Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 12: Anyone Can Write.

There are those who will tell you that writing is not a talent, but a “skill” that can be learned, and that anyone can learn it. That must be true on some level—we all learn something about words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs in school.
But to be able to write engaging, interesting, involving words that communicate, convince, persuade, and entertain is a rare “skill.” So rare, it seems to me, that those who master it do so only when aided by a heaping helping of talent or some other innate ability. Otherwise, the world would be overrun with writers who tell stories as well as Johnny Boggs, write poetry as masterfully as DW Groethe, craft songs like Brenn Hill, write compelling history like Will Bagley, or measure up to a long list of accomplished writers in any genre you care to mention.
But while such a list of accomplished writers may be long, it is microscopic when compared to the number of literate people in our society. And it’s still a short list compared to those who somehow manage to get their work published or produced, much of which strives for mediocrity.
If you doubt the inability of most folks to write effectively and communicate clearly, read the Letters to the Editor in your local newspaper. Better (or worse) still, read what passes for writing in the “comments” section of online publications and other internet forums. It can make you yearn for a properly spelled word and a well-constructed sentence, not to mention the ability to think clearly and communicate those thoughts.
There is no doubt that with practice and patience and, perhaps, good teaching, we can all learn to better our writing ability. But it is unlikely—no, impossible—that anyone not gifted by the writing gods will ever reach the heights of those so blessed. Or even the middling levels of those with the talent to write well without really trying.


  1. Interesting question, Rod. As you point out writing is part craft and part talent. The proportions are probably as varied as the individuals who possess them. The wild cards are the degrees to which a writer is recognized, appreciated and accorded readership. By the time anyone passes though all those filters, the list is indeed short. How many of us would undertake the endeavor if we really understood the slender thread to success?

    1. A lot of truth there, Paul. But as we all know there are many, many outstanding writers who--for whatever reason--are not recognized, appreciated, or even read to any great extent. Some have to die to find an audience, others never will. And yet they write wonderfully.