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  1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Some wired to be writers, some wired to be hopeless?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by waitingforzion, Aug 22, 2016.

    Some believe that only certain people can be good writers. Since I barely practice, I can not judge myself when it comes to this. But the idea that some people will never write well bothers me. I can understand if someone is handicapped, but if someone has average intelligence, they should be able to learn how to write well through practice. All the necessary skills, those of grammar, logic, rhetoric, rhythm, thought, observation, story-telling etc, can be learned.

    I think the reason so many people never learn how to write quality fiction is that they fail to divide and conquer. Clearly, seeing that writing skills are not one skill, but all these other skills, they must all be cultivated. But so many people have no idea what they are doing. They think they are practicing, but they are just repeating the same mistakes over and over again. The worse advice of all is that which suggests that one constantly write without putting any effort in to do things a better way, If I kept shooting a basketball the same way, no matter how many hours I shot it, I would never improve.

    So I believe that everyone is capable of writing like a professional, as long as they are not mentally handicapped, but the reason why so many seem to struggle is that they refuse to do things a different way. Either they cannot see that they are doing the same thing over and over again, or they refuse to try new things.

    Should we really believe that some people will never be good at math, people who have the same level of intelligence as those who are excellent at math? Why is it any different with writing?

    Most of the people who think others will never be able to write are writers. They think that because they are writers, they are qualified to assess potential. But the people who are most qualified to assess potential are scientists, and what do they say? They are not in agreement with those writers.

    What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
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  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you and @GingerCoffee are on the same page.

    For me? I've seen quite a few people of more-than-average intelligence struggle for years or even decades and not be able to come up with satisfying fiction. I can't say why, but I won't deny my observed reality.

    For what it's worth, the parts where these writers seem to fall down is generally the storytelling and/or characterization. I agree that lots of aspects of fiction can be learned, but I'm not sure these two can. Or at least, they can't be learned by studying traditional writing techniques. So maybe this ties in to your idea that they need to do things a different way, but I think it's pretty hard for adults to learn empathy or imagination, and I think those are the two vital skills that are often missing.

    I'd like to see the studies from scientists you're referring to - they sound interesting. Can you link?
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
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  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, they're capable. Their SPAG is flawless, but does this mean they can write good fiction? Certainly not. Is style something that can be taught? No, but it's something that can be unearthed and honed.

    But to unearth that style, does it not have to be there in the first place?

    And does any of the above mean these people have no chance of writing a bestseller. Absolutely not. There are millions of 'by-the-numbers' authors out there.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
  4. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't believe that. Some may be inherently talented as writers, but the rest of us (and I definitely include myself here) can study hard and get to the point where storytelling seems to be a natural ability (not that I'm saying I'm there just yet).

    As long as you can make it look easy or learn to make it look easy, you will be seen as a good writer.
     
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  5. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    Some authors, F.Sott Fitzgerald a well known example, were appalling at spelling, but boy, could they tell a story. So the premise that some writers are born, not made, perhaps holes true. However, anyone of average intelligence and above can learn to write well. The brain is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets as new synapses form.
    Fora, like this one, are invaluable tools where you can get unbiased feedback from other writers; the sort of feedback you cannot get from family members. The trick is to accept the critique and learn from it, and more importantly, learn how to give it.
    I've not been on here long, but the critiques I've read so far have been freely given and generally well received.
    I sure as hell don't consider myself a born writer. It's hard work and every story is an opportunity to learn.
     
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  6. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think waitingforzion is wrong at nearly every level of his post. Of course the metrics for considering things such as "good writing", or of average or equal intelligence cannot be exactingly quantified. I don't think each person's intelligence is equivalent in every category, we all are unique in our thinking which ultimately defines our character, IMO. Sure practice can make you better; if you are shooting hoops over and over again you will become better whether you think so or not since a continuous feedback of each effort will "reprogram" your brain-muscle action and if your goal is to make the shot, you will improve, you may not ever be very good compared to the average person however. If SPAG were as simple as following a set of rules then a computer program could do that for us but the rules are vague, contradictory and seemingly arbitrary. We have whole major careers based on this ambiguity called lawyers who write in the most obtuse fashion possible, the layman calls that job security. Finally and probably deliberately, you didn't consider motivation, there are other things in life besides writing and only some are driven to work at a specific activity enough to become a specialist. This is not saying that if you simply work at something hard enough you will achieve it, we have limited life spans and spending time on something we don't do readily can lead you to second guess your choices as you get older, you want to look back and say I did xx.
     
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  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think that only certain people can be good writers, but I defo think that only certain people will be good writers. I have no illusions that I myself might not fall into the latter category. I'm lazy with my writing. I have poor time management skills. I have a regular day job that I actually find immensely fulfilling and interesting, so my 9-5 isn't something I'm trying to run away from. I think I absolutely can be a good writer, but don't know if I ever will be one.

    I think this is a common malady of which many would-be writers suffer.

    Why? I work as an interpreter and I have been in that field of work since I was 18. I'm 46 as of today. I've met some mind-bogglingly amazing interpreters with as many as 6 or 7 languages at their disposal. Freakin' geniuses that make me hesitate to say I'm in the same profession. But I've also met some astoundingly bad interpreters. People who just don't have a feel for languages, or worse, people who speak their two languages very well but don't have a feel for making use of idiomatic speech in both directions to make sure that the correct content, tone, mood, and register transmit through the conduit that is the themselves, the interpreter. They can just pass, or they can do well in one venue where they understand the expectation, but cannot cross to another realm where the expectations are different. They can't hold their own when questioned on an interpretation, and they certainly can't explain - with correct terminology - why this choice was made rather than that choice. Many interpreters cloak themselves in an almost monastic attitude of servility which they hope will serve as a shield of sorts.

    But none of that bothers me personally. Their individual paradigms have nothing to do with me, and the fact that I am certain many of them could be so much more if they just dared to be is a thought process that has no practical application. I cannot make them be other than they are, and frankly, I'm not interested in doing so. When I go to conferences or on the rare occasion when I find myself in a group project I gravitate to the ones who are most like myself.

    Absolutely. But again, just because this can happen doesn't mean it will happen.

    Sorry, but this is meaningless. There are uncounted reasons people who want to write fail to do so.

    While I agree with the premiss you set - that doing the same thing over and over, in the same way, is not very likely to garner any new end outcome - you've not proven that this is in fact what is happening. Do I think it happens? Yes, of course. But I don't see this as a completely encompassing reason.

    Again, I think that yes, this is very probably one reason why this happens - I mean, it seems logical - but I don't think it's the only reason. Not by a long-shot.

    Yes. Allow me to assure you that I suck at math. I also have ZERO sense of direction. No internal map whatsoever. My nightmares are made of detour signs. In real life people tend to think I'm a pretty bright guy because I'm a great conversationalist and if I can swing the conversation into anything language related then I'm Steven Freakin' Hawking, but math.... No. o.o

    Possibly because they're the only ones really giving any thought to the question.

    I think they think they are at liberty to opine, which they are.

    Which scientists? I would love to read what they have to say on the matter.

    I'm going to be frank. I think you're feeling frustrated. I've known you in this forum for pretty much the entire time that I myself have been a member. I've seen you pop in every few months and ask the same questions, over and over and over again. Not unlike the scenario you mentioned above. I've seen you worry the same paragraphs time and again, and seen members try to help to little avail. I've seen you present certain assertions as undoubtedly true that none of the rest of us see as being at all sequitur. I feel like this post is clearly you talking about yourself and the experience you have had engaging other as a writer.

    We all have frustrations. Even people with books for sale on Amazon that are selling well. Though I hesitate to speak for her I am sure there are days that @BayView feels like chucking it in and taking up gardening instead. Maybe not gardening. Maybe she wants to trick out big-block Hemis. Who knows. :) You get my point.

    I also feel that if you are going to engage other writers in a venue like this, and participate in the venue, it might be of value to you to at least try out some of the things members offer as suggestion. I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool planner. Pantsers to me were whispy-whispy, affected, artsy little Luna Lovegoods having tea and scones in the backyard with their characters (pass the lithium, please). I've long since adopted a good bit of pantsing into my own personal process and I've learned from it. My attitudes and opinions on many things have changes greatly over the time that I have been a part of this community because - just as you say - I was eventually willing to try something different to the way I had been doing things.
     
  8. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    To be blunt. Yes, I think for some people ANY art might be hopeless.
    I spent many years trying to learn to play a musical instrument. I could learn the notes. I could learn to read sheet music. As amazingly fast as I can type without looking, I could never learn rhythm. Timing.

    Most people who've watched me in the kitchen are amazed at some of the creations I come up with. Most people think I should have been a chef. I love cooking. I love the creation. But doing it every day for a job? No thanks.

    I've seen people spend years painting & honestly trying to become great without success.
    Storytelling is an art. You can learn the mechanics but I don't think you can learn how to be creative.
     
  9. Oswiecenie
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    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    That's the crucial bit. Everyone can learn techniques, but you can't learn things like creativity.
     
  10. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    I can only speak from my own experience, so here is my story, all puns intended.

    Creative writing is a very trendy outlet in teen years, when life tends to suck the most and every angsty kid who thinks they're edgy will write something or another and fancy themselves a brooding "writer" because it's cool and don't fuck with me.

    Personally, I've never met a person who truly loved writing ever dream giving it up. They might suck, their SPAG might be the worst thing you've ever seen, their plots might be the most contrived and idiotic childish flavor-of-the-month things... but those with passion are teachable. If they really want to write, they'll:

    - practice
    - seek advice from other writers
    - look up their own resources like those god-awful "How to Write :-D " books

    ...but they're writing. That's what makes a writer. It doesn't really matter how groundbreaking or beautiful or "deserving" their work may be.

    So who the hell are you to judge? Some people like really bad writing. *cough*50shadesofgrey*cough*

    The people who only picked it up because it was cool at the time? You never really see those people again, because they grow out of it. They pick some other form of expression and off they go. Could they have written something so brilliant it would have short-circuited the Matrix?

    Maybe.

    Are they a writer?

    Only if they write something.

    Should they be a writer?

    Only if they want to be.

    Food for thought. :brb:
     
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  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure about the logic "everyone who is not mentally handi-capped can be a good writer." I'm not a neuroscientist, so anyone please correct me if I'm wrong, but if someone who is "mentally handi-capped" is not expected to be a good writer, how do we know other smaller mental "deficiencies" don't exist which would prevent someone from being a good writer?
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep. I'm smart. I think I'm a darn good writer. I think I'm good at characterization and several other things related to fiction. But so far, I'm lousy at storytelling--that is, the plot part of storytelling--and it's entirely possible that I will never overcome that. I'm not giving up until I've given it a much, much better try, but there's a Thing there just doesn't seem to be wired in for me. I might be able to build it, or I might not.
     
  13. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Everyone has potential, some people have more.

    The lie we're told growing up is, "you can be anything you want in this world!"
    What we should be told is, "You're allowed to try and be anything you want in this world. Most people will call you foolish, a dreamer. Most people can go fuck themselves."
     
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  14. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I am going to enlarge that. "If you commit you have more of a chance to make it."
    I am not saying that one will absolutely get the goal, but the chances are better.
     
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  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Part of my day job is editing the writing of other people in my company. Every single one of them is a degree-educated, intelligent professional earning well above the average salary. But many of them just can't write. Sometimes it reads like English is their second (or third...) language, even though it isn't.

    Some of them can tell a great anecdote but they can't write it down. Maybe this is why ghostwriters make a living.
     
  16. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    The problem here is that you are assuming that "intelligence" has one meaning. I work as an Engineer in my day job and I went to college with some incredibly intelligent people who are able to understand mathematical and engineering concepts that I struggle to grasp. But these same people have difficulty in carrying on ordinary conversation. You would expect that if they are so intelligent they would be erudite and excellent conversationalists but that isn't taking into account that there are different types of intelligences. These same people when they tried working in industry struggled to grasp the business side of things. They were much more suited to academia. In contrast I have some family members who work in the legal field. They are very poor at math but when I comes to legal jargon and writings what looks like double dutch to me is simple to them. And then you have someone like me who is more of an all rounder. I have a good understanding of math but I struggle with the more advanced subjects. And I do a lot of technical writing and dealing with FDA and ISO regulations but I struggle to understand complex legal documentation. I am a reasonable conversationalist but I don't have the range charm or charisma to enthral a room. I have two degrees and I score highly on aptitude and IQ tests so I would consider myself fairly intelligent but does that automatically mean I can be a good writer? Probably not. I know I am able to get my ideas down on paper but that doesn't make me a good writer. All I can do is try and maybe some people will like it and some won't but to assume that because I'm intelligent it makes me a great writer to me is the height of arrogance. There are things I'm good at and things I'm not just like everyone else.
     
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  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, you've raised an interesting point, but please don't feel like I'm picking on you; your post just happened to spark this for me and for that, I thank you.

    I know creativity isn't spelling or grammar because the example of F. Scott Fitzgerald (and other writers, I'm sure) pretty much proves it.

    Nor is it good penmanship, although these days it would be hard to find someone with this talent, anyway.

    How about well-written prose? That's a big part of it, prose being the basic building block of storytelling.

    So how about storytelling ability itself? Perhaps that's indivisible from prose writing. After all, I can hardly tell a story without using prose and using prose pretty much puts me in the position of telling a story, even if that story is non-fiction. It's all about relaying information in such a way that the informee (coined!) doesn't fall asleep... although if I'm storytelling in the evening in my kid's bedroom, that may very well be my goal... if I had a kid.

    Going one step further, what makes someone a good prose-writer or a good storyteller? Ideas? How about this as a preliminary definition:

    Creativity is the application of ideas to a work—writing, painting, acting, drawing, dance...

    But, they have to be good ideas. If they aren't, they aren't considered creative. So, let's revise:

    Creativity is the application of good ideas to a work.

    But how do I know when an idea is good or bad? Everyone has their own scale for measuring the good/bad of ideas, but even if it's totally subjective, perhaps we can agree that an idea is good if it gives us positive feelings (anything from delight to fascination or warmth) and bad if it gives us negative feelings (although some negative feelings are desired when experiencing stories: horror, fear, sadness, etc.; true idea-level badness would be more like a groan or a blank stare).

    When it comes right down to it, the only way to know the goodness or badness of an idea is to compare it to other ideas, either my own or someone else's. And that means I have to have experience with ideas, either coming up them or being exposed to other people's. Because as far as ideas are concerned, they are only better or worse than some other idea... and only at the particular moment in time when the comparison is being made by that particular person (or those particular people). Ideas have a shelf-life and once the really striking ones are used, they have to go back on the shelf for a while before anyone can use them again.

    Something else I'd like to bring into the mix is that ideas are a dime a dozen, but it would muddy the waters, so I'll leave it for another time.

    One last point, and then I'll sum up and get lost.

    Those who judge ideas are themselves either creative or non-creative. But can a non-creative person truly tell a good better idea from a bad worse one? I've seen lots of evidence (as I'm sure we all have) that non-creative people, when it comes to ideas, don't know they arse from their elbow. How else can we explain some of the crap we've all seen or read?

    That means the only people who can tell if an idea is creative must, by the very fact that they are capable of making this judgement, be creative themselves.

    But non-creative people don't know they aren't creative. And it's impossible to convince them they aren't. No matter how long you argue with them—and I've spent countless hours doing just that—they believe they're just as creative as the next guy. It's like trying to convince a moron he shouldn't apply for a job as CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that he'd make a much better a doorstop. You just can't do it... which could very well be one of the reasons the world is in such a mess these days. But I digress.

    All this leaves us with a dilemma:
    • Creativity can't be measured—except by judgement which is subjective...
    • and judgement is error-prone because no one knows whether or not they are capable of judging because no one knows if they're truly creative...
    • and even if they are capable, the goodness/badness of an idea can't be judged until experience teaches us which is which, even from a subjective standpoint.

    And if that's the case—especially that last point—

    Creativity can be taught.
     
  18. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    I tend to agree that you can teach creativity to a degree (and improve on that which people already have by mental exercise ), so on the wider point of the thread someone who's 'wired to be hopeless' can still become competent through hard work and comitment , but I don't think you can teach the sort of genius that seperates good from great , so you probably can't raise someone who's wired to hopeless to the sort of effortless genius that the very best display however hard they work.
     
  19. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Sack-a-Doo! - you raise a very interesting point, and one which makes me question the views I expressed in my first post to this thread.

    Maybe creativity can be taught, but I'll stand by my opinion that the person has to have a creative nature to begin with. I used to know a guy who was about as uncultured as you can imagine; only watched action films, never read a book in his life, never wrote, never really thought that much either. He was poorly educated and just plodded through life. Given even a hundred years you couldn't turn this man into a writer, let alone a good one, and I say that as his closest friend.
     
  20. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    @OurJud & @big soft moose : Absolutely agree, but when I think of non-creative types, I'm looking into boardrooms and offices, those places where you find the money-minded. They may indulge in creative bookkeeping, but that's really just another way of saying 'theft,' so I don't see it as creative.

    And you're both right, the money-minded, the couch potato or anyone else who doesn't exercise the right side of the brain likely can't be taught. In a way, I suppose I was supporting the argument against being able to teach creativity, but only to that subset of humanity who wouldn't know it if it bit them on the ass.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
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  21. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    but he might have had the potential to be a writer had he had a different education and he might still have that spark inside - look at the poetry written by the kids in the 'shed crew; in 'urban grimshaw' ..... kids who had no real hope other than twocking and dealing /smoking smack - but given the chance they came out with some really creative stuff.

    come to that look at some of the rhyming in rap music by people like dre, eminem, tupac and so fort (yes it has violent imagery and an unacceptable disrespect to women and homosexuals , but if you look past that and look at the word forms , and the cleverness with which they put them together... even more so in the rap battle scene where they are essentially writing poetry on the fly ... thats creative - we might not like the subject matter , but we can't deny the artistry involved ... and thats from kids with no education and often no family beyond gangs
     
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  22. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but those people you describe are creative. You don't have to walk around in a cravat smoking cigarettes from a holder to be creative.
     
  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although there are those who would have us believe that's the case.
     
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  24. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    well thats a relief cravats never suited me anyway ...

    point is though your mate who justs watches action films, never read, never wrote - are we certain that he has no spark of creativity if it was natured or brought forth ... course i don't knoe the guy he could be a total wate of skin , but a hell of a lot of people are written off as 'not creative' because they don't fit the constraints of what creativity is ....
     
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  25. MarcT
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    MarcT Member

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    Someone mentioned maths which reminds me that I failed every single time I took a maths exam.
    I even had private tutors and for some reason it never clicked.
    On the other hand, English language and literature were subjects I sailed through as well as foreign languages.
    My wife is a chartered accountant and auditor. She plays with spreadsheets and number crunching as if they're toys. She writes a great letter, as the many love letters she wrote to me in the past will attest, but she's not interested in writing per se.
    We're all wired differently, so there may be some correlation here.
     
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