Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can anyone be a writer?

Been having an interesting discussion on muses on a couple of my lists. Since I just posted about my muse, I thought this a funny coincidence. What I also think is funny is how passionate people are against the whole muse concept. "Writer's use it as an excuse," is on opinion. Another is that "we need to look at writing as a job." Okay, I get that, but personally, I have never met a writer who used the muse as an excuse not to write. At least not a real writer. I don't take my muse seriously... My muse is simply what I call getting into the zone. The inspired part of writing creatively. She is another part of me. Sometimes I get into the zone, other times I don't. When I am in the zone, the writing is easy and seems to flow... that is what I call my muse helping me. When I'm not, I still write, it's just more difficult. And something came up during these conversations... someone said, "anyone can be a writer."

So can anyone be a writer? I think this concept comes from a society that tells our children that they can be anything they want to be. Anything they set their mind to. There are people who believe that children are born blank. Clean slates. What is this? A leftover from Roussou? (sorry, I know I slaughtered his name, but am too lazy to go look it up) That children are born naturally good and the world corrupts them?

I don't buy it. Children are born with personalities. I know. I had two. Not enough for a clinical trial, but there you go. I do believe that environment helps to mold them.. for instance, fisher boy can be aggressive, defiant, and contentious. In a different, less stable home, he would probably be more of those things. In a more patient home, he might be less, but they would never completely go away, because that rebellious trait is a part of who he is. ( I know, he got it from his mommy:) genetics do play a part in who we are.

So, if we are all born with certain personality traits, it isn't a far stretch to believe we are all born with certain aptitudes. Of course, not everyone finds out what that aptitude is, but I think we all have them. Different types of intelligence. Different perceptions on our world. So can anyone be president? I don't think so. Being a polititian requires certain personality traits, such as intuition, a love of being with people all the time, and the ability to think quickly on your feet(okay, no GW jokes here! LOL) Not everyone has or can develop those traits... even if they wanted to. Now, I think desire goes a long ways, but I don't think desire alone can change someone into someting they are not.

So can anyone be a writer? I don't think so. What does it take to be a writer? Love of words, of course, the ability to be your own boss, the ability to self motivate, the ability to live with no guarantees, (a huge stumbling block for a lot of people) the ability to take rejection, the ability to be alone a good deal of the time and of course, the ability to write in a clear and cohesive manner. I actually think that the ability to communicate by writing is the easiest of those to learn if you wanted to be a writer. Set rules, guidelines, etc. The imagination to come up with a well thought out plot, is a different thing. Some people have little or no imaginations.

So, no, I don't think that just anyone can be a writer. Just like I could never be a mathmatician... even if I wanted to, which I don't.

What do you think? Can anyone be a writer?


The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick said...

I agree with you, Teri. I honestly don't believe tht "anyone" can be a writer...all for the same reasons you already pointed out. I think every writer has had people tell them, "Oh, I want to write a book someday," or "I have a great idea for a book." Well, that's great and all, but the idea is the easy part. As we all know, it's all in the execution. Someone can understand spelling, grammar and the such, but flowing words together in such a way that they paint a rich, visual picture for someone isn't easy at all. I believe a lot of it has to do with how our brains we visualize the words before even putting them to the page. I feel pretty safe saying that it's not necessarily a "learned" attribute because despite having a retired banker for a father (note: math extraordinare) numbers are my worst! I'm totally lost without a calculator or tip cheat sheet. So, I'd say "anyone" can be a writer just as much as "anyone" can solve algorithms . ;-)

Anonymous said...

In "On Writing," Stephen King has an interesting opinion on this. I wish I could remember exactly what he wrote, but I can't, and don't have time right now to look it up.

But basically, he said that it takes (among other things) natural talent. Bad writers will probably never be good writers. But good writers can become better writers. But better writers will probably never be Great Writers.

I'm completely slaughtering that, and I hope someone else will look up the exact quote, but I thought that was a fascinating take on it all. The idea that some skill can be taught, but that true greatness is innate, not trained into us. Competence is the most that we "normal" people can aspire to accomplish.

However, I disagree with "the ability to communicate by writing is the easiest of those to learn." I think that's the part you have to be born with a talent for. You can certainly improve on talent with practice, but if you don't have an "ear" for rhythm, flow, and the beauty of the words, there's only so much that can be done for you. I don't think you can be taught the "creative" part of writing. You can learn the rules of grammar and punctuation, and could possibly write non-fiction successfully. But fiction? I have my doubts.

Unfortunately, I believe the same things about all creative endeavors. That's how I know I could never sing professionally, even though I have the motivation, the resilience, and the patience to make it happen. I don't have the talent. ;-)

Just my opinion. ;-)

TJBrown said...

When I said that writing is the easiest thing out of those to learn, I meant the rules, the basics, effective communication. But not the creativity to become a novelist. That is inate.

Trish Ryan said...

I agree - most people can become better writers, in the same way that I can become better at math; that still doesn't mean I'd be good at it. I think our approach to arts in this country is a little odd - instead of helping kids focus on their strengths, we insist that everyone is good at everything, determinedly ignoring all evidence to the contrary. We all get to do something well, but I'm not convinced we get to do everything :)

stephhale said...

Interesting post, Teri. Especially since I had someone tell me this the other day after they asked what I did. I had to refrain from smacking them, instead I responded with, "Let me know when you finish yours so I can read it." :)
I don't think just anyone can be a writer. I can't draw. Seriously, not even stick people. I could be taught, but I'd still never be any good because my heart wouldn't be in it. I think it's the same thing. You could teach someone the basics of sentence structure, grammar, etc, but if their mind isn't constantly seeking out the perfect plot, character attributes, or just the right sentence to start with, nobody is going to want to read it. Just like nobody would want me drawing a caricature! :)

Christine Keach said...

Yeah, what you said!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Teri!
I don't think anyone can be a writer. I agree with the points you and everyone else made. Practice can improve a person's skill but without innate talent that only goes so far.

It's been a long time since I read On Writing but I thought his explanation was interesting too :)