Not all stories are created equal


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.

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About Sharon

Writer, bibliophile, dreamer and student of everything
This entry was posted in ME ON WRITING, The writer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Not all stories are created equal

  1. drtombibey says:

    Sharon,

    Hope all is well. You might have a new baby by now!

    On my blog today there is a link to a TV clip that includes a brief discussion of my book, “The Mandolin Case,” and a short clip of some triple mandolin work. I thought you might enjoy it.

    All the best,

    Dr. B

    • Sharon says:

      Thanks Dr B. Still pregnant but advancing towards delivery in a timely and appropriate manner. Babies are amazing, they know just what to do! Will check out the link now.

  2. drtombibey says:

    Writers are fascinated with what regular folks often deem ordinary.
    Dr. B

  3. Unpopular though it may be, I agree with you. Knowing how to play the piano doesn’t make you a great pianist. Writing is the same.

  4. jenniferneri says:

    37 weeks! How exciting! And what a read at 37 weeks (I was doing fluff, my brain couldn’t handle real lit. lol) I loved The Enchantress f Florence. Even his style, all of it.

    Having come to writing only in my early 30s, I do think that some people have a knack for it and others not. I have tried other arts, and none came to me in the way writing did (but then again, I have been an avid reader since birth!). I really do believe though that being born with it, does not mean that you are capable of grasping the craft aspect of it with ease. I think for each writer this is different. Some have an easier time than others.

    Best of luck – does it look like you’ll be on time?

    • Sharon says:

      Jennifer, I know just what you mean about “fluff”. It’s hard to concentrate on much. I’m about ready for this baby to come out now, and have had a couple of false alarms. Hope everything is going all right with your little one.

  5. Lua says:

    Great post Sharon!
    “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.”
    I do believe we’re all born with some creative energy of some sort… But it takes time to find what it is, it takes effort to nurture it and I guess it takes some luck as well…
    I’m glad to hear you’re doing better! 🙂

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  7. mesmered says:

    An interesting point. Since I’ve been a writer on a full-time basis and in mixing with other writers, I believe one is born with the skill. One will either have the capacity and the imagination, or not. The technique, as with any artistic endeavour, can be learned. But the imagination must be there in the first place. I know a number of writers who have gone right through to M.A’s in creative writing and their work has no heart, no depth. Technically it’s superlative, but it is flat as the page on which it is written.

    I know writers who write because they must, because the skill that they were born with bites at their heels and whilst technically their work needs hard editing, the depth of the idea, the sensitivity toward the characters, the plot etc, is as deep as the deepest ocean.

    But it’s just my opinion . . . there would be many who disagree. Good luck for the birth and may the new arrival (s?) be as healthy and clever as mum.

    • Sharon says:

      Thank you, Mesmered for your well wishes. I started an masters degree in creative writing and quickly understood that you can teach the technical aspects of writing, but you can’t teach passion for the craft and a natural passion is so important to good writing.

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