The Journal: Are Writers Born or Made?

In today’s Journal

* Topic: Are Writers Born or Made?
* Of Interest

Topic: Are Writers Born or Made?

Matt wrote to ask my thoughts about another myth: That some people are born to be writers and others, no matter how hard they try, will never be writers.

My take is probably a little different from that of most people. Basically it’s this: Be careful what you believe. Sometimes, the simple act of buying into something causes it to become your reality.

But on this specific question, does it matter whether writers are born or made? Not really.

What matters is that a person is passionate enough about writing to keep doing it, story after story, month after month, year after year, even without garnering much notice. If you can do that, you’re a writer. If you can’t or don’t, you aren’t.

So back to the basic question: Can a person be born with that passion? Probably. I guess. At the top end, consider child prodigies in various fields. They apparently were born with a passion. For lesser examples, consider folks like me whose “one thing” has always been writing. No matter what else I did during my life, writing was the one thing I always went back to.

On the other hand, can a person be taught to have that passion? Probably not. The best we can do in that regard is share our own passion. We can show another person how we do what we do and how we feel about it. After that, the person will either be infected or s/he won’t. And if s/he isn’t already passionate about writing, the illustration won’t make a difference.

As just one example, that’s what DWS did for me. I already had the passion for writing and storytelling. Dean showed me what he called “a better way,” a way to make writing fun instead of a laborious process.

That sounded good, but I didn’t jump right in. I was skeptical to say the least. When I finally decided to try WITD, I did so because I was certain I would prove WITD was all BS. But that was the key: to prove to myself whether WITD would or wouldn’t work, I had to give it an honest try.

To my surprise, when I tried it, I found it worked. It worked on short stories at first, and later it worked on novels. (Yep, I was still skeptical.) After my first eight or 10 novels and around 100 short stories, I took it a step further and made it my own. I realized I wasn’t trusting myself and my creative subconscious so much as I was trusting my characters to live their own stories. And I haven’t looked back.

But the thing is, out of the thousands who read Dean’s posts about WITD, I’m one of very few who took off with it. And I understand that too. Of the dozen or so writers I’ve taught WITD to in person, and of the hundreds I’ve taught via this Journal, emails, etc. MAYBE a dozen came to trust themselves and their characters enough to let go and enjoy the freedom and fun of WITD.

Sometimes we fret over things that just don’t matter. To me, that’s a waste of time that we might have used more productively. As I’ve told people dozens of times about WITD, for example, why spend time listing all the reasons you’re sure it won’t work? Why not just go all-in and try it for yourself? That really is the only way to know for sure.

And it’s a win-win situation. If WITD works, you will have gained the world. If it doesn’t, you will have lost only the little bit of time you invested in trying it.

But don’t go in with a half-hearted attempt. All or nothing. Anything else is a waste of time. And none of us have enough of that most valuable asset.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Point of View And Voice” at

See “Diving Into the Wreck is Free!” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 680 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 19… 2117 words. Total words to date…… 41729 (Not stalled. Just still under the weather.)

Total fiction words for June……… 33628
Total fiction words for the year………… 45405
Total nonfiction words for June… 13520
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 94130
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 139535

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.

4 thoughts on “The Journal: Are Writers Born or Made?”

  1. As with any other art or skill, a natural gift for writing, while nice, is not enough: you have to do the writing.

    There’s a reason it’s a mature art: it’s too complicated and requires too much work, to be something for child prodigies – I don’t know of any credible body of fiction from a child or even young person that I would care to read. One idea isn’t enough. You have to keep producing, because fiction is a reflection of life, filtered through the experience of a single author.

    There are skills to be acquired, and they aren’t mechanical. They require thought and understanding. Practice helps some writers, direct instruction others, and some of us get a lot out of books on craft, especially when they provide examples.

    • Alicia, This is not the right place for a comment like yours. If I’d had the appropriate filters in place I probably would not have allowed your comment through. I am aware of your limitations and I respect your choice for yourself personally. (We’ve talked about this before.)

      However, going forward I will require that those who wish to post comments on the Journal show reciprocal respect for this Journal and its teachings. I will not allow comments that promote the myths of writing, especially that fiction writing is “work.”

  2. Actually, I rather strongly disagree with Alicia’s comment. I recently re-read the Diary of Anne Frank. It remains one of the most eloquent and powerful descriptions of the holocaust ever written. It is far superior to the vast majority of such books written by supposedly more skilled and mature writers. It is also an excellent coming-of-age account. Of course a diary is non-fiction, but Frank’s book is alive with kinds of ideas that most coming-of-age authors struggle to express. Few writers come close to her ability to touch millions of readers. She wrote whatever came into her head and had no special writing instruction. No one read what she wrote until after she died. I’m sure editors helped clean up the final draft. But I found the version that I read, with certain sections that had been taken out by her father and/or editors, to be superior to the version I read more than 50 years ago. Anne Frank was barely 16 when she died but she wrote masterpiece. Child prodigies are unusual for any art form. And that includes writing.

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