Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Born Writers

I picked up my copy of On Writing last night, and I've only just begun reading it, but I already found something that may be worth a bit of discussion. In the introduction of the first section (after the hilarious forwards), when King is explaining his purpose in writing this book, he says this:
"It is, rather, a kind of curriculum vitae--my attempt to show how one writer was formed. Not how one writer was made; I don't believe writers can be made, either by circumstances or by self-will (although I did believe those things once). The equipment comes with the original package." (pg. 4, Mass Market Paperback)
I pretty much agree with this idea. However, it also somewhat confirms to me what I have long feared about myself. I am not a writer, and I will never be a writer. I wasn't born with the "equipment". King goes on to say that the equipment is not unusual or unique, and that many people have it to varying degrees. I have enough of the skills needed to write a coherent paragraph or even an essay (college proved that to me), but beyond that, I'm pretty sure it's just not there. As much as I wish it was. Ah well. One thing I do know--I am definitely a reader. I'm very much enjoying the book so far. You're right about Stephen King as a nonfiction writer, Lisa.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Stephen King on this subject? Or do you believe in the power of self-will? ;) There was an LDS prophet--I think it was David O. McKay...or maybe Spencer W. Kimball--who believed that you can learn to do anything if you work hard enough and practice it enough. He had terrible handwriting and worked and worked on it until he won a penmanship award at school. I don't know...if that were true, wouldn't there be more olympic athletes in the world? More Picassos and Beethovens? Clearly, natural ability plays a huge role in things. But I guess there really is part of me that believes (hopes?) that if I tried hard and long enough, I could excel at almost anything. What do you think?


Lisa said...

Hmm - I guess I agree that there is a certain innate aptitude, and if you don't have that, you'll probably never be a professional writer.

But, I also think about the beautiful letters that people wrote before we had things like telegrams or phones or e-mail. They expressed their ideas so beautifully and told their stories in such a thoughtful and narrative way! I think because that was the only way to communicate at distance, so you figured out how to do it competently.

I think it's Anne Lamott who said something to the effect of "Anyone who has survived childhood has more than enough writing material to last a lifetime" and I think that's quite true.

So, Jennie, you may never churn out essays or novels, but I bet you could write a pretty fascinating autobiography or really good series of letters.

Petey said...

I agree. And until you've really tried it - probably more for yourself than anyone else - I'd be hard pressed to say whether you can classify yourself as a non-writer.

And of course there aren't more Beethovens or VanGoghs (lest we have ears littering the street) because, to me, its likely a combination of both the innate-ness (I believe artists just think differently) but also the will power to explore and do something with that. There's a lot of hard work involved and not everyone is willing to dedicate themselves to that.

It reminds me of Tim, my brother. I don't know if you've seen the stuff he draws lately, but his work is stylistically his own, and really incredible. We all knew he had talent at drawing, but he also draws every free moment he comes upon; and has for years. That definitely helps.

Anyway, I bought the book yesterday and am starting it today. Huzzah for the revival!

Amanda said...

I'm going to agree with Stevie on this one. I am definitely not a writer, as much as I would love to be. I did try several times in my younger years to compose short stories or novels or poems, only to find I was utterly incapable. Perhaps if I tried now I would be able to succeed, but I doubt it. I just don't think that I'm a writer. I don't have the gift.

Anyone can master vocabulary, grammar, and syntax if they try. But not everyone can use these tools to craft a novel or tell a gripping story. That is the gift (or talent or ability) of true writers.