Monday, February 22, 2010

Born or Made

Hey—you people wrote a blog post for me!!!  (so thank you to everyone who took my  little poll!)

Thank you so much for the great response yesterday! I may not be Nathan, or even Moonrat, with thousands of followers, but as a statistician, I know even THEY don't get random samples, so this is all for fun, anyway. Besides, the data is SHOCKINGINLY uniform.

The Poll

Thirteen people who actually voted. I can add my own information, but it isn't terribly different.

Among writers, the vast majority had your inklings in grade school, and the grand OUTLIER was 9th grade. All of us knew well before we were choosing college majors that we fantasized about writing books.

We are more split on when we started writing 'seriously'. I am wondering a little if this has to do with the kind of writing we do. I personally have a journalism degree, but I never wanted to be a reporter, so I don't consider this a 'writing seriously' decision—I chose it as a route to go into advertising—advertising which was a branch of marketing and used psychology. I've been shier than to want to TALK TO PEOPLE *gasp *. I tried to write a novel at 26, but only got halfway through, as it was written in the summer between my two years of grad school, and when school started again, I had to get back to my obligations...

Obligations. That was part of it. Because I didn't want to be a reporter, and because of having a family, there wasn't TIME to write for fun until my kids were a little older. I started writing again when I gave up reading with them—freed up a fair amount of time.

So I suspect that age we started writing at seriously depends on whether we pursued it immediately, or were limited in what we wanted to write to things we KNEW would not pay for a while and so had to wait until we could make some time.

Back to the Myers-Briggs

This is another thing I took to the ABNA. You may remember a month or so ago when I shared Moonrats post and did a little analysis, noting that a huge majority of writers falls into the least (INFJ) and third least (INTJ) (I might have those backward) 'types'. The people over at ABNA largely fell in these, also.

Now there types aren't COMPLETELY static over time. A person who undergoes some large event can shift, but typically only a letter, unless their score was borderline to begin with. I went from being a thinker to a feeler somewhere during the years I became a mom (or possibly it was the effort of restraining myself from killing my husband)--a few big hardships, a huge role change... SOMETHING changed my processing.

So... What's the Answer?

Born or Made? I have to fall down where I always do in the field of psychology, when there is a nature versus nurture controversy. I come in with a resounding YES.

What characteristics make a good writer?

Love of Language
Interest in the 'yarn'

I'm sure this isn't exhaustive, but it's not a bad list for 6am.  These all are things you can work on a little. I personally only had minor interest in the 'yarn' until I started making them myself, and creativity is something I think I still struggle with. But those other things I have in spades.

But it also takes:

Mastery of the language
Practice, practice, practice
Reading widely

Now those are things, that depending on ones circumstances, might not be nurtured, or might only be nurtured accidentally. I think our interest makes us attend to them, though honestly, I wasn't a real reader until I was in Jr. High, and have ALWAYS read slow (I read every word you see—that language lover can't skim—not worth reading if you do that.)

At ABNA, our major argument has been whether ANYONE can write, and frankly, I think the answer is NO. But there is a caveat: I don't think everyone WANTS to and that anyone DRIVEN to write, probably CAN. They probably have enough of those inborn traits necessary, or they wouldn't be driven to write at all. (they may say they want to, but they aren't entirely serious.)

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'm with you...if you're really driven to write and can read up, practice, and jump through all the hoops then eventually you'll be published.

If the talent isn't there, most of those folks aren't interested in pursuing writing anyway.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Jan Morrison said...

yes dear tartlett - I was lying in bed the other morning (without a stitch on I might add since I know inquiring nudists like to know) and thinking about how long I waited for my sweet patootie to arrive on the scene. It was ten years of pretty much nada in the romance dept. Nothing healthy anyway. But I never gave up - I just kept sending out those arrows of love even though I would get thoughts of not being worthy enough or that there were simply no good guys left or I was too quirky and tall and much. And now I have to apply the same diligence to getting my writing out in the world. Simple as that. One day you are shouting at Mr. Lonely to get the hell outa your bed and the next you are snuggled up to a swell guy. One day you are getting another damn rejection and the next you are planning your book tour.

Watery Tart said...

Elizabeth-absolutely! This road takes such persistence, and if someone doesn't love it, they would never keep at it.

Jan- YAY for nudist moments! It is a little like a relationship, isn't it? You can be doing everything right, but you need that spark of timing and magic before it suddenly happens.

Megan said...

Unfortunately, I don't think anyone who wants to write can. And it is sad. But I've read people with the desire, but they can't write a good sentence to save their life.

Love your blog btw. Have I already told you that? :)

Watery Tart said...

I don't think I disagree, but it's because not everyone is willing to put in the work and the time to learn how. I think if they did (if their ego would allow) they could improve and get there). It's this blasted belief that this is an organic process, and really, it's not.

Anonymous said...

interesting that you said two 'inspired' things after completing the blog *if you write every day at 6am before bkfst, no wonder you're getting there!* S.King says the Muse will come but you have to tell her/him where you habitually frequent... so 'this blasted belief that it's organic & it's not' is only half true: Muse is totally unrelated to your showing up at the keyboard daily; but IF you show up at the keyboard daily s/he will come. And you said it succinctly above in response to Jan 'you can be doing everything right but you need the magic....' So I truly believe that you got a great poll here - you sussed out what makes us 'show up' (tick). I agree with what Megan says about 'desire' & 'inability to write a sentence'; so it's not in desire it's in being DRIVEN, having no other option in life - you said it we postpone with marriage, children, career, but we eventually get to it - OCD. I hope Elizabeth's prognostication is right: for you and for me... she says it so blithely. Thanks Elizabeth. I'll believe it if Tams will. Bless xM

jenny milchman said...

I think there's a kernel that's "gift" and then the rest is reading, writing, and persistence/tolerating rejection. Those are the main elements for me--but probably "gift" encompasses several more. Imagination? Creativity? Here it gets even tougher.

We'll be debating this very topic at the writers series I co-host next month (Can Writing Be Taught?) I wish you--and your readers--could be there!!

Maybe I will write a post about it and link back to this one--it was great.

Tina-Sue said...

How did I miss the poll?
Great post and I think on the "Born or Made" debate, I am firmly planted (not so) at %50 for each side.
Of course, some days it feels %20/%40 and some days it feels %90/ get the idea :)

Watery Tart said...

Marian--brilliant distinction--wanting it isn't enough, but people DRIVEN to do it can get there. Jenny, I think the actual GIFT is probably small (like you) however, tenacity as a personality is both a gift and a curse, and I think that is ALSO something people are born with.

*teehee* Tina Sue, like your wonky maths--shows creativity.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

It may be your story, but I definitely buy into it. Not everyone wants to write, but anyone who wants to write can write, and as long as they have the will to do so, they will write.
After all, you are unlikely to want to be a writer, unless you love reading, and if you love reading, you just end up imbibing so much withotu even realising it, so when it comes to actually putting pen to paper your technical foundation is there.
That's my story, and since I am a stubborn Thursday born, I'm sticking to it.