In the late ‘90s I started an awkward—some might say excruciating and as-yet incomplete—transition from graduate student to freelance journalist. For the young, lordly know-nothing, this might seem like a natural progression: it’s not. Early on in your new career, you discover that no one gives a fig about your soon-to-be-former pretensions. They want your prose to be precise and matter-of-fact; they want you to get to the point, and briskly; and they don’t as a rule find you charming. Every word you write for a general interest publication is examined through the anticipated experience of an imagined ideal reader, leaving no eye whatsoever trained on your genius. It’s the best capstone to a liberal education one could ask for.
Stephen Metcalf (from an essay on the late Denis Dutton)