Can Anyone Write?

I met with my advisor for the minor in writing a few weeks ago. When I asked him for advice on how to improve my writing skills, he gave me a simple and straight-forward directive: write more. No, I don’t think that means write 20 pages for a 5 page assignment. He suggested I write for fun–a little bit each day. I mentioned in previous blog posts how I would find excuses to not write for fun–the internet is calling! I have tried to use Twitter, Tumblr, and other new media sites as my places to do some writing for personal enjoyment. That counts, right?

As we’ve talked at length about in class, writing can be difficult for most. I’m sure, though, it comes easier to some. This got me thinking–are some people naturally better writers? What kind of conditions and environment allow for certain people to become better writers? Can anyone write? (I can’t help but think of the line from Ratatouille when the evil food critic does not believe “anyone can cook!”) Can anyone write “properly?” Properly, effectively, intelligently. Those are all up to one’s individual interpretation and the definition of each may warrant its own blog post. Or book.

Sure, anyone can cook. But can anyone write?

This may sound somewhat elitist, but should everyone write? Or are there some people who should keep their pens to themselves? I don’t really know the answers to these questions. I think each person has a story to tell. However, I’m sure certain folks are much better at conveying a message to others. Is there a way for a middle-age person to learn how to write? Or is it too late?

I suppose I’m asking these questions because I’ve heard friends and family members tell me that they can speak well, but they can’t write well. I imagine if one can speak well, though, he or she can apply his or her spoken word skills to the written word. Right? Discuss! After searching for the Ratatouille image, I’ve developed an appetite for pasta. Gotta go.

3 thoughts to “Can Anyone Write?”

  1. Mark,

    You pose some super interesting questions here that I don’t think many of us have ever thought about. Should everyone write? I think that’s asking if everyone should be subject to some artificial standard of “good” writing, which in all honesty I don’t think really exists (except in the minds of elitist writers). I think the answer to that question is, “Yes, if everyone wants/needs to.” If you want to write, why shouldn’t you? But, CAN everyone write, even if they’re a little late in the game? I think something to consider here is the amount of people who have had (and are still trying) to learn English to succeed. A large portion (if not most) of these people aren’t exactly in their formative years, yet they successfully master the language because they want/need to.

    I run into the problem of speaking vs. writing all the time in my Spanish classes. I consider myself a fluent Spanish speaker (aside from the fact that it’s one of my majors, I’ve been studying the language since first grade and have studied abroad), but even though I’m fluent, for some reason it’s always a little easier for me to write in Spanish than it is to speak it. I think this is because, in spite of my experience with the language, I don’t have nearly as much experience conversing in Spanish than I do writing it, because I’ve grown up writing it more than speaking it. I think this applies to writing as well. If one doesn’t have as much experience with writing (which can result in a lack of confidence in one’s writing skills and abilities or the enjoyment they can derive from the process), then I think it’s perfectly logical that this person would believe they can’t write “well.”

    – Allie

  2. Writing has become a more egalitarian form of expression. In the ye olden days, only elites could read and write. Now most of the U.S population can (though the average reading and writing ability is 8th grade, which is just embarrassing). In that respect it is a more accessible art form. Most of the U.S population cannot paint a water color, play the oboe or perform as the Black Swan. I think the accessible nature of writing makes some critics all the more strict about what good meaningful writing is, how it should be done and what it looks like, not just in terms of novels but in terms of research papers and essays. One standard for whether or not a piece of writing is good is whether or not it was published. Basically we’re calling on the same authorities, the same “critics” to validate a piece of writing by producing it for consumption. The internet throws a huge wrench in this plan, though some critics still cling to the idea that published writing is inherently better. They do this mainly by hating on blogging. This especially becomes an issue when we talk about bloggers who report and investigate news. Do they have the same protections as journalists? I do believe that they are right that some writing is better than others. Compare Harry Potter and Twilight. However, these distinctions are all in the eyes of the beholder. I don’t want to abandon the idea that meaningful writing, that is writing that answers the so what question, engages readers with plot and characters and makes them thing, is better. At the same time, I don’t like how some critics talk down to popular fiction and other forms of storytelling.

    So how do we learn to write? Writing. Talking about our writing. Thinking about our writing. Reading other people’s writing. Talking about other people’s writing. Comparing their writing to ours. These are all important processes. Still, I think writing yourself is so important. I too am trying to do the “Writing for fun” a little a day thing but it takes discipline and quite frankly writing can be a little dissatisfying. You write something. It’s brilliant. You read it the next day. You have to write it all over again; it is crap. Or does that just happen to me?

    Finally, can and should everyone write? I think everyone who wants to write should but I don’t think everyone else has to care or read it. Because not all writing is good. Some of it is about sparkly aggressive stalker boyfriends. I’m hating a lot on Twilight; I’m sorry. It’s just my go-to example for bad writing.

  3. Nice post and picture. I think you posed some cool questions for discussion. I think I would have to respond to your primary question by saying that some are naturally better at writing than others. It’s just like any other skill: with practice it can be improved, but everyone is starting out from different places. In addition to natural inclination, I think some people are better at writing than others due to affinity for the skill, which I think stems from the home and how much emphasis wa splaced on reading and writing growing up. I think it’s safe to say that most people like the things they’ve been familiar with for as long as they can remember.

    That being said, and because writing is a skill like any other (while admittedly a bit more advanced than others, say making paper airplanes), I think anybody regardless of age can pick it up and do it properly. And as for whether some people should be restricted from writing, I feel that that is a touchy topic that could quickly turn acrimonious. We all have opinions of what is right and wrong and smart and dumb, so we’re biased to deciding if people should write or not.

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