I feel like this is a very fair question.
Where does writing fall in the list of talents, gifts, skills, abilities? Is it, like some people seem to think, something that ‘anyone’ can do? If you have an idea, or something interesting happens to you, can you write a book? Is it just that simple?
I’m probably going to sound like a self-absorbed asshat for this, but no, I don’t think just anyone can write. There are reasons that publishers every day have to go through Slush Piles, and it isn’t just because the market ‘isn’t right’ or your book ‘isn’t right for them’. The fact is, maybe your storytelling skills just aren’t up to par–and that should be okay.
Let’s think about this a second. I mean, if I tell people that I’m majoring in English Writing, their response shouldn’t be some kind of sympathetic smile or a feeling that I’m somehow trying to get through life shirking off. I don’t know where society gets the idea that writing is just some kind of hobby, or that as something ‘anyone’ can do, it can’t be a legitimate career. That’s just not true at all.
For a long time I wanted to be an actress. I was OK at acting in general, but I didn’t have that spark, that ability to become someone else, or the genes to be a real actress. I could have spent years trying, and maybe I could have gotten somewhere, but it wasn’t what I was meant to do. Or an Olympic Ice Skater. (This was another passing thought.) I took ice skating lessons, I had the frilly outfit, I had the dreams of grandeur. However, I didn’t have the right build, and I didn’t have the drive. I could have trained for years, really thrown myself into it, and who knows? Maybe I would have been a halfway-decent skater. But an Olympic one? Never. It just wasn’t meant to be.
I feel like writing is the same way. Sure just about anyone can put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard and write some words into a string of sentences. You do it all the time for school, or work, or just to tell your pals about your day. But that isn’t writing, is it? Not in the way I think of writing, or the way some people are meant to be writers.
You can work hard at learning to write better. You can learn grammar, read a hundred million other books, take workshop classes and hire an editor, but the fact remains that if you don’t, in your gut, know what it takes to make a good story, you’ll never get anywhere.
I’m not telling you to give up on your dreams of writing a book–far from it! I’m just trying to say that it isn’t for everyone. You have to want it like anything else in life–with your whole heart and soul, and with a lot of luck and hard work involved. Even then, you just may not be a writer.
And that is OK.
Just don’t go around thinking that writers aren’t as talented as the people you’re seeing at the Olympics or at the movie theater or inventing drugs or writing computer codes. We all have different gifts to share.