What it really takes to become a writer
Recently, as I was doing some research for my Demon Muse blog, I came across an essay by Joseph Epstein that begins with an audacious statement of what it really takes to become a writer. Although the overall point of the essay is to criticize a book I love (Alice Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain), after having mulled it over for a couple of weeks I must say the man’s point about the writer’s necessary attitudinal and psychological equipment continues to resonate:
I was recently asked what it takes to become a writer. Three things, I answered: first, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions or views, and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy — once you have these in place, you are set to go.
— Joseph Epstein, “Writing on the Brain,” COMMENTARY magazine, April 2004