I used to debate one of my professors at APSU in the College of Education about whether great teachers were born or made. He believed in the training his department so passionately provided and the evidence of thousands of successful teachers who were once students in the program. I countered that most people when asked about their schooling experience lump most educators together as “good” but only a few do we remember as being truly great–having that lasting impact on us and others that set them apart from their peers. I quoted research that had interviewed highly successful teachers who when asked could not pinpoint how or why they did what they did. They just knew in their gut it was the right course of action. It was in a word, natural.
I believe you can train people to teach who want to spend their lives giving to others–give them tools, strategies, and content immersion, but my friends, great teachers are born. It is pure instinct that sets them apart. At the very least, I insist that some were born to teach. My husband is one of those people. Students flock to him. They hang on every word and never forget him. And he cannot for the life of him tell you how he does it. He was just born to do it.
I think writers are born, too.
Now, I have taught writing skills to students in my career. I think it is not only possible but very practical as everyone needs to be able to communicate. However, I can also tell you some were writers and most were not. How can I tell?
I did not choose writing; writing chose me. I must write. I did not intend to write The King’s Heart. I simply had to get a character out of my head that was created from a book I read…wrote a short story to exorcise her…and Lady Cornella was born. I thought it was the only novel I had in me until I had a dream that led to the Intents of the Heart series. I didn’t go looking for a story. The stories found me.
Let me be clear in that writers learn their craft by a lot of hard work–drafting, editing, revising, talking to people, reading–and these facets will ultimately affect success. But the one element that cannot be learned or mimicked or faked is whether or not writing was chosen for you. How will you know if you were born to this sweet misery? Simple question: Can you stop writing?
If you can, you are not one of us.