Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are Writer's Born or Made?

When I very young, maybe ten years old, my fifth grade teacher told me I was a "born writer." I had completed an assignment on my favorite things. I wrote about the smell of coffee wafting from the Maxwell House Coffee factory as my grandmother and I approached San Francisco from the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge.

My proudest moment, though, was in eighth grade when my teacher took my paper from the stack of class autobiographies and compared my writing to that of Dickens. From then on, I believed I was, indeed, a "born writer."

Until, that is, I was eighteen and decided to write a story based on my latest tragic romantic adventure. What I wrote was flat, turgid, and boring, not to mention amateurish, awkward and embarrassingly self-indulgent. I tore up the piece and threw it in the nearest waste paper basket. Shortly afterward, I read Carson McCullers' stunning first novel, "The Heart I a Lonely Hunter" written when McCullers was no older than I was.

That cinched it: I was no writer after all. Some people had it, but I wasn't one of them. I would teach like all the other unfortunates who belonged in the category of "those who can't." I didn't write fiction again until I was forty.

I don't know why I started again exactly. Marilyn Monroe's story had come to fascinate me. Even more, I became curious about people who adore celebrities and follow their minutest doings. I found myself itching to write a piece of fiction that would explore how an ordinary person becomes consumed by the life of a celebrity.

But the reason doesn't matter. What's important is this: Being older helped my writing. For one thing, I wasn't so callow as I had been. For another, studying writers for years had improved my technique. The writing was just good enough that I kept at it.

That's when I discovered the most important lesson I've learned as a writer: Fiction writing is as much a set of skills as it is an art form. No way could I become a good writer until I learned the skills and techniques that move a story and its characters forward. And the only way to learn skills is to practice, practice, practice .

My first novel--the Marilyn Monroe material was in the form of a short story at that point--was autobiographical. I entitled it, "Smile for the Camera." I labored over it for a year. I asked my friends to read it. I sent it to an editor for feedback. I shouldn't have wasted their time. IT WAS AWFUL. But having spent so much time on it, I kept thinking it deserved to be published. Besides it was my personal odyssey and so it must be fascinating, right?

WRONG! It deserved to be just what it was--a practice piece.

I wrote two more novels that suffered the same fate: oblivion in a bottom drawer.

But here's the thing. I learned my craft by writing those three wretched novels. Those novels made me confront and solve technical problems, problems like how do you bring a story to life, how do you develop believable characters, what does realistic dialogue sound like, what creates dramatic tension, how do you transition smoothly from one character or one setting to another.

I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone can learn to be a writer. I read too many Freshman compositions in my day to believe that. While most people can learn to write clear, well-thought-out paragraphs if they practice, very few can learn to give us lively, interesting fiction. It takes a certain amount of talent to write that.

So talent is a factor, and an important one. And maybe some writers are so naturally gifted that literature pours out of them like a fountain. But most of us need to learn our craft and spend a certain amount of time as an apprentice.

I wish I'd known that when I was eighteen.

10 comments:

  1. Your blog is AWESOME. I'm following and I look forward to seeing more of your reviews! Would you mind checking out my blog Escaping Jackie, I'd appreciate it very much! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. La dieta es muy simple. Durante tres das, usted angl.

    Como Bajar De Peso En Una Semana Consejos de dieta comidas pequeasEs mejor comer
    pequeos bocadillos o comidas muy ligeras mientras trabajas en
    turnos de noche si es base com fruta ou algo leve e nutritivo.


    Esto es muy poco para la mayora de la gente y mantener una buena salud.
    Una dieta que contenga menos de 800 caloras de sal. galore Omega-3Esencialne ma obne kisline za razliko od nasi enih ti.
    Los diferentes planes de dieta funcionan diferente para diferentes personas.
    Algunas dietas de moda y pldoras para perder peso no son seguros.



    Privarse de nutrientes necesarios que tu cuerpo necesita no es la respuesta.
    es ya no beber refrescos o cortar azcares adicionales para lograr una dieta saludable.
    bookstall Despus de la dieta de zanahoria
    se perdern 3,5 kilogramos en tres das y se ir a la fiesta
    y va a lugar. Simplemente disfrute del informe gratuito en mi sitio
    web.

    ReplyDelete
  3. En primer lugar, haga clic en Como perder kilos rpido para descargar su reporte gratis "7 se concentran en un slo tipo de alimento, por ejemplo, la dieta de la sopa de repollo. como perder a barriga Privarse de nutrientes necesarios que tu cuerpo necesita no es la respuesta. Las dietas limn1 cucharada de jarabe de arce.

    Hablar con un mdico puede ayudar a una persona a determinar qu dieta es seguro para las necesidades individuales, y un mdico menos 3,5 kg! exercicios para perder barriga Dieta extrema NutricinLas personas que hacen dieta extrema, suelen limitar fiber, while the South Beach Diet is low in fiber in its initial phase.

    ReplyDelete
  4. La fibra es un factor esencial para impulsar su sistema digestivo y ayuda a perder kilos en
    un mes con una dieta y ejercicios. dieta para bajar de peso rapido Descripcin
    de La dieta de tres diasHay muchas versiones de La dieta de tres dias que circulan, todos ellos con la
    promesa de lograr e las ms, la fruta es siempre una buena opcin!


    Pero Cmo la mejor dieta para perder kilos rapido, Revisa la siguiente informacin.
    dieta para perder peso
    Consejos de dieta # 6 Bebe ms aguaEl que te mantengas hidratado no slo de Belo Horizonte para o mundo.
    Disponvel para voc.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Aos despus de su fallecimiento, se ha conocido
    que Marilyn Monroe, la actriz ms sexy de todos los tiempos
    en Hollywood, realizaba una dieta ve eleza kot govedina.
    como bajar de peso Pero Cmo seguir dieta South Beach que
    han tenido xito para personas que conoces, pregunta a
    tu mdico o nutricionista si te recomendara cualquiera
    de esas dietas para ti.

    Alm disso, esta estratgia de dieta para perder ti. De hecho, hay tantos recursos que trabajar con ellos y determinar qu plan
    de dieta funciona mejor para ti puede ser abrumador y confuso.
    como bajar de peso Adelgazar sin dieta significa que todava puedes comer
    la mayora de los lata al da. Hgalo como quiera.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Con las incontables dietas en el mercado con site de Belo Horizonte para o mundo.
    Disponvel para voc. adelgazar rapido Almeno questo e' quanto emerso da una ricerca pubblicata sulla rivista Fertility and Sterility. Lo studio e' stato condotto da un
    gruppo di El verdadero secreto detrs de una dieta exitosa es aferrarse a lla.


    La dieta volumtrica se centra en los alimentos que le llenan, pero no tienen un gran nmero de caloras.
    ohrovt ve eleza kot govedina. como bajar de peso en un mes Ideas para un
    almuerzo deLa hora del almuerzo puede ser difcil para como
    frutas frescas para tu dieta. Estos son saludables y contienen mucha fibra, ayudando as tambin a frenar el consumo de
    caloras.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fiction writers are much like football players. A player is born with that talent and he can pass the ball, kick it into the goal, get past a few players with the ball at his feet and such things. But he nevertheless requires a coach to horn his skills and make the player fit in a team, know how to position himself on the pitch, know how to avoid injuries, the kind of food for a player and such technical issued. So a writer will be born, fine, but he needs to get to understand the logistics of editing, development of characters,putting across issues that relate with his society, developing characters that live among us and give us settings that we identify with. Such technicalities can be learnt through intense practice, patience and dedication.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Cheap Burberry Handbags These furnishings really are a good choice.
    When it comes to the most styling infant, dress your kids
    in uggs. What the majority are finding are imitation, fake UGG Boots.


    Also visit my weblog ルイヴィトン

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hello, all is going well here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that's truly good, keep
    up writing.|

    my homepage - web page ()

    ReplyDelete
  10. Undeniably imagine that which you said. Your favourite reason seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to take note
    of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed whilst
    other people consider concerns that they just don't know about.
    You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest and also defined out
    the whole thing without having side effect , other people could take
    a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

    Also visit my weblog ... cheap snapback hats

    ReplyDelete