My partner Kate Genet and I were discussing this topic, and as is my tendency, I wallow in the gray areas. A simple answer is never forthcoming and requires examination. So if I were to answer the question of whether writers are born or made, I’d have to say Both.
And then I would have to wade through the morass of That-Depends toward the destination of Picker of Nits. The first question I would throw back is “What do you mean by writer?” One could be a writer, in that she actually WRITES. But it doesn’t automatically ensure the writing is any good. So the implication I will assume here, (for the sake of brevity, and to spare you of another tangent) is that the question is really “Are Good writers born or made?” Assuming that, then there must be, I think, a seed of inherent talent planted in that literary ground, and then the individual must make the decision of whether or not to nurture it into sprouting.
But, alas, there will always be those people who fancy themselves writers, and who produce works they feel are examples of their status as “writer” only to reveal themselves as charlatans. And worse still, charlatans who are unaware of their error in thinking. Some neophyte writers use the garden of words to create a crop of plastic vegetation and expect us to oooo and ahhh over how pretty it is, how delicious it tastes, or how vibrant the flowering bud, when ultimately, the work is artificial, and that’s all there is to it.
Examples I can recall from my editing days include a truck driver who was writing a series about (surprise!) a truck driver who kept coming across terrible accidents, which included burning flesh and screams of agony, and him leaping out to save them, because he was that kind of guy, and more burning flesh or flesh burning and screams of pain and agony and rescue and burning and then another accident, on down the road for which he was also the hero….I place emphasis on burning because he used that word 27 times on one page. (If he had not become a writer, perhaps he would have gone into arson). Tedious? Yes. And also implausible, and melodramatic. The only way to save that story was to make the main character the one who sabotaged vehicles so that he could appear later to save everyone. This trucker-writer also used details about the trucker-character being a Desert Storm veteran, and described events the character experienced as a soldier which could not have taken place in that particular war, but could have in say, the Vietnam war, but then, that would make the character too old to be sexy, so, he made it Desert storm instead. I won’t belabor the details. But when I pointed out his errors, he became defensive and thought everything he wrote was just fine, even though his chapters were each one page long, and he had planned to do a series of six books, just like that, and was trying to query publishers before he’d even written the damn thing.
Then there was the other aspiring novelist who was an engineer and quite notably a certified genius. I thought I would enjoy editing his work. Turns out even geniuses can write like 12 year old boys. He also didn’t seem aware of how incredibly puerile and dull his story was. He would write page after page of dialogue that was banal, idiotic, went nowhere, and did nothing to move the story or develop character; and it was never clear who was speaking, because there were few attributions and all his characters sounded alike. And none of his characters spoke like people really speak. And the story was about the Loch Ness monster, I think. Anyway. Those are the two things that spring to mind when I think of people who identify themselves as good writers, but are sadly mistaken.
And among these types of writers will be those who accept constructive criticism with aplomb, and endeavor to learn what they need to learn to make themselves good writers, and those who erect a barricade built of ego and delusion, while continuing to cling to the fiction that their work is above reproach. The latter of these two is doomed to failure, the former, fraught with possibility.
There have been writers, also, who were born with a unique talent for telling stories on the page, but their lives, their decisions, their personalities, even, did not allow them to pursue it, and this talent was then lost to us. This is a sad proposition for me. A tragedy of epic proportions, since I feel the sharing of inspiration and knowledge and ideas are paramount to the survival and thriving of our species, and indeed an integral part of why we all exist as sentient beings.
Therefore, good writers are born, and then made…provided they recognize that about themselves and then do something about it.
for Kate’s blog about this subject, go here