Chris Jones, interviewed on writing

Paige Williams, a helluva good writer I’m thrilled to have as a friend, did a terrific long interview with Chris Jones, who hopped up from his life as a hotshot Esquire writer to talk to this year’s Niemans.

The interview brims with vivid stories and insights into what it takes to become a writer like Chris Jones (hint: be obsessed and be super lucky). It gives a dash of hope to writers everywhere.
Two things jumped out at me:

I don’t think you can take a bad writer and make them great. I think you can make a bad writer passable and a passable writer good and a good writer great, but you can’t make massive jumps. It sounds harsh, but, excluding me from the conversation, there’s kind of an “it,” or whatever, that [good writers] just have. Like music. I’m tone deaf. You can never make me a great pianist. It would never happen. Writing is a similar kind of thing.

If you’re pitching magazines, you can’t pitch a story that’s happened and that everyone’s writing about, or that’s happening in two months. For me, I get most of my ideas from newspapers, where the reporter I used to be – some poor dude only had three hours and 400 words to tell a story and you can see – [the bigger story]

I disagree with the first — I think great writing gets driven by great reporting, and by good story conceiving. The rest is just revision.

The second interested me because it testifies to how the headlines obscure the stories that matter.

Would love to hear some other thoughts on these two points…

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