Good Writers Are Made, Not Born

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As we marvel at such masterpieces as “Dream of A Red Mansion” or “Wuthering Heights,” we cannot help wondering if their authors were born to be outstanding writers. However, like other geniuses, talented writers are largely made, not born.

First of all, language itself, writers’ most important commodity, is an acquired ability. Human beings are born with the potential to speak, but to realize this potential we have to learn from our elders. If a child grows up among dumb people, or in isolation from adults, he or she would not be able to speak any language. Writers are not exception in this respect. The major distinction between them and other people is the capacity for the creative use of language. Since no one is born with the ability to speak, could there be anyone who is born with the ability to use language creatively?

Important as it is, the mere ability to use language in an original may by no means guarantees success as a writer. Masterpieces originate from rich experiences. This does not means that one has to lead a colorful, adventurous life, full of thrilling, encounters with dangers or romantic relationships in exotic lands. Many great writers lead fairly peaceful, even seemingly mundane lives, yet their apparently ordinary experiences are greatly enriched and enlivened by their original thinking and imagination. But anyway, one has to derive his or her inspiration from everyday life, not from some mysterious source that predestines one to be a writer even before he or she is born.

Rich experiences plus creative use of language are still inadequate for the making of a good writer. When we read a history of literature, we may notice that most great writers have a period of “apprenticeship” when they imitate the styles of other great writers. Like playing the piano or painting, writing follows certain rules. In writers’ eyes, all literary classics share something in common and, for them, they serve the same function as studies do for pianists, or sketches do for painters. It is through studying and imitating classics that they learn how to express their ideas and feelings in such a way as to reach the highest, most lasting standard in literature.

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Source by Allen Keneth