Friday, November 12, 2010

Can Writing Actually Be Learned?

After I posted last week, I noticed Skylar's questions in the comments section and thought I'd provide my .02 in today's post:

I don't know if I should put this in the last post or not, but I I've a questions for you girls. So many writers talk about always being storytellers that when they were little teachers noticed or they were always able to keep people entertained:

1. Were any of you like that?
2. Do you have to be a great storyteller from a young age to be a novelist?
3. Can writing be learned?

Ok, Skylar, here goes:

I'll admit, I was definitely one of those weird little kids who loved to tell stories and put them down on paper from a very young age. Ultimately, I thank my Grandpa for that because he always loved reading to me.

In fact, my Mom always said I was actually a pretty cheap child to entertain because all I ever wanted was paper, markers and a few pens to write my stories. I'm pretty sure my first one was about a turtle named Buddy who liked to go to birthday parties—real Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff, I tell ya.

And yes, I'll also admit that English, reading and composition were always my favorite subjects in school. I always got a kick out of writing papers and coming up with the weirdest storylines possible for my creative writing class. I loved it whenever my peers laughed when I read my latest tale out loud and considered that the mark of a pretty good story.

Even with all that said, however, every writer's journey is a little different. My husband Will says that Abba's wristwatch has a tick-tock all its own, and I definitely believe that's fitting for when He reveals our calling in life, be it writing or otherwise. Even Jesus didn't begin His public ministry until He was 30, so if that doesn't prove that God uses people of all ages, I don't know what does.

In many cases, I think people who love words—and love to write—do realize that early on. But that doesn't mean that you can't still be a novelist if that "a-ha moment" arrives a little later. If anything, the more life experience we have, the more colorful the writing. It's sort of akin to Miley Cyrus writing her autobiography at 16. Sure, she's had whirlwind success and has traveled places that most people don't have an opportunity to at such a young age, but how much wisdom has she really gained along the way?

Your last question, if writing can be taught, is particularly intriguing. I've always believed that successful writers make their way with about 10% talent and 90% hard work. After all, how many people do you know who say they really, really want to write a novel but haven't even started yet? It's always the thing they plan on doing before they turn 30 or maybe it's something on their proverbial bucket list. But to actually sit down and do the hard work is an entirely different matter...

As probably any of my fellow Scribble Chicks will admit, it takes a lot of hard work, stamina and a great deal of patience to dream up engaging characters and put them in conflict, all while hitting on some compelling themes that readers will hold close to their hearts. And that's just the writing...we're not even talking editing, marketing, promoting, blogging, etc.

I do believe the talent to write is something people either have—or don't have. There's really only so much that can be taught. But if you're willing to learn and stretch yourself, I believe your basic writing ability can always improve.

Even though I've been a professional writer for 10 years now, I'm always challenging myself to use new words, stay away from clichés and to become the best at my craft that I can possibly be. But I've found that comes a lot more by actually doing it than reading a how-to book or taking a class, although both can be valuable tools that nudge you to the next level.

I think great writers are also great readers. What makes your favorite authors your favorite authors? What is it about their work that inspires you? That's also something very valuable to consider as you pursue your craft. Of course, you never want to copy their style verbatim, but every writer has his/her influences, and what somebody else has written (or hasn't written yet) can definitely inspire you on your journey.

1 comment:

  1. Have any of you tried to write songs? Do you have any advice on how to do that or where to learn? I wish I could find info somewhere on how Taylor Swift learned