Sam Carter: You know, you blow up one sun and suddenly everyone expects you to walk on water. —Stargate SG-1
Over the past few days I’ve been seeing discussion here and there about whether writers are born or made. Tess Gerritson has some interesting thoughts about this: I think the ability to tell a good story is fully formed by the time we�re age twelve, at the latest. I was already writing stories at age seven. Age seven, in fact, seems to be the same age that many novelists say they knew they were storytellers. (Maybe because by that time we know how to read and write, and can finally commit our own stories to paper.)
In 1967, Kurt Vonnegut wrote an article called “Teaching the Unteachable”: You can’t teach people to write well. Writing well is something God lets you do or declines to let you do. Most bright people know that, but writers’ conferences continue to multiply in the good old American summertime. Sixty-eight of them are listed in last April’s issue of The Writer. Next year there will be more. They are harmless. They are shmoos.
And in this interview with Stephen King, he says this: You’ve got to be hungry for it. My mother said that when she was pregnant with me she’d go out to the road and take the tar up, and chew the tar, because there was something in that tar, that, she, I, needed. It’s like a craving. We like to think about how smart we are. But I think talent as a writer is hard-wired in, it’s all there, at least the basic elements of it. You can’t change it any more than you can choose whether to be right handed or left handed.
I don’t know. Yes? Maybe? In my case, I’d probably say yes. I started telling stories as soon as I could string words together, and once I learned how to write, bam. Wasn’t anything good, but the urge was there. And I was very, very, earnest.
On the other hand, there are many different kinds of writing, and not all of them involve telling stories. And there are many ways to tell stories that don’t involve the written word. Passion is as passion does, and whatever works and makes you happy—is all that really matters.