1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I guess this means I can't be a writer.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by waitingforzion, Jan 15, 2011.

    I've heard that whereas the skilful use of language can be taught, the creativity needed to craft stories cannot. Does this mean that this creativity is innate only, or that one must practice alone without being taught to develop it? I'm asking because I've tried to make up card games before, and I've tried to make up plots for stories, but I could never feel anything form mentally. It is almost as if it were an additional thing to control, but a thing I have no access to by will, as if it were an appendage that I could not urge. I do not have such great trouble, however, when without any flowchart or pseudo code, I sit before a computer with Visual C# open and begin to type code to a program. Although I am very thankful to God for the gift of programming, I also have a desire for creative writing; I'm hoping that there is some way to develop the necessary creativity; it seems so far that I do not have it, was not born with it, or lost it due to all the time I spent playing Super Mario 64 when I was little. I can lay down and concentrate for a good deal of time, but plots and characters do not form in my head. What do you suggest I should do?
     
  2. ziggification
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    ziggification Member

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    This sounds pretty melodramatic...you could probably benefit from reading more. Look at the comments that others are receiving and then just do it. Write.


    Forcing creativity is an exercise in futility.

    Practice by writing in a matter-of-fact tone. Describe your computer. Describe your room. Go outside and describe other people. Then read it and ask if there is a better way.

    Let's say you describe your computer.

    "My computer has a 15-inch monitor, full keyboard and black casing. It runs with an i5 processor. I think it has 5 TB of memory, but I am not sure."

    Then look at it and think about the way that you described things...improve and evolve...

    My computer has a 15-inch monitor..

    into

    My computer has a small monitor...

    The monitor on my computer is so small I bought a magnifying glass just to watch movies...
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Hmmm. I think I can relate...
    I feel gifts and talents are developed when you're not even thinking about it and just doing it for fun. Writing isn't my talent, but i'm doing it anyway because it's fun.
    You can still be a writer. I just think you shouldn't look so deeply into it and just do it. Even if characters don't form it your head now, (They don't for everyone) doesn't mean they never will.
    That's my two pennies...
    Hope it made sense..and somewhat helped you.
     
  4. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Perhaps you are trying too hard to engineer a story. You sound as though you are quite a technically minded person, so maybe the art of story-telling isn't going to come easy to you.

    That doesn't mean it never will.

    I don't know what kind of programmes you write, there may be a clue in what you've written, but if there is it's gone straight over my head. But, if you are into programming, you already have an imagination.

    I also don't know how old you are. Could be that you need a little more life experience before the stories come easily. (Actually that isn't really going to ever happen. Stories don't usually come easily. The idea may, but the actual story takes hard work.)

    There are things you can do to help. Read lots. Books, magazines, newspapers. Listen to music. Lyrics can be very inspirational. Watch people. Listen - to everything. Life is all around you and it is there that you will find the material for your stories.

    Put off the idea of writing a story until you do feel the stirrings of a plot developing. It may just happen for you when you least expect it.

    And you are right to be thankful that have a creative gift - whatever it is.
    Hang on in there, your time will come.
     
  5. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Go for character-based things and writing exercises to form them. Work your way up. Even something so simple as looking up name generators online (seventh sanctum has some great ones if that website still exists :p) and a pre-generated character description. Pick a location you know well, and just put them in the middle of it, and write their way around it. Start small, and work your way up to plotting. Just focus on writing descriptive passages with characters who are mostly made up for you, and see if you can find more details about them the generator didn't tell you as you go.
     
  6. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    Practice, practice, practice. Or to paraphrase Edison, "Writing is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration."

    The problem you have is that you want your first story to be good. Don't worry, it won't be. Nor will the second. It takes about 10,000 hours to become good at something, so get yourself a large can of butt paste* and get to it.

    * Paste your butt to the chair and write!
     
  7. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    I think it was Stephen King that once said that you are either born a storyteller or you're not. It wasn't a fact, though. It was an opinion.
    But, there is some truth to it. I've encountered some people and thought to myself "Dear God this person is so dead"
    There are some people who were raised in a very opaque, and traditional atmosphere. It's not bad, but they just won't fit in the entertaining industry (movies, music, fiction, etc.)
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is no writer and no story that can be improved or improve. Learn your skills - don't just write learn other communications skills - read stories, work on the technical aspects of writing. Listen to the stories in song etc

    You definitely won't be a writer if you don't put effort into it - aim for the trees worst that happens is you then know you can't do something.


    I knew what I wanted to be from the age of 6 - I wanted to be an archaeologist, then at 7 I fell in love with Quncy lol and I wanted to be a pathologist, then decided actually I could combine the two and work with bones. I spent the next 21 years working towards that goal. Then due to illness it didn't happen - and now I am too old to realistically hope to go back. However I know I did everything in my power to get there - it wasn't my fault, and that is easier to come to terms with than knowing I never even attempted. I am now sitting here knowing I couldn't do rather than I didn't do it. The skills I learned are proving useful in telling stories.

    Just like if you improve you writing ability, reading ability, research ability it will enrich and help with almost any other career you do if you find out you can't be a writer. However you won't be a writer if you don't do those things.
     
  9. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Heck, I've certainly expressed such sentiments. I've run into people who just don't think that way -- they're sort of "practical-minded" or whatever, and can solve real-world problems, but ask them to create a made-up person and give them a problem, and they can't.

    If you can think of characters who interest you, and then think of something that is getting in their way (a chef whose deliveryman is consistently late, a explorer who just lost his equipment when he's 500 miles away from civilization, a telekinetic sleuth who is trying to win the love of someone who simply doesn't care for her), then you have the makings of a storyteller.

    If that doesn't work, maybe you can write down two lists: one of characters, one of oppositional forces. Then see how they can be combined. (The telekinetic sleuth who just lost her equipment when she's 500 miles away from civilization...)

    Remember that people's opinions are merely opinions. They might be wrong. But giving up because someone else expressed a sentiment seems pretty craptastic, and I suspect I'm not the only one who finds it at least mildly contemptible for someone to give up on their dream because the world didn't shout at them, "Keep going! You'll be great!"

    Be your own motivator, and keep trying. If you decide you really don't have a storyteller in you, make sure it's your opinion -- not someone else's.
     
  10. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    "...I've heard that whereas the skilful use of language can be taught, the creativity needed to craft stories cannot...."

    Actually, I think you're 180 degrees wrong in that assessment. Most of writing not simply may be taught, but normally comes from learning. It takes experience with the written language and practice. Pure and simple.

    That's for decent writing. Great writing comes from being able to synthesize all the inputs through ones life into something beautiful.

    -Frank
     
  11. Midnight_Adventurer
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    Midnight_Adventurer Active Member

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    You know, I write because the stories I create intrest me, just like with every writer and that's what you've got to do. You say you're a good programmer? Then try writing a short story about a programmer. It all starts with something that you know or love. I hope that helps.
    Good luck :) :)
     
  12. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Hi OP,
    I relate to what you're saying because I've wondered the same. Before secondary school, I was crazy about reading and writing. I loved War of the Worlds the Musical and even in primary school, I was writing fan fiction. But I also illustrated these stories. My first novel to read was Never Ending Story (why did the film cut out the best half the book?!). It really inspired me. Yet, in Secondary school I made a friend who also drew and the balance of my own interests swung in his direction. We drew every day. I filled sketchbook after sketchbook in the aim of besting my friend.

    In the last two years of secondary school, I moved away and I lost that freindship to distance. I still drew but in my grade was a band. I saved money and bought a guitar and I played every day. The music came as easily as my drawing ever did and in university, I started my own band with a guy I met at a local gig. We gelled and there was the same flow of creativity.

    But he got married and had a kid, and then another kid. He was in the middle of a PHD (Physics!!!) and I was working as a multimedia developer. I kept playing but after a while, the juices stopped flowing. I tried to go back to drawing and I was blocked there too. Sometimes however, when I least expected it, something would jump out and demand to be played or drawn. That release would feel like the best day of my life, but then the flow would dry up again.

    I tried for many years to find that ease of creation again. I collaborated with other people and talked to others. Very few people I meet have overt, creative desires. They might be actually creative, but they apply it to programming, accounting, teaching, cooking or night-filling, etc.

    In recent years I have come back full circle to writing. My first attempt resulted in a flow so direct and strong that I had trouble getting it all down. In all honesty, the ideas were great but the writing was awful. So I wrote more, and more, and more. Most of these resulted in dead ends but they were fun to compose. It really seemed to possible to me that I could accomplish this writing thing, and then the flow began to dry up as well.

    I sit at my computer or my notebook and, for the most part, get very little out. So I write other things - reviews, essays, etc. But stories just come so difficultly. I have no trouble with scenes and conversations. My head is full of them, but they all from different stories. I write them out, and if I try to stitch them together or engineer a means for them to relate, I come up empty or with results so contrived it embarrasses me.

    HOWEVER, sometimes something just comes to me. I just wrote a short story about adults going back to an old D and D game at a kitchen table. I used to play that game as a kid. I loved being the Dungeon Master. The opening line of dialogue leapt out - "No drinks at the table!" and then the rest followed. I described each character at the table from the eyes of one central character. I wrote how he thought about these people and his memories of them. A story began to form, and before I knew it, I was heading somewhere. At the end, I realised I had a conclusion and it was from so far left field, I was amazed. I would never thought of it had I just been jotting down notes and outlines in my notebook.

    So, I hope that this ... story, which it is true, may inspire you to press on. The secret is not to squeeze yourself to get at that juice. You'll just hurt yourself and lose hope at your efforts being constantly frustrated. Just start something - write a scene or conversation. Describe something outside in a park. Describe a person or a woman you love, or a person you hate. Keep doing that and one day, usually when you're doing something else, some of these fragments will slot into place.

    Keep at it. Don't let doubt and most importantly, other people's opinions, get to you.
     
  13. vanarie
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    vanarie Senior Member

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    I've heard that whereas the skilful use of language can be taught, the creativity needed to craft stories cannot.

    Everyone has a voice. Anyone can write that voice down. If you are not entirely creative you may have other qualities that are beneficial to the craft of writing. Think non-fiction. Analytical minds are great at that.

    Does this mean that this creativity is innate only, or that one must practice alone without being taught to develop it? I'm asking because I've tried to make up card games before, and I've tried to make up plots for stories, but I could never feel anything form mentally. It is almost as if it were an additional thing to control, but a thing I have no access to by will, as if it were an appendage that I could not urge. I do not have such great trouble, however, when without any flowchart or pseudo code, I sit before a computer with Visual C# open and begin to type code to a program.

    You just described a character that is unsure of himself and questions the skills that he has. You should really write a daily journal and look back at it a few weeks later, then, you may have a character for a story. Anyone with emotion can write a story. Stories aren't anything without emotion. The fact that you made this thread says that you have feelings about writing. Write them down. Transfer it to something else. The way you feel about writing can be converted to a hundred other skills/jobs/hobbies out there.


    I can lay down and concentrate for a good deal of time, but plots and characters do not form in my head. What do you suggest I should do?

    Stick with what you know. Programming? A kid loaded a virus onto the DOJ website thinking it was going to killed by a firewall. He knew he was never going to be discovered because of the elaborate proxy setup he developed. But, after the program loaded onto the DOJ mainframe he discovered that it bypassed all security protocols and actually worked. He wasn't expecting it. But it happened. Now the kid has access to thousands of restricted and classified documents. What does he do with it? He publicly produces a few documents ala Wikileaks and the general public goes nuts. The DOJ can't track him no matter what they do. Soon offers go out to the kid to sell information to the highest bidder. The kid figures out how to set up off shore bank accounts and has the money transferred. The kid starts racking in millions of dollar and to him the money is not important, it's just the amusement of the whole situation.

    You can take the story from there...
     
  14. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I personally feel that a computer programmer can be very good plotter of stories. I mean if you break it down to its basic structure a story is actually scenes logically connected to each other without any loose ends. One change in a scene can effect all the other scenes. There are many other analogies you can think of between programming and story writing.

    I think you'll for the time being do good if you stick with the basics of plotting, i.e, think of a character, give him a goal, and think of obstacles stopping him from reaching that goal.... there, you have a plot! Whether you make him finally reach his goal or not is up to you.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You don't have to be very creative in order to write something good. A good writer can take a dull idea and turn it into something that others will want to read. So don't sell yourself short. Keep writing and reading. I'm sure you'll write something you'll be proud of.
     
  16. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    I think you have a good command of language in writing. In other words, I think you write your thoughts down well and communicate them well. But it sounds as if when trying to create a story, you just don't get it. When I try to play the bass guitar, I can play simple songs, but complicated bass tabs are completely out of my ability. I just don't get it. Perhaps it's the same for you when it comes to inventing stories.

    It's funny. I wish I could trade with you. I'll bet you have a real natural talent for math, and I wanted so much to be really good at math at one time, but I couldn't be. And I really do love mathematics.

    But when it comes to literary concepts, when it comes to inventing stories using irony to create twists--that I understand; that makes sense to me (even if my latest short story isn't a great example of it :(). I have lots of story ideas ready to be written, and yet I find myself jealous of your talents, and you're jealous of mine. How ironic.

    Hell, even that's a story idea.

    Or maybe you played Super Mario 64 when you were little because you have such an innate talent for computer programming.

    Write a computer game that takes the world by storm.

    Everyone wants to be what they are not. Eventually, as you get older and your range of potential shrinks, you become very happy for the talent you have, and you set about using it, and you let everything else go.

    That's the only way to be happy in life: want to do what God designed you to do.

    I agree with you 100% but that is not something the type of person who can write programs out of thin air will ever do.

    Such a person is extremely analytical. He isn't going to suddenly become an artsy-type. He's good at long strings of code that have 0 mistakes in them. He will never be comfortable in a world where half of what he does is imperfect, like the brush strokes of a painting, or the narrative of a story.

    Because I was so interested in math for a couple of years, and because I got to know the character of people like that who actually were really good at math, I know he will never be a writer--not a fiction writer.

    He may want to escape what he is and transform into what he is not, but all that will result is a really bad writer and an unaccomplished software creator. Happiness only comes when we embrace what we were designed to be.

    In that I wish him the best of luck.
     
  17. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Edward G. I can see nothing wrong with your writing ability.
    Other than practice, I don't really know what to suggest. Is there a writing group near you that you could join? The help and support of fellow writers can be of great benefit. Do you read a lot?
    Maybe as an exercise, take a fictional character that interest you and place that character in a unusual situation e.g. In a bank when all of a sudden mask men burst in carrying weapons - how would the character react. Would he cower in a corner and do as he was told or would he monitor the situation and wait for a chance to overpower the intruders.
     
  18. Torkyn
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    Torkyn Member

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    Hey, I know how your feeling. Being the creative type and the technical type can be pretty hard sometimes. I'm a computer programmer as well.

    My advice is this, stop working on the computer when you're trying to write. at least while your generating ideas. It's hard for anyone to come up with ideas when word is open. Just use a notepad and a pen to write anything that comes to mind down and stories will eventually develop from there.

    As for creativity being taught well... it's not so much taught as harnessed. everyone has some sort or latent creative spark you just need to work out what fuels yours. Anyone can write though and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's just a matter of hard work.
     
  19. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the thing with creativity is that you can't control when ideas come to you, but you can learn to listen to them. Surely there are situations when you come up with ideas, if nothing else ideas about what to program. Listen to your own thoughts during the day, and listen for ideas. Maybe they come when you watch an interesting movie, or late at night when you're trying to sleep, or when you're walking home and your thoughts are wandering.

    I also think emotion and spontaneity are important for creativity. Everyone has a built-in censorship device that filters not only what they say to other people, but what they think about. To be creative, you need to let things by that censorship device.
     
  20. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Writing code is creativity and a story in some manner. Writing code is a manner of problem solving. So is writing a story. With code, you've developed the skill to get the end result you want.

    As story is much the same.

    When you started coding, you didn't do the complex things right away. You built up to it.

    Key here is, don't start by trying to write a novel. Tell a short story. For that matter, write a scene. Way, way back in college, I didn't realiz I had the inclination to write much less the want to write creatively. Then I took a creative writing class and found I did have a little bit of ability and enjoyed it. Thing was, in that classed, we wrote small and well defined subjects. In essence, the idea was not to write something so in depth but to write something that fit in to a few pages.

    Write a scene. A couple of people sitting down to dinner perhaps...Maybe write something for the contests on this site (they're just for fun so, why not?)

    Thing is, get used to write bits and pieces and see where that goes. Get in to the discipline of writing before you try to conquer the world.
     
  21. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    You are simply over thinking the whole thing. If you start writing...like literally just start, with whatever random word, and just go on and on and on you are bound to have a character and a story in progress. I think you just need to try harder.
     
  22. Jonias
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    Such a person is extremely analytical. He isn't going to suddenly become an artsy-type. He's good at long strings of code that have 0 mistakes in them. He will never be comfortable in a world where half of what he does is imperfect, like the brush strokes of a painting, or the narrative of a story.

    Why not? Can't an analytical person settle for "good enough"?:confused:

    Because I was so interested in math for a couple of years, and because I got to know the character of people like that who actually were really good at math, I know he will never be a writer--not a fiction writer.

    He may want to escape what he is and transform into what he is not, but all that will result is a really bad writer and an unaccomplished software creator. Happiness only comes when we embrace what we were designed to be.

    In that I wish him the best of luck.


    I agree that some people are more naturally talented than others at certain things. Hey, I am probably not nearly as good at fiction writing as most people are on here, though I am also terrible at math. I write because it is important to me, even though I know I'll never be a Shakespeare no matter how hard I try, and if I were into math I'd probably do it for the same reasons, even though I know I'll never be a Descartes no matter how much I work at it.

    But is writing for fun such a bad thing? This guy might not be published, sure (though for that matter he might; look at Christopher Paolini...strikes me as a huge geek and he is not a very good writer, but he still made tons of money). But if he is doing this on top of computer programming, just for fun, what is the harm? Telling him not to write just as a hobby is like telling someone who is bad at math not to do Sudokus in the morning paper!:confused: If he didn't like writing, that's something else, but I never got the impression that he saw writing as anything but a pastime and practice for expanding his imagination (and you can be both logical and creative...look at all those great inventors and scientists who also wrote science fiction).

    But when it comes to literary concepts, when it comes to inventing stories using irony to create twists--that I understand; that makes sense to me (even if my latest short story isn't a great example of it :(). I have lots of story ideas ready to be written, and yet I find myself jealous of your talents, and you're jealous of mine. How ironic.

    I don't see why an analytical person couldn't create twists and use irony. What do those things have to do with the human condition? A lot of satirists are logical types who are good at seeing the flaws in society...irony and satire go together hand in hand. In my experience, people who are good at the things you describe often have an analytical bent. Perhaps you have one yourself!:p

    Come to think of it, do you NEED a good grasp of the human condition to be a good writer in every genre? What about thrillers? Or mysteries? Or comedies? You can do all those from a more plot-driven angle...
     
  23. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    OP: Maybe you can make it as a writer, and then again, maybe not.

    Not everyone is destined to best seller status. Not everyone is going to make a living as a writer. Just as not everyone is going to play major league baseball, no matter their desire and how hard they try.

    But that does not mean they cannot take the abilities and skills that they currently have and improve upon them. Yes, it may take hard work, but at least with the baseball analogy, an individual working to be a successful writer isn’t working against time...with time physical ability (strength, reflexes, etc.) fade with age. Yes, I guess what it takes to write possibly does with extreme age too, but there is a much longer span.

    You can work at your own pace. Read as much as you can. Study what made those stories/novels work. Write and write and write and improve not only your grammar and such, but your story telling ability: Pacing, characterization, suspense, foreshadowing, dialogue, etc.

    I believe a lot of writers don't reach their full potential because they give up too early, because it does take time and effort.

    I also think some people believe they can just sit down and write, well, because they've learned a bit fo writing in school, and they've read a bit, and they've listened to and watched stories on TV. But writing and creating quality stuff, that publishers (and readers) are willing to pay for, for most isn't going to happen that first or second writing session. Just like someone who is the average city driver...maybe even one proficient at weaving in and out of traffic, isn't quite up to winning any NASCAR event anytime soon.

    Back to the baseball analogy: Maybe you only make it to the minor leagues. Maybe you're not paid 6 figure advances, but 4 or 3 figure advances. Maybe you don't get pro rates for your short stories, but semi-pro rates. Maybe your novels don't get 50,000 initial print runs, but you're accepted by mainly smaller POD publishers and your best novels only sell in the a few thousand the first year of release and then in the hundreds that follow. But also, maybe as you're in the minor leagues, if you work hard, improve skills, build a small but solid fan/reader base. Maybe you'll get your chance at the plate in the big leagues...maybe hit a home run.

    Then again, maybe not. Because in writing, there are no guarantees...at least not for must--unless you're a celebrity for example. There is a lot of competition out there. You have to have the self-confidence to keep moving forward, through the hours and maybe years of effort and the rejections of your works that are bound to come.

    Waitingforzion, it's up to you...if you want to do what it takes to have a shot at writing stories that others will get to read.

    To be honest, if you don't make the serious attempt, ten years from now, nobody--readers that is--will know the difference. But if you do, maybe they will.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the fact is that writing can be taught, but imagination cannot be... it must be there...

    however, even though you can't teach someone how to get one, you can teach them how to use it, if it's present...
     
  25. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    I disagree with that. When you find someone who is "naturally talented" at something, you usually find that they have been doing it, on their own, from an early age, like about 4 to 6. Someone who is "talented" at writing may get lousy marks in math because he is spending all of his free time writing stories. And he doesn't do it because he's talented; he does it because it's fun. Since he started at an age where nobody expects much, he does not get the criticism that an adult encounters. The best thing you can do is think of yourself as naturally talented and go ahead and make mistakes.

    One of the secrets of writing good code is to make mistakes early and often. But that applies to an endeavour, including writing. Just do it, accept your mistakes, and keep going.
     

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