• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Everything You Own in a Box to the Left


Where do you come down on the nature v. nurture debate when it comes to writing? Is writing an innate ability? Are there writing genes? Were you exposed to writers or books as a child? Did anyone read to you? Did you have any writing mentors? Why do you think you write instead of paint, or tie fishing lures, or build computers? Is writing a god-given talent, a tweak on the DNA, or some bad circuitry in your brain.


8 Responses

  1. I am so interested in this post and thank you for starting it. I have heard this same argument made about entrepreneurship; i.e., that you have to have entrepreneurial DNA in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. Personally, I think this goes against the paradigm of a growth mindset. I think everything can be learned and that with consistent, diligent and intentional application, you can succeed in any endeavor. That doesn’t negate the fact that some people will have a predisposition towards certain endeavors; giving them a foundation for that endeavor – also referred to by some as ‘natural talent.’ Although I am not sure I believe in this concept of ‘natural talent’ at all. I also look to the work of Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences as it has allowed for the idea that there is more than one way to define a person’s intellect/ability. So is it nature or nurture? Ultimately, it’s a combination of both and it is our self-awareness + our self-discipline that allows us to activate what we have in the service of our craft.

  2. My mom read to my sister and me from an early age, yes. Every night at bedtime, we got a chapter of whatever book we were on. But writing…writing occurred to me in the 6th grade and I have no idea why. I just started writing stories like a compulsive habit. Then the adults in my life encouraged it and I won a contest and I was hooked, so I guess that’s a mix of nature and nurture. At a certain age, I think writers have to decide if they’re going to keep it up and then it is solely self-nurturing. There are certainly days when I think that to give it up would be liberating, yet then I wonder: would I feel like myself anymore? And that is more fodder for the nature side of things.

  3. I bet there have been lots of discussions around the water cooler in the publishing industry about this very topic over the years.

    No one read to me, but as soon as I learned how, that was just about all I wanted to do. Did it impact my wanting to be a writer – absolutely, but not for years. Later, I read the works of a few authors who ended up serving as mentors – unbeknownst to them, and who inspired me so much, I found myself tapping away on a keyboard.

    For anyone who is an avid reader (most out here for sure) we’ve seen it all. Published works with good and bad writing. When I see good writing, and check out the credentials of that writer, they may or may not have an MFA. I’m always super impressed when they don’t, because I automatically think of them as having that natural ability. Then I might read what I perceive as not very good writing – and they DO have an MFA. I think it’s a mixed bag, and as uniquely individual as we already are.

  4. Definitely not nurture here. I was accepted to college as an English/History double major, with a desire to become a photojournalist. My father went behind my back, pulled a lot of strings and pressured me into accepting a place in the biology dept. I graduated, handed over my science degree to my sick mother, worked in medicine and wrote on the side. Needless to say, I left my father behind in the dust and never let on that I was writing. When he died, I breathed a sigh of relief and never felt more free in my life.

  5. I have no idea. I have always loved to read to escape from unhappy parents, won an essay contest in 5th grade, so…I go where the pen leads. Happy writer and memoirist today!

  6. I’ve always loved the written word and the way some phrases or sentences dance with abandon. I was sick a lot in 3rd grade and fell behind in the Stamford Achievement Tests, so I was placed in a group of kids not really interested in learning. My teacher, Mrs. Smith, recognized that I was a better reader than the few tests I had taken indicated and spent time with me during recess to administer tests I had missed and bring me up to date. She was giving up her time to work with me and I still smile with appreciation when I think of her. And I became a voracious reader of The Hardy Boys, magazines and whatever else I could get my hands on; “Myra Breckingridge” was above my level, but if that was what adulthood was like, I was somewhat curious…… From reading sprang writing (encouragement from a 5th grade teacher) and it all comes back to teachers dedicated to education.

  7. Hey Betsy. Probably a bit of both. My mom read to us constantly and took us to the library often. But also to the theatre – another way to love soak up words. But I guess you have to want to write too.

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