Writers with coffee

Are you born a writer?

A grad student asked author Haruki Murakami on his advice blog how they could improve their writing. Murakami replied, “Writing is like chatting up a woman. You can get better with practice to a certain degree, but basically, you’re born with it, or you’re not.”

Murakami isn’t the only one that feels this way. There’s a notion that being a good writer is a fixed trait. There are plenty of adages out there that reinforce this.  Like other creative endeavours, like drawing or music, if you don’t have the ‘gift’, you’re screwed.  When I told people that I was going into writing, the reactions were pretty incredible. “Oh, I can’t write” “I’m not a writer” “Oh you can’t teach people how to write” “I didn’t know you were a writer!” People saw writing as intimidating. They saw writing as a talent select few possessed. Or worse, as something they couldn’t do.

Learning how to write is crucial in every industry. We know that there are a lot of bad writers out there and it’s wasting time and money. Maybe if we didn’t see writing as a gift, but rather a craft that takes an effort to master, this wouldn’t be a problem?

I don’t believe that writing is a fixed trait. Some people do have a knack for it. But just because some people are naturals, it doesn’t mean that others can’t get better. I chose to do professional writing because it’s a skillset that I wanted to master. It’s a challenge that I liked.  And to be honest, I’ve never felt like a natural. I did okay in writing classes, but nothing spectacular where the teacher pointed at me and said: “BOY, THIS IS YOUR FUTURE!”

I saw the appeal of the challenge of honing a craft while creating a career for myself. I liked the balance between being creative and financially secure. I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and it changed my mentality toward learning and self-development. In turn, it shifted my approach to learning new skills, ultimately changing my perspective for building my career.

Dr. Dweck challenges the notion of fixed traits, stating that there are two mindsets in learning new things, fixed and growth. A fixed mindset says we have fixed traits that we can’t change, that we’re born with a certain level of intelligence that we can’t change. But a growth mindset adopts the notion that intelligence can improve with effort. The biggest difference between the mindsets is how you approach challenges.

When a person with a fixed mindset faces a challenge, they give up because they see it as a sign that they don’t have the necessary traits, so their efforts are futile. If we adopt a growth mindset, we adopt challenges as learning opportunities. They are lessons for us to improve from, not reasons why we weren’t meant for something. Dr. Dweck emphasizes how important it is that we approach life with a growth mindset to be successful.

Approaching writing with a growth mindset makes all those critiques and feedback much easier. When I work with people who disagree with my ideas, I use them as opportunities to get better, not reasons to question whether I’m meant for this.

Learning how to write isn’t a skill that writers need; it’s a skill every person will require in any career. Being able to persuade through writing opens many doors. Good writing creates trust. It allows you to persuade. You create many more possibilities when you work on your writing. These can include grant opportunities, pitches for potential projects or writing a successful business plan.  And it’s absolutely necessary to able to read and write contracts in any field. Written communication is also important for just conveying your ideas and opinions through email. These are just a few of many examples of the importance of writing. If you consider yourself a bad writer, remember, don’t waste people’s time or money. Learn how to write better. Don’t worry; I’m doing it, too.

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