Few questions raise such a hot debate among writers as whether a writer is born or made.

Jack Kerouac wrote an article on this subject in 1962 where he clearly sides with the born ones. Others like Stephen King, believes that writers are made, that becoming a writer is the result of the person’s will.

I am not a determinist, and I find it difficult to believe that individuals are born with some special features that will push them in one direction or another in life. The idea that only those who are born with the “literature genes”, or the “math genes” will stand out in their fields is disheartening and untrue.

Every artist was first an amateur – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Newbie writers ignore many elements of the craft, and so do long time writers. A writer is always trying to learn something new, to improve his writing skills.

Writing, as Mr King, says, is first and foremost a matter or will, then a matter of time, then a matter of work and last a matter of talent.

You say you want to be a writer, right? Then, let me ask you this: “how much do you want to write?” Writers want to write badly. They want to write even when writing becomes a chore, or when their words look and sound all wrong. Writers are willing to get up early in the morning to write an hour before they commute to their stupid day jobs. Writers are willing to lose sleep because they have to jot down an idea they had in a dream. Writers have that kind of will. 

Now, how much time will you invest in your writing? I’m not speaking about finding an hour every day, or writing on weekends, but about the time you’ll have to devote to the craft, learning new skills, honing the ones you already have, patiently editing your manuscript, waiting for a publisher to accept your novel, and dealing with rejections that will happen again and again. Writers don’t resent the time invested in their writing because it might pay off in the end.

writers are made
Ernest Hemingway becoming an even better writer… by writing

 You have the will and you have the time but how hard are you willing to work? Writing is hard and that’s that. I have never met one of those “natural” writers, full of the ideas that seem to flow towards them from nowhere. I don’t know any writer who doesn’t need to review, and edit what has written…many times. No real writer is free from brain racking, procrastination or self-confidence issues. The truth is that, for most writers, not writing is easier than writing. Going to the gym, watching TV or having a couple of beers with your buddies is easier than sitting at your desk, looking at the screen and realizing that you have nothing to say. Real writers, however, pull themselves together, roll their sleeves up, and do the hard work, because the results might be amazing.

Last of all comes talent, that special ability that allows someone to do something well. I won’t deny that some people have a knack for playing music, or for mixing colours, or for putting words together. Michelangelo, Mozart, Doris Lessing or Margot Fonteyn are all considered exceptional artists, but did they settle for the talents they were born with? No way! They learnt, and practiced, and improved their arts and crafts until they became the genius we all admire.

If you ever doubt about your ability to become a writer, don’t worry. As long as you have the will, the time and the energy to work hard, you’ll be a writer. If you’re also talented, you might become a bestselling author.

Featured image: http://sunvic.blogspot.com.es/2010/08/random-sketch-1.html

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4 thoughts on “Are writers born or made?

  1. I have mixed feelings on this. I believe it may be the experiences in one’s life that may lead to them becoming a writer. But we all experience the world through our own unique filter and that filter is our minds. So the question for then is, are we born with a writer’s brain? Or is it something that is created? Either intentionally or by chance. I certainly believe that anyone can make the decision to become a writer but I feel that some people feel a “pull” to write.

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    1. Hi Brian, thanks for commenting. I love it when readers share their views on an issue.

      I can see your point, and I do agree that some of us feel that “pull” to write. The thing is, there are many “pulled” individuals that will never become writers, because they lack the will, the time or the desire to work for it. We all have seen people whose talents are wasted, because they didn’t try to make that inner spark shine, or they didn’t know how to do it. That’s why, when advising newbie writers, I always say that working on their writing is more important than being gifted, or talented. Talent is the cherry on the pie. Consistent showing up and trying is the foundation of becoming a writer.

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    1. Hi Amanda, thanks for sharing!

      I wouldn’t say that relying only on talent is dangerous (insert a wink and a smile here) but it’s definitely not wise. We tend to believe that only great, extraordinary talent is worthy, and to overlook that everybody is talented in his or her own way. Should we stop writing because we’re not Hemingway or James Patterson? Should a composer stop writing music because he’s not Mozart? The world would be a very sad, “unartistic” place.

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