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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Were You Born To Write?

Two weeks ago I blogged about mental illness and creativity with the possibility the two were linked. To date that has been my most successful blog post and I was overwhelmed by the discussion it generated.

Now this post could be seen as similar as I am asking the question: Were you born to write?

A lot of writers I network with state this to be the case. The majority were writing fictional stories as soon as they could pick up a pen. And I admit I was one of them. Creative writing was always my favourite lesson and more often than not my teachers would end up reading my work to the rest of the class. The stories just seemed to effortlessly appear in my mind. I wouldn't even think about a topic  before the ideas came to me.

I suppose story telling and quick wit can be linked together as well. I know my mother is always complaining about the lack of her imagination. And she says she always tries to be quick witted like my father used to be but she fails miserably. Again, this is not a problem for me. Just like stories appear effortlessly in my mind so does the instant humour one needs to be quick witted. I obviously take after my dad.

This blog could also be linked with the topic: Can writing be taught? I blogged about that subject a year ago and that generated a lot of discussion too. Artists who can draw and paint seem to have a natural knack at it. Quite often they come from a family with similar traits. Writing is unlike that. Anyone can tell a story but whether the story is of decent quality is another matter altogether.

None of my immediate family are creative. I suppose my dad thought outside the box on regular occasions but he wasn't an artist of any description. I have some distant relatives who can paint and write poetry but I can't do either of those things.

Tell me what you think. Can creative writing be successful if you aren't compelled to tell stories?


  1. I share many of the traits you have described in this blog and I use them to my professional advantage. It took me nearly 20 years to find my niche in the professional world of engineering but my rapid and devilishly inventive mind is put to use designing new "super systems" such as autonomous mining systems for super pits and next geenration armoured vehicles.

    I have never had an issue with imagining new worlds, plots and staories but I listened to society to much as a child with direct / indirect comments and actions that labelled me as "a bit different" or "quirky". 20 years later I have finally got around to applying myself to writing drama, sci-fi & horror.

    We the arrival of our children, we have become aware that these traits are heavily linked with aspergers & dyslexia. So much so that 3 of our 4 children have been formally diagnosed with this. The upside is, unlike society, I do not see these as a problem or mental disfunction but just another variation of the human brain with relevant pros and cons.

    Please drop by to to touch bass on my creative rebirth in writing & photography :)

  2. P.S. I should check my spelling rather than getting overly excited and just hitting publish. My aplogies...

  3. I've always written and told stories. But it's only now that I don't have to write things other people want me to write (I worked in Child Protection - oh those Court Reports) that can remind myself just how much I love the process itself.

    Was I 'born to?' That's the whole nature/nurture debate, and I'm not sure it matters to me. I just know it makes me happy.

  4. I do believe that, as with all things, there are natural writers and those who, through hard work and diligence, manage to create readable works. This doesn’t mean that the naturals don’t have to hone their craft but they do have a, well, natural advantage. I have not always written. I grew up in a home where no one read fiction—neither my mother not my father ever picked up a novel and my mother was also not one for women’s magazines—and no one listened to music unless it came on the telly—again, neither of them owned a single LP—and yet as a teenager I both started to write and compose so go figure. The writing came to dominate although I still miss composing from time to time.

    I don’t regard myself as a storyteller however. Perhaps this is because I began as a poet where there’s very little narrative generally unless you write epic poetry and who does that nowadays? I was primarily interested in working things out on the page and the resultant poems—and later on prose—were by-products of the creative process not end products. I’ve always said that once I’ve finished a poem I could toss it; it’s served its purpose for me. The reason I don’t is because I came to realise that others to get something out of my writing by bringing their own life experiences to the work and making something new. But I was never interesting in writing as entertainment and I’m still not. If I want to be entertained I’ll watch TV. Writing is a meaningful experience for me and I look for meaning in reading too.

    I write to solve problems. In my first novel I imagined a worst case scenario, a possible (albeit fictionalised) me, twenty years in the future who has to face the truth about himself. The approach I used was to personify truth and make him a character in the story. Which makes the novel a work of fantasy fiction but I’ve never seen it that way. Personifying truth was a literary technique, a solution to the problem. That he turned out to be immensely entertaining was completely unexpected. And each novel after that I’ve approached in much the same way. I’ve started out with something that was bugging me and wrote about it. Using fictional characters is just a way of achieving a degree of distance from the problem.

    I define a writer as a person whose natural inclination is to write about things. When things go wrong some people reach for the bottle; writers reach for a pen and paper.

    Can writing be taught? Yes, of course it can. There are techniques to writing and they can be tabulated beginning with: A sentence begins with a capital letter, ends with a full stop and must contain at least one noun and one verb. There are loads of Grade 10 pianists out there who have never recorded an album and who don’t have careers in music. Being a professional pianist involves more than getting all the right notes in the right order. And the same applies to great writers. Thousands of people have written novels. They’ve put one word after another and ended up with a book-length piece of prose. That doesn’t mean they can call themselves writers-with-a-capital-w.

  5. I was definitly born to write. Not a day goes by that I don't write something, a novel, song, script or musical.

  6. I don't think talent is necessarily inherited, but I do believe that everyone has some sort of natural born talent, whether it be writing or music or athletics - whatever. Some have more than others or have more desire or initiative to hone that talent.

    I remember being in 4th grade English and reading a 'poem' called "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." This was a Simon & Garfunkel song - a recent hit on the radio - and it changed my perception of poetry and what the written word could do. I no longer just listened to music, I listened to the words, and I sought out musical artists that were also great lyricists. That had a large influence on me and my desire to write and to try to express or convey emotions.

    If not for that 4th Grade teacher or Simon & Garfunkel would I have pursued writing? I'm sure I would have figured it out eventually, listening to Bruce Springsteen, Elton John/Bernie Taupin, Carole King, James Taylor...

  7. Interesting question, and I have to answer in the affirmative. I began writing stories at the age of 5, wrote my first novel at 12 and have never stopped. I agree that the mechanics of writing can be taught, but like any art, the mechanics are not enough. The best writing comes from the heart, not the head.

  8. Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.

    Melissa - I couldn't agree more! I once had a friend who was a brilliant academic. She had all these qualifications in English but hadn't wrote anything if it wasn't to do with her course. I have qualifications but they aren't in English or creative writing. So when I started writing and began publishing books that were selling, our friendship was on the rocks. Now I'm writing my third book and my friend has not spoken to me since. It's a shame it's happened but I did not do this to deliberately spite her. If anything I thought it would bring us closer, not completely destroy the friendship.

  9. Both cases can be true. I certainly believe that writers are "gifted" with the ability and it doesn't necessarily have to manifest "as soon as they could pick up a pen."

    The date I officially started writing as a hobby was 12/8/99. I was at home recovering from back surgery (scoliosis) for a time and I had a very vivid dream I had to write down. I'd created somewhat of a companion for myself thru my writing.
    After that, I not only started to keep a dream journal whenever I dream vividly, but when I'm moved by a particular person or situation, I write it down to make sense of it for myself. Whether it's a classmates's suicide, someone in a movie dying from a drug overdose, or simply falling in love with [fill in the blank], I put my feelings down on paper. If anything, it's for my own reflection, but I hope to feel strong enough about my writing that I can share it more with my friends and family.

  10. Hi Jackie,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wish you well with your writing.