Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Is Writing a skill or art or both?

Ah, the age-old debate: Is writing a skill, art, or both? I think part of the problem is that writing is a basic skill and part of our education. Let's, first, assume that we're all intelligent and are capable of learning and retaining knowledge and wisdom. We learn grammar, vocabulary, and how to communicate with each other by stringing sentences and paragraphs together. To put forth an article or essay or story that is logical and well thought out, it requires skills beyond writing: critical thinking, logic, basic communication skills such as conveyance of ideas and structure. So let's face it, writing is a skill. A craft. Someone who is diligent to learn the skills could become a very competent craftsperson.

On the other hand, not everyone can be a "great" writer. As Stephen King said in On Writing, you can teach a competent writer to be a good writer, but you cannot teach a good writer to be a great writer. I agree with that. I think great writers, like great scientists or politicians or painters or musicians, have more than just skills. Obviously, skills and hard work are important -- what would Mozart have been had he not studied and practiced diligently? -- but "greatness" requires talent, immense talent. And talent can't be taught. You either have "it," or you don't.

Talent doesn't require skills. I believe Mozart was a musical genius even without his training. But skills and hard work would polish raw talents like making stones into diamonds. Without the skills, Mozart might have gone nowhere, except maybe insanity.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people think they could become "great writers" simply because they know how to put sentences together. You need both talent and skills. With talent and no skill, you're just a potential. With skills but no talent, you can only achieve a certain level of competency. And competency isn't bad -- most people could comfortably settle for being competent. It's those who are merely competent but think they're great that we should watch out for.

Thanks to Mac, here's an interesting article on how we can all be so self-deillusioned.

By "we" I don't mean you or me. I'm fortunate to know many greatly talented AND skilled writers -- some make me envious, even. But I admire talent. And I admire hard work. And when someone has both, there's no stopping them.

I think we should all get to know ourselves, know our strengths and nurture them. It's a waste of time to pretend to be or trying to emulate something we're not. Then again, who am I to say someone's not a great writer? Are we good judges?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear author,
hi! if you don't mind ,i will use some parts of your article for a debate.

from
anonymous