The ability to write doesn’t come naturally—or supernaturally—to anyone. Despite the myths, one’s ability to write well isn’t created in luck. I doubt that it's a trait acquired through inheritance of the "writing gene," either. I'm not a geneticist, but I'm pretty sure that the "writing gene" is fictional. If this gene does exist, then I didn't inherit it, and I've never met anyone that has. Of course, writing's more difficult for some than it is for others—yet, I believe that putting one’s thoughts onto paper isn’t an easy process for anyone. I'm convinced that this "writing gene" is pure myth, a myth that's very popular and very dangerous. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve a student come into a session saying something similar to, "I’m a _________major…so, writing just doesn’t come natural for me." Statements like this one bother me a lot, and always make me wonder—does writing really come naturally for anyone? I’m an ___English___ major, yet writing, most certainly, does not come naturally to me. On the contrary, learning to write effectively has been one of the most challenging tasks that I’ve encountered. In fact, I chose to major in English, ironically, because I wasn't a "natural" writer. Writing’s something that I learned to enjoy, and I desired to get better at it. If I had believed in this "gene" myth, I have no idea where I'd be now.
How do I bust this myth? Is it my responsibility? Should it be?
Unfortunately, I’m not as theatrical (or as awesome) as Adam or Jaime, but I do believe that busting this particular myth is possible. When students muster-up their courage and finally enter the Center asking for help, I want them to walk away from a session with me possessing something tangible. I want them to leave with something they will always have. I want them to leave with not only their initial questions answered but also a heightened sense of what they're doing correctly—but how in the heck do I do that? Is it possible?
It's important that students are made aware of their strengths. So often students are being told only what they're doing incorrectly; therefore, many students envision their writing ability colored exclusively with red ink. As I stated earlier, I chose to major in English because I am not a "natural" writer—writing just happens to be something that I enjoy doing, and it's something that I’m passionate about. I didn't always feel this way, though. It took a special fifth-grade teacher to ignite the love of writing within me. One brief, positive comment changed my entire outlook on writing—Wow, you’re really great at descriptions—was, literally, all it took. Before that comment, writing only consisted of grammar and check marks. It was only after I heard those words that the negative stuff ceased to matter anymore; after all, I was great at descriptions.
I do think that anyone can learn to write well. Like most everything else in life, writing's a learned process—a process that anyone, skilled in any discipline, can learn. Everyone's different, and everyone's going to have different writing experiences—what's key to writing success, though, is to never give-in to self-doubt. Self-doubt is natural, yes, but it’s something that can be overcome; perhaps, this is why the "writing gene" myth is such a dangerous one. This myth tells students who aren't "naturally" skilled at writing—students like myself—that they'll never, ever, ever be good writers. You see, if a writer does believe in this myth, then that writer probably believes that he or she will never be a "writer". This myth obviously smothers potential for many students to realize their own writing ability. The fact that this happens, that this myth is held as fact, is very, very sad to me.
Well, I’ve blathered on and on about this myth, but I still haven’t got anywhere near finding a way to show students how false it really is. Sorry! But I have to ask: have you ever had a student that held similar beliefs? Have you found ways to bust it for them? This subject’s obviously something that really bothers me, and I suppose I was just wondering if it bothered any of you, too…