At almost 37 weeks pregnant I don’t have much energy for anything more than resting in a big comfy chair with a good book – typing has been difficult because my hands are puffy and sore – but I have been thinking a lot about writing from the heart, and most especially writing with openness and authenticity. Mostly my recent reading has led this thought process. Currently I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s The enchantress of Florence, and though his style is not exactly fluid (frankly he seems to gallop in and out of lucidity across a single paragraph), he has not failed to capture the human condition. Sometimes humanity is less than charming and Rushdie isn’t afraid to make us cringe with this reality. To me, a good writer will make you recognise something of yourself in the character’s, even the less agreeable ones.
While it is true almost anyone can tell a story, create a scene or invent a character, not all stories are created equal. I used to believe that writing was an innate talent that you either had or didn’t. This is what set me apart from all my friends – I had been chosen to be a writer and all I had to do was string a few clever words together and voila! a literary masterpiece would issue forth from my brain to my fingers. After I grew up and went to university I decided that writing was an acquired skill and that anyone could do it. I no longer believed in talent, but hard-earned skill. I worked hard and, I believe, improved, but I began to develop an indifference towards writing that was hard to shake. My recent reading has re-awoken the question of nature v. nurture and I find at least two fingers are tiptoeing back towards the former, while my feet remain strategically placed on the other side. I realise this is not the accepted philosophy of today’s writers and I may be committing heresy by suggesting that writers are anything but slaves to their profession, but I have a sneaking suspicion there is more to it than learning a few clever phrases or building enjoyable dialogue. In order to be a good writer, or a musician, or an artist of any kind, one must first have the propensity. Many musicians have a natural ability for tone and pitch, making them better equipped for the role of musician. Some children seem to show a flare for creating realistic sketches of everything they see. Is it so far-fetched to believe that some humans have a natural receptiveness for language related pursuits? Essentially, all humans are born with the creative instinct, but whether a person will excel at a creative endeavor might just be determined by something more than environment.
Recent twin studies are revealing the importance of nature in determining who we are, what we like and what we do, right down to aspects of our personalities, which have previously been thought to be determined by environment. It would be interesting to be able to compare the brains of established writers with non-writers to determine how much of our bodies and minds are engaged in the craft.