Dear Ned,
If there are any qualifications for being a writer, what do you think they are?
Rachel (New York, NY)

Ned Said: Rachel, when people ask me about what it takes to be a writer, I remind them about Proust and Bukowski. Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a child of French privilege who didn’t move out of his parents’ house until they were both dead. Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was a child of poor German immigrants who made a living for years betting on dog races. And they both produced some of the greatest writing of the 20th century.

The fact that two people from such different walks of life could both find success in writing should make you feel great.

That means that you can hang out on your mother’s couch and have her bring you tea and write about how difficult private school is… or you can hang out with circus performers and write about animal husbandry. It doesn’t matter. The only things that you need to do to be a writer are 1) read a lot and 2) write a lot, as discussed in Stephen King’s On Writing, which is a great resource that you should read closely.

Do be aware that once you identify what kind of writing you want to do, the qualifications become more rigid. If you want to be a journalist, then you should go to journalism school. If you want to write poetry, then it may help you to stay within an academic system and teach while you write. I have more details about professional writing strategies in my FAQ. Good luck!

Have a question about the writing world? Ask Ned! You can e-mail us at askned(at)artandwriting(dot)org, or you can learn more about Ned at
Image Credit: Turn of the Century. Elizabeth Miserendino, Grade 12. 2010 American Visions Medal, Painting.
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