Where Do Good Writers Come From?
by Anne Barton
A writing friend and I recently debated an interesting question: are good writers born or made? In other words, is writing an innate or learned talent?
If you’re a writer, I’ll bet you have a gut reaction to the question—nature, nurture, maybe somewhere in between. Where you stand on the issue probably influences the way you approach your craft, and that makes it important.
So, what do you think?
It seems like a simple question—but let’s dig deeper.
What makes somebody a good writer? The ability to put subjects and verbs together in a coherent way is only a small part of it. A good writer is a storyteller and a creator of worlds. She helps us see everyday things in a new ways and evokes emotion—real feelings—with mere words. A really good writer is invisible—so much so, that we forget we’re reading at all.
Some might argue that you can’t learn these kinds of things from a class. They may be right. But I say they can be learned—through reading, life experiences, and most importantly, writing.
If we want to become good—heck, we might as well go for great—great writers, we need to write. Lots of words. Lots of stories. And we need to finish those stories. And then move on to new stories.
I’m not a super-fast writer, more of a slow and steady, tortoise type. In the seven years since I started writing, I’ve written seven stories. Most aren’t published and probably won’t be, but I don’t regret the hours and sweat I poured into them—not for a minute—because I’ve learned something valuable from every one. Here’s a quick breakdown of what each story taught me.
Story #1 – the sheer joy of writing
Story #2 – how to hook readers with a strong beginning
Story #3 – the power of deep point of view
Story #4 – the importance of story structure and how to write tight
Story #5 – how to push the limits and write without fear
Story #6 – how to use inner conflict as a way to transform characters
Story #7 – how to balance playfulness, conflict, and emotion
Sometimes, when people ask me why I write, I say, “Because I can’t sing.” I’m not just being flippant (okay, maybe a little sassy), because I truly believe that if I could belt out songs that made people dance and laugh and cry, that would be pretty darn fulfilling. Unfortunately, singing is more of a nature thing, and alas, I wasn’t born with Carrie Underwood’s voice. (Or her legs, and that’s really not fair.) I could sing my little heart out every day from now till I’m ninety-two and never make it past the first round of American Idol.
But writing is different. We can learn and grow as writers. All we have to do is WRITE.
I can’t wait to find out what my next story will teach me.
How about you?
· Where do you stand on the writing nature/nurture debate?
· What have your stories taught you? Please share!
One random commenter will win a $10 gift card to Amazon or B & N (winner’s choice)!
Anne’s debut novel, WHEN SHE WAS WICKED, won the Golden Heart Award for Regency Historical romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include reality TV, cute-but-impractical shoes, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Visit her at annebarton.com.
You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.