Writers are born, not made.
It’s an emphatic, declarative statement.
There is an assumption that the innate talent inherent in a person to be a writer is woven into their molecular structure. It is used to differentiate between those who can write and those who cannot.
The intention behind the statement is that a writer knows, without a doubt, writing is their passion, their career, their life. They cannot see any other path than being a writer.
You know the person; they are the ones who say, “I’ve always written. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t writing” or “I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil.” They then proceed to show you their scribblings in a scrap book from when they were three years old. Or worse, whip out their ipad and show you their blog.
You avoid them at dinner parties like you avoid the asparagus entree. I’m not one of them but I have aspired to write for many years. Looking back I can see an interest in writing (letters, stories, journals) yet it has only been in the last 3 years that I have actively pursued writing.
But I want to deconstruct this statement a little.
Each person understands there is a distinctive purpose to their life. Usually this distinctive purpose or passion is revealed in an occupation. We identify ourselves by the things that we are passionate about.
The other manifestation is an interest or hobby. This extends to volunteer work, art or music, community groups, religious fraternities, sports clubs and associations.
In terms of careers and occupations, if you were to speak with a representative, I posit many of them would feel they were “born” into their occupation or interest.
I completed high school without a clear direction of what I wanted to do as a career. I went to university and completed a Bachelor of Arts in English and History, the subjects I enjoyed most at school. At the end of my Arts degree the question was asked, “What next?”
The societal assumption was to become a teacher. I enrolled in the Master of Teaching course and within the first week, I knew this was my career.
Was I born into it? I don’t think so. I have a natural inclination for teaching and working with people. “Born” becomes a substitionary word for a person’s natural personality and character traits which helps them understand the career path they have chosen.
You could rewrite this statement, substituting “writer” for the career of your choice.
Is a writer ‘made’?
A writer is born, not made.
Imagine a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters. Now imagine the noise and the poo being thrown. No work being done there. The opposable thumb allows us to grasp a pen with ease, but being born with it doesn’t make us a writer or chef, nurse, landscape designer or rocket surgeon.
The statement seems to be made by writers to distinguish themselves from new and emerging writers. It is said in a slightly disdainful way.
If our natural inclination manifests in a passion to pursue a specific career, can we change the definition of “made?”
My passion is to teach and to write, thus being ‘born’ with it. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I still had to be taught to become one. I still undergo professional development to improve my knowledge and understanding of pedagogy and teaching methods.
A writer is born. But a writer is also taught.
The cornerstone of developing and maturing as a writer is education, formal and informal. Education is about the application of knowledge in order to make our words the best they can be.
Ways of improving your education as a writer:
- get a mentor
- read articles on the art and craft of writing
- find a writing partner
- sub to competitions or participate in online writing communities
- be a beta reader for someone
A new and emerging writer is an apprentice writer, one who is learning the art and craft of writing. I’ll be exploring this in a blog post on Write Anything later in the month.
I don’t believe a writer is born, any more than a teacher, nurse or chef is born. We are taught.
What do you think?