

But we probably aren't addressing the need for great writers or great
engineers anyway. I guess I'd agree that if you started with people
with no interest in either of these professions and tried to create
hack writers or a drone engineers, you could create hack writers
faster. But I suspect that the more you aimed for greatness (to the
extent that you can train a great *anything*) the more the balance
would shift in the other direction.

Arthur Comings

Corte Madera, California
atc -at- corte-madera -dot- geoquest -dot- slb -dot- com

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