Are writers born or made?

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

The always-inspiring Belle DiMonté wrote a blog post a week or two ago that got me thinking (again – she tends to have this affect on me). She wrote about what it’s like to be a writer. She also wrote about the fact that having a perfect life has nothing to do with being successful. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Because of the hardships, the pain, and the struggles, she’s been able to face her problems, push through them, and gain knowledge and experience that is invaluable to a writer.

About half way through she says that she firmly believes that writers are born, not made. “One does NOT make a writer! Writers, especially successful ones, are not made; the talent and desire is not created; it is simply THERE from the beginning and refuses to let us rest until we give in and begin to write the stories that populate our veins.”

She goes on to quote George Orwell by saying, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with a painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist or understand.”

More beautiful words have never been said.

And on that note, let me just say – I disagree. Kind of. Well, no. I DO agree, but it’s complicated. Yeah, that works. It’s complicated.


Writers can be made. We’ve seen it done time and time again. Celebrities who I believe to have no desire to write (Snooki, anyone?) have gone on to publish books. Some have had more success than others. “Success” can be defined a number of ways, but for the sake of our argument, let’s just define it as someone who has sold a lot of books – regardless of the actual critical response.

Are these people necessarily good writers? No. Granted, they probably did it for the money and probably had eight editors read over their manuscript before it went to the press. But are they writers? Yes. Could they be described as successful in terms of how many books they sold? Yes. Therefore, are they a “made” writer? Yes.

(Disclaimer: Maybe Snooki had that intrinsic pull of the writer running through her veins much like the rest of us. I doubt it, but I honestly don’t know.)

Whoa, whoa, whoa, you might say. But there’s a HUGE difference between me and SNOOKI.

Yeah, I agree. And this is why I agree with Belle and why my answer is also complicated. There’s a difference – a huge difference – between a made writer and a naturally born writer. They could have the exact same careers – hugely successful, many books, dedicated fan base. They could even have vastly different careers. The “made” writer could sell a lot of books because of his or her fame, while the “born” writer could spend his or her time in squalor hoping an agent takes notice.

But there’s always going to be a difference in their blood. It’s not that one is real and the other is fake, but it’s that one has the calling and the other doesn’t.

I realized it a little late, but I knew I always had an affinity for writing. Back in fourth grade I remember writing entire stories in the span of a paragraph. Yeah, they weren’t exactly prize-winning manuscripts, but that’s when I first realized that writing was fun and it was an escape into another world. It wasn’t something that I decided to do one day… It was something I’ve just always done. I’ve always felt the need to put the made-up places in my head down on paper.

The other day my dad was telling me a funny story about when I used to go over to his house and how I’d spend all day on his computer, typing out my stories. His computer was in his bedroom, and I’d be content to stay in there the entire weekend if I could. But once in a while I’d come out into the living room and flop onto the floor. I’d stay there for a little while, watching TV with him.

“What’s wrong?” he’d ask.

I’d sigh. “Writer’s block.”

I’d be quiet for a while, probably perfectly at peace watching NASCAR (Go Mark Martin!). Then I’d pop up, say, “Ooh!” and run back into the bedroom to type out the rest of the scene.

I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had a story in my head that I wanted to get out. My writing skills were above average, but in no way were they good. (Given that I was probably about 10 at the time, I’ll let it slide.) I had no desire to get published, or even to have anyone read my stuff. I just wanted to write for the sake of writing, because I enjoyed it. Because it was fun.

Many moons later, I figured it out. I’m a writer. I was born to be a writer. My brain works in a different way than Average Joe’s. I see stories everywhere and my head is always filled with voices – but the good kind, not the crazy kind. As cheesy and silly as this sounds, I know that I was meant to be a writer. Baby, I was born this way.

Yeah, I just quoted Lady Gaga. Deal with it.

The point is, there is such a thing as a writer who was made. There’s such a thing as a writer who was born. Could they have the same exact careers? Yeah, probably. Could they have completely different careers? Also a possibility. While they’re both writers, they’re both completely different.

I think one is better than the other, but that’s just me. I’m a tad biased. There’s nothing wrong with a made-writer, but I think a story from someone who doesn’t have the blood of a writer coursing through their veins will never have the same spark as someone who simply goes through the motions because they’ve decided they can make money doing it.

Do you think there are such things as made-writers and born-writers, or are they all the same to you? Is one better than the other? Do you feel that deep seated call to write?

  1. ddog13 says:

    For as long as I could remember, I always wanted to write.There are some people, however, who are simply opposed to writing and are clearly not good at it. Is it something that can be taught? I don’t know. I have never really had an opportunity to help someone improve their writing. If I have the chance to help a friend or family member become a better writer, then made-writers are possible. But a writer can’t hate writing and be a writer. If they have a passion for it and they like writing, then they are a writer. If I were to say: “I am a mathmetician, because I am spectacular at math, but I hate doing math,” then I am not a mathmetician. (This is a lie. I hate math and am not spectacular at it.) This is a really good question. I’m interested to hear what other people have to say.

    • Karen Rought says:

      Your math analogy makes a good point! It makes me wonder what exactly we define “writer” as? Is it someone who writes, or is it someone who is passionate about writing and writes because of that passion? Food for thought!

  2. asraidevin says:

    The desire to write cannot be taught. The actual skills of writing and storytelling can be, I think.

  3. I agree. Writers are definitely born, in terms of tendency and aptitude. Actually being able to write well is a learned skill. Most writers have both to some extent – the balance, I think, can shift between people. Great writers have both in equal (and significant) measure.

  4. Zen A. says:

    I think true writers are born, not made. Sure you could learn how to write and become acquainted with the techniques and skills of writing, but there will always be something amiss. As for celebrities who write books, how can we be so sure that they wrote the books themselves? It’s quite easy to hire a ghost writer and let them do all the work!

    • Karen Rought says:

      I agree. There’s something different about a born writer, a certain spark that sets them apart from people who just do it for the money. As for the celebrities – you’re definitely right, although I do think plenty of them take the projects into their own hands. If they’re not particularly inclined toward writing, I’m sure they get a lot of help.

  5. EM Castellan says:

    Interesting question. I don’t think I was made a writer but growing up in a house filled with books, by parents who loved reading and always supported my writing did help a lot.

    • Karen Rought says:

      Definitely! Everything influences us, and sometimes it’s things like that that points us in the right direction and gets us to that place a little faster than would’ve happened otherwise!

  6. Ah, I forgot about Snooki’s “books” — you bring up a good point there! It’s true that, in some sense, writers can be “made”, but I suppose when I say the word “writer” I am referring to the people who actually came to the craft by themselves and were not fabricated by media conglomerates to pump out fluff for the zombie-masses…they need to invent another term for those writers so that we can tell them apart from the other writers, the ones like me who labour into the night on novels until our fingers bleed.

    Nice post as always! Especially lovely to hear about how you blossomed into a writer. 🙂 If you’re simply born that way, the little voices always will find their way out and dance upon the paper.

    *goes off singing Lady Gaga songs*

  7. Hi there! =) I came over from an RT of the post on Twitter. I agree with you, though I call a made-writer an author and we’re, well, we’re just writers. They publish books to make money. We write because…we were born this way! Thinking of that song in a whole new way right now. Yep, sure am! *Goes off to find Belle and sing with her*

    • Karen Rought says:

      Hello! Nice to meet you. 🙂 Using those two words for the different types makes sense to me. I wish there were more strict definitions that were agreed upon by everyone. That would make me feel much better, haha. Enjoy your song! I think you’ll find Belle frolicking out in the woods with the local fairies.

  8. Julie Glover says:

    I find it rather fascinating when authors describe writing as this tortuous struggle. Yes, it’s quite difficult, but I also find it very engaging. I ENJOY writing, even if it does bring some blood, sweat, and tears. I agree with you, Karen, that the desire to tell stories or interact with words is there, but writers can be made.

    It’s a bit like musicians, I suppose. You may have a strong desire to engage in music, but you have to actually learn how to read music, rhythm, fingerings, etc., in order to play the violin, and play it well.

  9. Jenny Freck says:

    A novel written by a celebrity author is the equivalent of engaging in sex without intimacy. A novel written by a writer is an intimate act where the audience is foremost. In this way the need to communicate and convey feeling transcends a shared experience with the world and is initially written for someone, or the memory of a first audience to connect with or record a memory wanting to be shared. For this reason l draw the analogy of a writer making love privately in an act of intimacy and you as the voyeur get a glimpse into the writers world. Alternately, you get to witness an exhibitionist when reading the celeb author. Like a paying customer at a strip joint- stylised, formulated, contrived sex is offered up seductively. The strip show may be attractive and less awkward but love it aint. There’s no mistaking the intentions of these two types, one is on bended knee and the other is going to show you a good time. Whats preferable depends on your taste and appreciation or lack there of.
    By the way lm not a writer (it shows Haha), just my thoughts on the matter.

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