Learning to Write

learning to write

We tend to look at successful people and believe they made it overnight, and that’s not limited to how we see authors. We see wildly successful people enjoying the fruits of their labor, but what we don’t see is the labor itself — the struggles and failures they endured to get to where they are now.

Nobody’s born knowing how to write; we all have to learn how to do it. Yet the myth persists that people who write well (or do anything well) are endowed with special talent. They are the chosen ones, the lucky ones, the gifted ones.

This idea that ability or success relies entirely on talent is silly. Talent is helpful, sure. But the best and most successful authors study, learn, and practice. They develop good habits and commit to the craft. They work hard. It’s as simple as that.

Learning to Write

Ernest Hemingway captured the myth of talent with wit and candor when he said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

I disagree with Hemingway, partially because I don’t endorse misleading the public, but also because I think it’s important to make fledgling writers aware of all the hard work that goes into learning the craft.

Like I said, nobody’s born knowing how to write. So for young, new, and aspiring writers, the question is this: are you willing to learn? Are you willing to do the hard work and the painstaking practice — the years of learning — that goes into becoming a master?

What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey? Do you agree with Hemingway that successful authors should let the public think they were born knowing how to write, or should we spread the word that writing requires hard work and practice? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


16 Responses to “Learning to Write”

  1. Michelle mcCartney says:

    I just love to see my name in print

  2. Love this post! The people who publish are the writers who have spent HOURS at the keyboard. The people who’ve put their heart and soul into their writing. The people who’ve studied and practiced their craft.
    Writing a novel is a piece of cake. Writing a novel that works is insanely hard, but totally worth it.

  3. Ever feel like giving up? Well, there was yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that…

  4. Fiona Ingram says:

    I am definitely at the “what am I doing this for?” stage… If only someone would strike a match at the end of the tunnel…

  5. Michael c Okpe says:

    I get better with each writing and that is because i am giving to learning from those who have proven themselves in the field of writing.Talent is good,it is like gold, it does not profit unless it is discovered,mined and polished.The act of polishing requires hard work,practice and persistence.Thanks Melissa for inspiring me.

  6. Billie says:

    I have been working on my first novel three years, now, and find myself feeling frustrated, disheartened and just plain stuck. Thank you, Melissa, for reminding me that those who have “made it” started at the beginning and faced the same fears and doubts that I’m feeling now.

    • First novels can take a long time to complete. If you feel like it’s taking too long, consider working with other writers (join a writing group), hire a coach, or take a workshop to get some feedback and guidance. I wrote my first novel in 30 days for NaNoWriMo. I had no intention of ever publishing it or even writing anything decent. I had tried writing several novels but could never finish any of them, so I did NaNo to prove to myself that I could get to the end of a first draft. It worked. A few years later, I finished another novel, which I did publish. These things take time and practice, and we each need to figure out what process works best for us. Best of luck to you!

  7. Beth says:

    The average time to become an overnight success is ten years. It’s so frustrating! Sometimes I question why I’m even trying but then when I think about not writing it makes me so sad.
    The way I encourage myself to continue is through having a tribe of writing buddies. We’re all at different levels, so you have some ahead, some behind, and some at your pace. A good critique group encourages more than hurts since I’m my worst critic.
    Also I visit websites –especially this one!– to find a prompt to inspire or just a reminder writers everywhere go through this.
    The good thing is while writing may be solitary, we don’t have to be alone as writers.
    Thanks for this post!