The idiosyncrasies in the cult of "talent"
December 27, 2020
Creative writing is one of the hardest things to do. It is not physically demanding: a writer is not asked to lift weights. Still, writers are required to hold the weight of an entire world on their shoulders.
When a writer describes, narrates, tells, informs, invents, the action the writer’s doing is interconnecting intellectual and creative exploration activating both of the brain’s hemispheres: the right brain associated with emotional intelligence and the left one associated with logical intelligence. (Edhy Rustan, 2017)
In creating writing, specifically, the right brain must take precedence over the left because the right brain is where new ideas, passions, and emotions reside (Roberta Jean Bryant, 2002 in E. Rustan, 2017:17).
Writers and authors are often portrayed as innate talents who can write about anything and make that sound good and read it better.
This logic is intrinsically wrong.
There are several factors that contribute not only to a success in terms of economic and market for a book, but as well in terms of actual capacity of a writer to make something good in the first place.
Talent can’t be a panacea.
“The main special qualities writers must have are perseverance, motivation, the willingness to search for methods which suit them, energy to push themselves out of their own comfort zones and avid reading habits. Failure to produce creative work is often due more to lack of stamina or insufficient commitment to the process, than a paucity of talent.” (Hazel Smith, 2005: Intro IX)
It is then clear that writing it is not a matter of talent or natural abilities; of course, they matter, but not even half of the lot we think about.
A recent neurolinguistic study shows how much a positive environment can give students a solid ground where they can start experimenting with creative writing and with which they actually succeed in writing short stories.
The study underlines as well that in order to gain new capabilities it is necessary to learn and therefore process several informations; this, of course, takes place at a cognitive level, making compulsory to change the stimulating nature of the environment into several stages of information, rather than cramming an impossible amount at once. That’s easing the load on one’s mind, making such a complex activity simpler; thus, helping in the overall development of the person and facilitating the processing of information to express thoughts and feelings spontaneously.
Reingking et al. (1999) suggested that to inform, to entertain, and to express are some general purposes of writing, implying that a writer has specifically the goal to communicate in a way or another, a genre or another, some ideas; when the circumstances and the environment are negative or counterproductive, the capacity of the writer to communicate dissolves and the ideas become less clear to the reader.
“Neurolinguistic programming according to Steve Andreas (1996: 27) is a powerful and practical approach to personal transformation, the ability to use language (certain words and phrases mirroring one's mental world) and mental software. It means neurolinguistic programming as a practical approach or how to direct the best human action in transforming oneself and others by doing mind-guidance through communication.” (E. Rustan, 2017:17).
This, to make it simpler, means to train yourself to think, feel, act and drive certain patterns of thinking to help in transforming and shaping your mind to be more effective in creative writing.
-N.B. This does not mean that you WILL be more creative or more productive. This means you may become overtime more productive and more creative, if the right environment will be created by you.
Unfortunately, there are not schematics, blueprints or definitive rules to abide in creative writing, there are some general guidelines or rules of thumb that can help, but nothing more. Even taking into account neurolinguistics and other interdisciplinary subjects that embrace linguistics, communication and writing strategies, there is not a unique and universal set of rules to master writing. “However, strategies and techniques can be learnt: these are different from rules in that they set writing in motion rather than delineating correct methods. They are explorative and dynamic, and demonstrate a variety of means for generating and structuring material.”
Over the course of time, the one thing any writer must do is to research and study to find the fittest methods and thinking patterns to help in shaping their environment positively, breaking the learning process into several steps with which to achieve an overall better learning curve.
Gurus and influencers will always tell you there’s a faster way, a better way, a simple way.
The problem with those statements is that’s not true. They’re absolutely false.
You can work around methods and technical approaches to be more efficient in learning, you can follow basic rules, like reading and writing every day, to increase your capabilities and your vocabulary. You can even use Neurolinguistic programming to force your habits and direct yourself to the best actions possible. Still, as you may guess, these things won’t be easy or fast. It will take time and it will be difficult. And that’s fair!
One cannot cuddle oneself into the idea of “the innate talent”.
Even if you’re superb and really talented: YOU MUST STUDY! You must create a positive, intellectual environment with the lowest possible level of stress. And if you're not talented or you do not consider so for whatever reasons, you too must study.
No shortcuts or neglect.
As already mentioned in Rules of thumb and academic truths, and as demonstrated by Rustan's study, mood can drastically change the way you tackle your writing.
Now, the essay and the book mentioned above are just two of the wealthy collection of studies regarding these topics, and you won't always find one universally accepted truth. More often than not scientists debate on those arguments vehemently without reaching consensus, but that’s part of the game. And it is funny for that. The differences you find in opinion, the technicality that changes between one method and the other, the suggestions and the advice that differ from one another.
That’s what really forms one who writes (and maybe’s good at it) and one who IS a writer.
Not talent per se.
So go study, go find your way and your thinking patterns or whatever you need to improve your environment and ultimately improve yourself.
Meanwhile, keep trying.
Don’t lose the passion.
Whether you're talented or not.
Even if just for yourself:
Write stories. Create lives.
Rustan, E. (2017). Learning Creative Writing Model Based On Neurolinguistic Programming. Ijlecr - International Journal Of Language Education And Culture Review, 3(2), 26-42. doi:10.21009/ijlecr.032.03
Smith, H. (2005). The writing experiment: Strategies for innovative creative writing. Crows Nest, N.S.W: Allen & Unwin.
self-awareness, creative writing, writer, study, improving