Journalism teaches the short story writer skills that will make the short story writer a better writer.
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Hemingway and John O’Hara were both newspaper men and both wrote great fiction. As newspaper men they wrote hard news, features and commentaries. As creative writers they wrote novels, short stories and many non-fiction pieces. Both men were of the opinion that although newspaper work took away time from their creative work it had a beneficial impact on their fiction.
There has always been a natural tension between the journalist and the creative writer. The journalist reports and the creative writer creates. The journalist passes on the news and the creative writer makes something that is new.
As a young man I had all sorts of unrealistic ideas about becoming rich and famous by either writing novels or short stories or both. Once I realized I wasn’t a novelist I concentrated on writing short stories.
Even though I was pretty naive I knew I had to earn a living. So, to earn money while I worked at learning to write short stories I applied to one of the city dailies here in Pittsburgh (I forget which one) for a job. Not knowing how to type killed my chances. But my instincts were in the right place.
Working at a newspaper meant working with words. It meant writing copy that the general public would have no problem understanding. It meant a steady paycheck. A steady paycheck for writing words was the best thing of all.
And no newspaper editor was going to tolerate laziness, inaccurate copy, sloppy copy or not meeting a deadline. Working at a newspaper meant writing every day.
Journalism can teach a short story writer a lot.