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Are good writers born or made?

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Postby Neurolanis » Sat Apr 19, 2008 10:44 am

In my opinion writers, like any artists, are born. You might discover the skill young, or old, but it's in you. Anyone can take a course or work hard and learn how to write 'well', but the gift of inspiration is found within. I was always an artist/writer, and although I suffered a couple writer's blocks I am back writing again. It was always in me.
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Postby berry » Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:12 pm

Does having innate writing talent include having a story to tell? Or rather can a journalist be considered a good writer even though it may be someone Else's story they are telling? It would still involve a selection of words to evoke a scene and and emotion in the reader. The flip side being an autobiography written by someone who has a story to tell but is not a writer, if it can still conjure a scene from that persons life and impart that to the reader...
I suppose what I'm questioning is what is the innate talent. If we are to ask whether a person has it, I am wondering what IT is. The creation of a new world? or A pleasing turn of phrase? Description that rivals telepathy? or the creation of a character that captures the zeitgeist? A piece of work that allows us to examine our society or ourselves? or A beautifully arranged selection of words? I don't know if I agree that it is the same as an artist. Many of us find visualization very difficult, being able to conceive of a 3D object clearly from all angles is even rarer but we all think in words and use them to communicate. Most people who don't get maths usually just need to be taught in a different way. I mean how many times did you sit in class and switch off simply beacuse you couldn't see the point in learning it? Maybe writers are born but the innate spark might be the love of stories and the desire to express oneself in that way rather than "talent" for the skill of writing?
If a born poet can be learn to be good at maths does that mean a matmatician can be taught to express him/herself through words eloquently? Is the difference that the matmatician likes to express his/her thoughts about the world using the langauge of maths and the writer prefers the medium of writing.
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Postby Neurolanis » Thu May 01, 2008 5:09 pm

Well you can argue the same thing about visual artists. Some were more gifted at abstract, others at more realistic artworks. Some are better at drawing, others painting. Some were better at oils, and so forth. I'm really not sure what it all boils down to in terms of who was meant to do what. Perhaps it stems from a past life?
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Postby RHFay » Thu May 01, 2008 7:50 pm

I'm better at drawing. I've always loved to draw, since I was a little kid.

Again, I took art in high school, but I haven't had any formal art classes since. Certainly no college-level art. And yet I'm a published artist, too.

Obviously I needed to learn the basic skills, but I didn't need an extensive art education to function as an artist.

And what is writing often times but painting with words?
"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did. I'm going to recite poetry!" Andrew of Armar.
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Postby RoberII » Tue May 06, 2008 4:23 am

I think that it comes down to a combination of inborn talent and work. But you can have inborn talent that lies in various directions. A person can be imaginative, and have great ideas for stories, or have a great feel for characters and other people, or have a great sense of the music in prose. Then it becomese mostly a question of training the areas you are not strong in, and determination.
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Postby Neurolanis » Wed May 07, 2008 7:10 pm

I was the same, RHFay, always good at drawing. And funny how you describe writing as "painting with words" because I have used that same exact phrase and do look at it the same way. I have been gifted in a wide array of artistic fields, and have had specialists of different fields surprised at my talent (not that I haven't had my critics too.) I always say it's the same expression, just expressed through different mediums.


That is a valid point, Rober. Good to see you on SV by the way. Although from my perspective the "craft of writing" has more to do with meeting the accepted requirements -- proper English, communication, styles, plots which keep you guessing, etc. -- than it has to do with art. To me art is what comes from within. I do agree that artists need to be able to communicate well, at least, or most likely, and often have to master (as is the case with writing) certain forms of craft. But I think a creative problem results when we mistake one for the other.
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Postby waytanblee » Sat May 17, 2008 6:39 am

I think it would be safe to say that everybody is born with a story. But that isn't to say that they are naturally able to put that story down on paper. The actual art is definitely a practice makes perfect thing. And a Keep-It-Simple-Stupid thing.
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Postby Neurolanis » Fri May 23, 2008 1:12 pm

Well said. The expression or medium for it can be improved, of course. Like, imagine the best visual artist which comes to mind drawing or painting at age four. The genious, the gift, would be there, but at the same time it would technically be a mess. :lol:
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Postby Grand Evander » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:56 pm

I think it's a bit more complicated than that, but what isn't? My eight year old cousin had excellent mastery of texture and shadow in her paintings when she was six without any formal training. She also could beat seasoned chess players after only learning chess three weeks prior to their matches. Natural talent does exist, I believe, but it is more a predisposition to a certain art or craft and must be refined to bear fruit.

I like to draw a distinction between someone who is very good at articulating his thoughts and someone who has good thoughts to articulate, so to speak. I feel the craft of writing and the craft of storytelling are separate and, as such, a successful writer must have both skills. The first can be refined through formal training but the second is harder to teach and requires more internalization of how other people tell stories.

The more someone works at these two skills, the better they will become. Those with a natural disposition will acclimate to the conventions faster than those without. I apologize in advance if I sound too didactic *sigh*.
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Re:

Postby starweaver » Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:14 am

Grand Evander wrote:I like to draw a distinction between someone who is very good at articulating his thoughts and someone who has good thoughts to articulate, so to speak. I feel the craft of writing and the craft of storytelling are separate and, as such, a successful writer must have both skills. The first can be refined through formal training but the second is harder to teach and requires more internalization of how other people tell stories.


That's a good point. One can obviously improve technical skill through study and practice, but having original stories to tell that are meaningful to others is a bit more mysterious.

To be fair to Stephen King, his actual statement was that there are bad writers, competent writers, good writers, and great writers. Learning the craft of writing, in his view, could make a competent writer into a good writer, but couldn't make a bad writer into a competent one or a good writer into a great one. (And he implies that being a good writer is enough to get one published and make a career of writing.) I appreciate what he was driving at with that categorization, but I'm not sure I totally buy it. I think what may be at issue is that it's harder to identify what someone needs to do to cross either of those boundaries, whereas improvement in the large middle territory of competent and good writing is more straightforward.

If you've ever worked with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, you will be amazed at how people who are convinced they can't draw at all can become competent at it in just a few weeks. It works because the book's author has identified what that particular barrier in competence is about, and has created exercises that specifically address it. The exercises are very different from the kind of instruction that is useful in improving the skills of artists who are already competent.

It occurs to me that something like that may be possible for writers, too. (For making bad writers into competent ones.)

I'm even more skeptical of his barrier at the high end - that you need some sort of talent or mysterious spark to be great, rather than merely good. I think the difference there is something along the lines Grand Evander was suggesting. You need to not only execute your ideas extremely well, but you need to have ideas that are truly special, stories that the world is waiting to hear. I wouldn't think of that as talent; it falls more under inspiration, which I think can happen to any of us, even though you probably can't make it happen.
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Re: Are good writers born or made?

Postby Ariel » Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:42 pm

Hello Starweaver! Good points!
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Re: Are good writers born or made?

Postby mikep » Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:39 pm

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of talent.

Also, there seems to be a correlation between "talent" and boatloads of practice. (When Eddie Van Halen was a teenager, he'd sit on his bed until 3am practicing sometimes.)
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