Writing Takes Hard Work, Dedication, and the Right Parents?

Is your mom or dad a bestselling author? If not, a study suggests you might want to put your pen away and give up all hope. The Independent reports new research that shows there may be “an inherited element to writing good fiction.” Fucksakes, eh?

Yale researchers and Moscow State University researchers launched a study to determine whether science could explain why well-known writers often have children who are also talented writers.

“There are four generations of Waugh novelists – Arthur, sons Alec and Evelyn, Evelyn’s son Auberon, and Auberon’s daughter Daisy; Kingsley Amis and his son Martin; H G Wells and Rebecca West, and their son Anthony West.
“There are also the three venerable Brontë sisters, Henry and William James [brothers], the Cheevers [father, daughter and son], and the Ephrons [parents were screenwriters, and four daughters are also writers],” say the researchers.

And we all know of more modern examples of such literary families.

Researchers analyzed the writing of 511 children (8 to 17), and then looked at 489 of their mothers and 326 fathers. The participants in the study all wrote about specific themes. For example, the children had subjects like “were I an elephant” and “were I invisible”. Teens wrote on themes like, “a time machine for an hour” and “visiting a witch” and the adults wrote about “the world from an insect’s point of view” and “imagine who lives and what happens on a planet called Priumliava.” Jesus, that one would be a tough assignment.

Researchers rated the stories based on originality, plot, sophistication, and creative use of prior knowledge. They also did “detailed intelligence tests” to analyze how families functioned in the Russian households. After that, they took intelligence and family background into account and calculated the inherited and the environmental elements of creative writing.

But what did they find?!

This: “a modest but statistically significant familiality and heritability element to creative writing.”

That sounds…what?

“These findings constitute the tip of an interesting iceberg, indicating that there may be some components of creative writing that are familial and heritable.”

The researchers feel that it may be worthwhile to study whether or not creative writers are born as well as made.

“When writers capitalise on these inborn propensities and expose these propensities to rich experiences, we, as readers, can enjoy books that not only form the foundation of cultural life but also impact the biology of the human brain.”

Maybe in a few years we’ll all have to stop saying that one isn’t born a writer. I don’t know. Maybe we really are born writers. But if I believe talent is inherited, then I have to admit I’m wondering where I got mine…or perhaps I don’t have any. I have family members that are very creative, and in my very biased opinion they are talented, but they’re not close relatives. Aunts, uncles, cousins, but not mother, father or grandparents.

On the other hand, my daughters are showing a natural ability to create fiction. My oldest (now 14) writes with a skill I’d have killed for at that age (I’d kill for it now), and it’s nothing she’s been taught. She just has always had a knack for creating beautiful imagery and her word usage is always unexpected. My youngest creates vivid characters, although at eight, she’s not yet penning full stories. Instead she creates scenes to act out, and I have to say again, I’m jealous that it’s all child’s play for her and not work.

Are these things natural for every child, or are they inherited?

What do you think? Are writers born or are they made?

5 thoughts on “Writing Takes Hard Work, Dedication, and the Right Parents?

  1. Awesome post!My daughters create books and stories all the time. My oldest outlines and plans characters and plots and then writes from her plans. My younger two make graphic novels.And I don't know if they would do it so much if they didn't see me doing it. But my parents weren't writers. All the same their praise played a big role in my desire to write.

  2. IF there is anything that's hereditary regarding to creative writing it's a storytelling ability, and that has little to do with writing skill (which is learned), but more with an ability to present things convincingly and entertainingly — which doesn't necessarily result in writers. Sometimes it results in politicians, or managers. ;)Interesting post, though. Thanks!

  3. I read the same article, and heard a discussion of it on Radio 4. I imagine that for every writer who produces 'writerly children' there are probably ten more who give birth to clods – no – I'm overstating the case, but you get my drift. And we all have so many past influences in our genetic make up its ultimately a bagatelle nudged by relevant nurturing. I'll tell you one thing though – like acting dynasties, and media dynasties, there's more than a little nepotism involved to.

  4. Rita & Vero: I think there's more of an environmental factor to writing. When you see mom or dad immersed in books and it's encouraged, then you're going to embrace it or reject it. Right? I think…Mike: Excellent points. And I agree that there's more than a little nepotism involved.

  5. It would be interesting to see the results for adopted children of writers. There have to be some out there. That might help with the nature vs nurture debate.

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