Training a Writer

I recently saw a post on a writers’ board that annoyed the heck out of  me. An aspiring novelist wrote:

Good writers aren’t trained. Good writers are born.

Oh yeah? So why wasn’t the retelling of Thumbelina I wrote in second grade a massive success? Why weren’t all the other short stories and novels I wrote over the years a testanebt to my talent? Why is it I didn’t actually sell a piece of fiction until more than thirty years after I was born?

Try these on for size:

  • Good accountants aren’t trained.  Good accountants are born.
  • Good psychologists aren’t trained.  Good psychologists are born.
  • Good auto mechanics aren’t trained. Good auto mechanics are born.

And so on. All of those careers require a whole lot of training–why would anybody think writing is any different? Nobody expects a surgeon to be able to remove an appendix successfully the first time she picks up a scalpel, so why should they expect to be able to write a novel as soon as they get a word processor up and running?

Folks, I trained. I have a degree in English. I interned writing press releases, read slush pile stories for a college literary magazine, and was features editor for my college newspaper. I took writing courses outside of school as well, and attended countless lectures, talks, and panels on writing. I’ve read a shelf full of writing books. I spent a decade writing software documentation, plus occasional articles and limericks. And I did the two things that I think are most important for any writer:  I read and I wrote. For years, I read anything I could get my hands on, and for years, I wrote.

If that isn’t training, then I don’t know what is.

Maybe some people don’t see it as training because it wasn’t a formal process like passing a CPA exam, completing an internship in clinical psychology, or taking a course in engine repair. Though there are formal writing degrees, the majority of writers don’t have them–for the most part, we train ourselves. That doesn’t mean it’s not training.

I’m not saying that I wasn’t born with a certain amount of writing talent, because I certainly like to think that I was. But if I hadn’t taken the time effort to get what training I could, all I’d have to blog about is Thumbelina.



NOTE: I admit to being cranky today. I also posted on the Femmes Fatales blog about another statement about writing that annoyed me. Must be the weather.

3 thoughts on “Training a Writer

  1. I’m back again after reading your blog on Femmes Fatales. Like the flu, real writer syndrome must be going around. I recently had a discussion with someone who made a comment about “real” writers, which led me to blog about it. I have my own definition of a real writer, but I grow weary of those who make judgements.

Comments are closed.