Born or Made?

Ever use the phrase "I've been writing since I could hold a pen!"? Ever tell everyone that you've always wanted to be a novelist?

My husband hates people like you.

(Just kidding!)

But seriously. He hates that statement, no matter whether it's used in an art standpoint or a writing standpoint. A little bit of backstory for you - my husband grew up doodling and drawing. His father discouraged it, but he did it anyway. He was good at it - maybe not Michelangelo-genius-level, but competent and he enjoyed it. And when it came time to make a career decision, my husband elected to go to animation college. He learned how to apply his love for art in a realistic way and even went on to work for the animation giant (at the time), Disney studios.

My husband is talented. I consider him a 'born' artist. He does not. Why? Because he went to school to learn to be a professional artist. He worked very hard for his degree, worked many years at crappy, low-paying jobs in the industry, and eventually climbed his way up to the 'pinnacle' of his career (Disney). And he would point out to me, constantly, all the art magazines and the bios listed there. Nearly every single one of them had some saying along the lines of "Born with brush/art pencil/crayon/whatever in hand." He hated that, because he felt that you shouldn't have to get around the schooling and the endless life-drawing classes and all the other good stuff that gave him the 'art skills' that he needed for his job.

And while this may not sound like a writing-sort of thing, it totally is. Read the bios of a few authors. You'll often see "I was born with a pen in my hand!" or another such statement. Which is fine, really...but when did it become a bad thing to be a late bloomer in a creative career?

I'll be the first one to tell you that I've always been writing inclined, but I never considered myself a novelist until my twenties. Sure, when I was a kid, I'd pull out Mom's old typewriter and bang away at some bad Pern fanfiction, or some sci-fi story where there was only one woman left in a universe full of men (a gal can dream) and other corny stories. They never got past one or two pages. I filled endless journals with fanfiction when I was a teenager.

But novelist? No. That happened much, much later. So no matter the background, I always consider myself a 'made' writer. I made myself sit down and learn how to write a novel. I read a bajillion other books to figure out how to plot, how to make my characters interesting, how dialogue should (or should not) be tagged. I learned the hard way that adverbs were bad, headhopping was bad, and dramaz were good.

Now, I'm not saying that 'Born' novelists are necessarily wrong. Every person is different. Maybe you HAVE been writing mini-novels since you were six. But is there some sort of stigma on people that decide to write their first novel when they're 30? 40? 70?

There shouldn't be - a novel is a novel, no matter the age. It's all right to be a 'Made' novelist, isn't it?

So here's my question for the gang - do you consider yourself a 'born' or 'made' novelist? And why?


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