Good Talker = Good Writer? Don’t Bet on It.

By Jack Limpert

“The truth is that the writer is almost never as fascinating as the writing.”

—From an interview with Hollywood writer, director, and producer J. J. Abrams in the New York Times Book Review of October 27, 2013.

For an editor, it always was a nice surprise to find that a writer who seemed ordinary in conversation could write pieces that showed a really interesting mind at work.

The hardest lesson to learn was the reverse—finding out that a lively talker could write dull, clunky pieces. In 50 years as an editor, I paid a lot of kill fees because I had trouble accepting that fact of the writing life.

Phil Merrill, The Washingtonian’s  longtime publisher, had learned a similar lesson in the business world.

He once asked who I thought were the most dangerous people in Washington. I said something about dumb, aggressive people. “Oh no,” he said, “the ones that do the most damage are bright, charming people with very bad judgment.”

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