Wednesday, June 11, 2008


So all day I have been trying to think of a good blog topic.

I have considered and discarded several. It's very frustrating. I suspect it's the heat. I have a hard time working when I'm too hot. Or it could be the WIP, which is cooking along nicely at the moment and has just hit 80k words. I'm still hoping to bring this first draft in under 100; I have a subplot I need to add in but there is also some stuff I can remove, as the new subplot will accomplish what those scenes do much more efficiently. I'm excited about it; I'm looking forward to finishing.

So here's some random thoughts and stuff.

1. A very interesting discussion took place on Dear Author yesterday, about writers and formal education. I'm actually mentioned in the post, which seems to spring in part from a discussion a little while back on Fangs Fur & Fey.

I never went to college. I have a GED, actually. Don't think it matters one bit for writing. In fact, I don't believe college is necessary for most jobs that want college graduates.

What was particularly interesting in the DA post though, and what made me the most uncomfortable at the same time, was the question of whether writers are born or made. Is writing a gift that you either have or don't, or can anyone be a writer with enough study and practice?

It makes me uncomfortable because I write. And while the point was made that if writing is a gift, the person who has the gift isn't responsible for it any more than they are the color of their eyes, I still can't help but cringe a little when asked to identify myself as someone with a particular "gift". I suppose it's a modesty ting, which isn't to say that writers who say writing is a gift are immodest; that's not my point at all. They simply see it differently from me. It's very easy for me to agree with them when I don't feel like I'm talking about myself. So how about if I just say, writing is a talent which can be developed in those in whom it already exists, but if you lack the talent no amount of work will give it to you? You may become competent, but that's about it.

2. Mark Henry's birthday is tomorrow. Make sure you stop by and say something. (Notice I did not tell you to say something nice; this is Mark, after all. He loves the abuse.)

3. We are Blogging the End of the World at the League of Reluctant Adults blog this week; we're trying to set up a safe house. So join the fun and spread the word!


kirsten saell said...

So how about if I just say, writing is a talent which can be developed in those in whom it already exists, but if you lack the talent no amount of work will give it to you? You may become competent, but that's about it.

I think that's it exactly. A person can be born with an innate affinity for something -- math or athletic ability or visual arts -- and it's those people, if they work at it, who can really go places with that talent. Unless you're a savant, natural ability will only get you so far.

It's a combination of nature and nurture. Not everyone can be a writer. Heck, take it from me, not everyone can be a waiter/ess, or an accountant, or a short-order cook. Sometimes the skills can be learned, but often, if it's not there, there's not a lot you can do.

Artistic ability isn't any more noble than say, a flair for organization. Come to think of it, it's pretty clear which of those would have gotten me further in life, and it ain't the one I got.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think the main thing my education did for me was help me become discplined enough to write.

Bernita said...

I liked a later comment in that discussion. "It's not what you've got, it's how you use it."

Robyn said...

My husband's got a college degree in History. He manages a restaurant. I don't want to say that a degree means diddly/squat, but it's not an automatic sign of intelligence or competence. And like Kirsten said, restaurant work ain't easy, not by a long shot.

And if I may be permitted the blasphemy, some people preferred Salieri over Mozart, even though he was less "gifted."

Seeley deBorn said...

I agree that some people have innate abilities, but to call them "gifts" just seems pretentious. So I can put words together. BFD. So what if I understand quadratics and can see a graph when I look at an equation. Who cares? I can't stand other people's kids and would probably slit my wrists if I had to be a daycare worker.

Being able to handle 20 toddlers at time. That's a gift.

Anonymous said...

Darling, I think it's both. I think some people are natural linguists or natural storytellers, but because many of the rules and ideas behind good writing are concrete things it can be learned. A natural writer who has worked hard will beat out a natural story teller farting around or a skilled learned writer. But keep in mind that critics and readers are every bit as subjective as agents and editors so in the end whether you are learned (which can be done without college in this, the age of very available information) or raw, what counts is that you are connecting with readers and making them want to come back for more.

BernardL said...

I believe a writer can acquire the tools to write, but the key ingredient is imagination.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect it's the heat."

Pffft. What is it over there,
85F? :~)>

In my usually battered opinion an education (i.e. degree) is just something that may help you get a job. My degree is in education with an English/Lit concentration (I know, hard to believe. Thankfully for your children's sake I don't teach them.)

You can learn to write well but there is no doubt in my mind entertaining writers have a gift. -V95

Seeley deBorn said...

Okay, so shoot me, I watch So You Think You Can Dance. Last year some guy from Juliard auditioned and was shot down for being too effeminate. This year he showed up in cammo. Despite being extremely technically proficient, and a graduate of a highly respected dance school, he got shot down again. He has natural talent, he has training, but he just doesn't have 'it'. Maybe what makes a writer successful is something a little more ethereal.

Crap, that sounds as pretentious as my earlier math comment.

I seriously have no idea what I'm trying to say.


laughingwolf said...

could not agree with you more, dee

like charles, i needed to get the discipline, but also honing the craft

the 'art' of storytelling i'm still working on, still honing the 'craft', as well

Whirlochre said...

I'm with Kirsten S.

There's no doubt that the mingling eddies of the gene pool predispose all of us to something, be it a capacity for dancing, talking loudly or beholding the voice of God in every inanimate object, but whatever percentage of influence this has, we can do precious little about it. Everything else is ours to change.

So — I was always going to be as tall as I am, but if I'd missed out on all my vitamins and been tethered in a dungeon from the age of 6, I could well have ended up shorter — and with less teeth. Making it to 7' requires I work out on medieval torture equipment.

Whatever skills we have, our mortality requires that we strive to develop them. I'm not musical (unless I'm in a strong breeze without a hat), but I have no doubt that if I went through the right process the right number of times I could be as good a piano player as Rachmaninov. The only drawback is that it would probably take me 10,001 years — 10,000 to master the piano and 1 to figure out how to use the stool.

I prefer to think of 'talent' in terms of aptitude and suitedness rather than a 'gift'. Thinking we are special in some way is almost as destructive as having our skills stifled.

And we have to be careful of people who try to 'help' us. Takes a long time to figure out the sort of 'help' we need, it seems to me.

kirsten saell said...

...talking loudly or beholding the voice of God in every inanimate object...

Hey! I do both those things!

WO is a very very wise dude...