One some shape or form, this question is one of the oldest in recorded history. “Are writers born or are they made?” This is a great debate that has eluded scholars, historians, writers, and brilliant minds for centuries. This isn’t an easy question to answer, nor do I think it can be answered. All that can be expressed is personal opinion.
There is an existing myth (misconception) concerning literature. People have this false notion that great works of literature are magically and effortlessly created in the mind of the writer. The problem lies in the glamour life styles of the few writers that have sold million of copies of their books. The spotlight is mostly on them. We hear about the huge royalty payments and their net worth’s, and often hailed as a literary genius. They receive a lot of media attention, blotting out the rest, never seeing the ninety percent of writers who struggle to make a name in the literary world. The non-writers of the world don’t see the hardship that most writers face on a daily basis. And like all great myths, it is larger than life, and unlikely to be eradicated from the human conscious any time soon.
So, with that said, let us try to find an answer to this great question. First I would like to begin by asking, what does it take to be a writer? In brief: It takes ability, aptitude, talent, and learned skill, combined with a belief in oneself and dedication to ones goals, and a strong desire to succeed. Requiring apprenticeship and paying close attention to detail while learning through trail and error.
There is another common myth associated with writing. It is this: Literature is one of the most important of all human endeavors, and most people believe they have a right to success because they have a story to tell. In other words, writing looks easier than it actually is. Most people fail to recognize the countless hours involved in producing good literature. A lot of people who take on writing for the first time soon feel overwhelmed and get discourage and quit, or if they do finish a work of literature they get frustrated when rejects slips come in and then quit. Most people who try to write a book, quit. It is a few percent that didn’t quit that go on to become the future writers. It is this few percent we want to keep in mind. If we take the few percent and break it down into how many writers are published, we discover ninety percent of writers will fail. Only ten percent ever become published writers. If take that 10 percent and break it down we discover fifty percent of all books fail in the market and unable to sell enough copies to sustain a writing career. Leaving us with an answer of five percent of writers sell enough books to sustain enough income to support their writing a career.
It is this 5% I what to consider when asking, are writers born or made? In this five percent is where the giants of literature live. It is this 5% that is comprised of the writers who made it. And if we take a look at the writer and study their routines and habits, we can determine the factors that made each writer successful. By digging deeper we discover that a writer is no different than any other occupation, such as a lawyer or doctor, spending years studying, preparing and practicing. Leaving us with a simple fact, the writer must be willing to sacrifice and log in hundreds of hours of writing, reading, observing, and studying to master their craft. The writer must be in a constant state of learning and maintaining self-discipline. One factor that is evident to every successful writer is one common theme, work, work, and more work.
With that established lets not kid our selves. There are countless writers who have high quality work ethics. The truth is that hard work and desire are often not enough to securing and sustaining a writing career. Why is that? What is the defining factor that sets two writers apart from each other? If both writers possess the same high quality work ethic, then why does one writer make it and the other not? What factor are we missing? It could a number of variables. But I want to concentrate on the one variable that matters most, and that is talent. You are either born with it or you are not. It is true that talent can be learned through applied interest, but if one writer is blessed with a talent at birth and the other is not, and they both grew up and start writing at the same time, and work equal as hard, the writer who wasn’t born with talent can never catch up with the writer with talent, for the writer is always improving their talent.
So here we are at full circle and back to the question, are writers born or made? There is no clear answer. To many variables can influence why some writers make it and others do not. In my opinion it is a mixture of both. I do believe through hard work and sheer love of writing and determination a writer can produce good works of literature and sustain a writing career. I believe that anyone who has the courage to log in thousands of hours can make the stories in their heads a reality for readers to enjoy. But I believe the greats are born. The Shakespeare’s, the Wolfe’s, the Rowling’s, the Hemingway's, and the King’s were all born. They were born with true talent, or genius, call it what you will. But one common theme is apparent. It takes discipline, sacrifice, and study. No matter the size of your talent if you are not willing to make sacrifices, write hundred of thousands of words, and read thousands of books, then sustaining a writing career is all but possible. All you are doing is playing. To be a writer is to take it serious like any other profession. It must be your life work, if not you are just wasting time. Writing is the least understood and the one of the most demanding careers in terms of emotion and physical output, and one of the least rewarding financially. To be a writer takes guts and nerves of steel. So in my opinion and to answer the question, some writers are born, but all writers are made.
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