Saturday, 9 November 2013

Are We Born To Write?

When I woke this morning I was not sure what my blog post was going to be about. Having recently taken the decision to concentrate a lot more of my efforts into my novel writing, I try not to think about anything else during the week. What I am writing today is therefore a spur of the moment piece and it was inspired by an article that I came across on Twitter.

I see a lot of these type of lists being shared on social media and normally I find that I tend to disagree with just as many points as I agree with. Writing is a subjective medium and what works for one author may not necessarily work for another. In this case however, I found myself agreeing with everything. Considering that PD James is now 93 years old (almost 60 years older than I) I found this quite remarkable that our views could be so closely aligned.

Rather than go through the entire list, the point that I want to draw attention to is the first. It is also what I consider to be by far the most important issue to be taken into account for would be novelists.

1. You must be born to write

"You can't teach someone to know how to use words effectively and beautifully. You can help people who can write to write more effectively and you can probably teach people a lot of little tips for writing a novel, but I don't think somebody who cannot write and does not care for words can ever be made into a writer. It just is not possible.

Nobody could make me into a musician. Somebody might be able to teach me how to play the piano reasonably well after a lot of effort, but they can't make a musician out of me and you cannot make a writer, I do feel that very profoundly."

A lot of people will disagree with this point. I know that there is a strong sentiment that the rise of self publishing somehow democratizes publishing. That anybody can be a writer. However, it is curious that this sentiment does not extend into other creative fields.

What if I wanted to be a professional footballer? If me and a group of friends form a team, hire a coach and enlist the help of a professional kit designer, would we be equal to Manchester United? Just by kicking a ball, does it make me the same as David Beckham? Of course not.

What about the music industry? I have always wanted to be a rock star. In fact, fronting a successful rock band would be my dream job. The problem is that I am almost completely tone dumb (not tone deaf - I can hear the notes, I just cannot replicate them). I know that there are many making a living from singing who cannot sing, but that is not the point here. The point is raw talent and you either have it or you don't.

I could list many more examples. I have always been interested in science. Maybe I could design spacecraft. The only problem there is that I lack the intellectual capacity to understand the mechanics of extra terrestrial travel, but that should not stop me from trying should it?

If I said to people that I wanted to play for Manchester United, become a rock star or the head of NASA, they would think me a fool and they would be right. Who am I kidding to think that I could do any of those things? So why then is it acceptable to call myself a writer? For many, the fact that it is so easy to self publish means that they do not question whether they should. This is a mistake. Publishing is an overcrowded market and everyone considering being a part of it needs to ask themselves whether they are genuinely contributing or merely swelling the numbers.

Referring back to an earlier statement in this post, I should point out that I told a little white lie. I stated that fronting a rock band would be my dream job. That is not true, because in reality I would completely suck at it. For the same reason, I have no desire to ever play football for England or land the lead role in a Hollywood blockbuster (or build spaceships). My dream job is to one day become a full time writer. To be able to earn a living from my novels. The reason being that I excel it. You see, the honest truth is that I never actually wanted to become a writer. The reason that I did was because I discovered I have a natural talent for it. I have a creativity and a way of putting that creative impulse into words that cannot be taught (or if it is, it will not come across as natural). Ultimately, I write because it is what I was born to do. And that is what makes the dream worth chasing.

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  1. Hi David,

    I can relate to much of what you have said, especially how you ended up becoming a writer. First the more I study the craft of writing and human behavior, I do think that there is a writer code in the DNA that is present in most writers. My path started out as a hobby and a way to be an active participant in my favorite science fiction show, Star Trek. Over time, I have found that I loved writing more and more and thought it would be best if I could do it full time. Then I remembered my father used to write and when he passed, found loads of unpublished works. It is that memory now that drives me to become a published author. I don't want anyone to find my unfinished material and wonder what if. I have actually played American football, was in a band, and even was an ordained minister at one time. However none of those things give me more satisfaction and accomplishment than when I write.


    1. I'm glad you liked the post and thanks fr leaving a comment. Some people write toward a particular goal, but I think that natural writers just have to write.