Sunday, August 11, 2013

Writers’ Brain Wiring: Are Writers born or made?

I was 12 when I realized that (unlike me) not everyone had stories and characters roaming around in their brain. I have been writing stories in my head as far back as I can remember, but I was in the second grade when I first got to share a story with others.  This was all thanks to Miss Kerr, my teacher, may she rest in peace.  I just assumed that everyone had this other life going on in their heads  because to me it was like breathing.  Characters would present themselves to me and I would have to write them down to make them live.  I had no choice.  I still have no choice these many years later.  A word can set me off, a smell, a random thought, and there I go down the road to adventure, walking in someone else’s shoes, living another life—nothing like it on earth.  Are we born this way?

If you feel that you have no choice but to write then you are a true writer.  Whether it is always good writing or not it doesn’t matter; if you are compelled to tell your stories, then you should because the more you do, the better writer you become.  Are writers born or made?  Everyone is formed by their own genetic roll of the dice and brain wiring, and then environmental influences and education are piled on.  How or why a writer’s brain is different, or an artist’s brain, and so on, we might ask?  I am not sure there is any one answer to that, but I know enough writers to know that our brains do work a bit differently than maybe a lawyer or police officer. Though some lawyers are brilliant and can write compelling briefs and do spellbinding presentations in court, that is a different brain process than taking a word, a character blip, a tiny gem of a story idea and making it live on its own.   

One could argue that our writer’s brain wiring is a bit “off” and I have heard that argument.  Writers live in two worlds (sometimes more) and that is more than most people get to inhabit.  So are we born or are we made?  Each person who reads this will have an opinion, but I think we are born to be writers just like some are born to be artists or engineers.  Oftentimes some of us aren’t able to fulfill our destiny and that is a shame.  Can you imagine if Stephen King, story teller extraordinaire, had given up after getting a ton of rejections, and just kept teaching?  Great for his students but what a loss for so many readers and so many writers who learned from his work.  No matter how many rejections, if you know in your heart and in your head that you are born to write, then write and keep writing.  There is no easy road for most of us, but there is no excuse either.  You have the brain for it, after all.  Just do it because you were born to do it.  

~~ Vicki Carroll

Vicki is a writer living in Atlanta, GA.  She is most recently featured in the July/August issue of Southern Writers Magazine.


  1. Considering I'm both an engineer and a writer, I'm going with the idea that our destiny is somewhat up to us. :)

  2. Partly true, but we are also at the mercy of good breaks, good genes, good parents, good education, good-great mentors or lack thereof.