[Writing is] an art, not an inspiration. It is a trade, so to speak, & must be learned -- one cannot 'pick it up.' Neither can one learn it in a year, nor in five years. And its capital is experience. . . . Whatever you have lived, you can write -- & by hard work & a genuine apprenticeship, you can learn to write well; but what you have not lived you cannot write, you can only pretend to write it.
--Mark Twain, letter to Mrs. Whiteside, as quoted in letter to Olivia Clemens (10 Jan. 1885), in The Love Letters of Mark Twain 228 (Dixon Wecter ed., 1949).