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GUEST BLOG: Earl Staggs

THE GIFT OF WRITING

Remember those “Paint by Number” kits from years ago? Anyone could pick up a brush, put the right color in the right space and produce something called a painting. Would it be great art? Not likely. You can’t produce great art simply by following the numbers.

Two people can tell the same joke. One will leave an audience rolling on the floor in laughter, one will leave them yawning. People will sigh and say, “Some can tell ’em, some can’t.”  Call it talent, call it a gift. You either have it or you don’t.

It’s the same with writing. A lot of people learn the basics of writing and write by the numbers. They take one writing class after another, try one genre after another, one formula after another, and reach a point where they can string words together and tell a story.  Can they turn out truly great writing?  Very unlikely. It depends on whether or not they had genuine talent to begin with.

Spencer Tracy, legendary actor with a wry sense of humor, used to say when asked how to be an actor, “Learn your lines, say them at the right time, and don’t bump into the furniture.”

Anyone can do that and be an actor. There’s no mistaking, however, those actors born with genuine and immense talent within them. Every once in a while, for example, a Meryl Streep comes along. For her, the furniture moves out of the way.

I believe it’s the same with writing. Anyone can learn the basics and produce acceptable, even good writing. To lead readers to tears, rapture, rage or revulsion, however, you must have a special gift. You’re either born with it or you’re not.

When the truly gifted ones sit down to write, they may have to write, rewrite and rewrite again, but eventually, the best words, plots and characters appear, and no one bumps into the furniture.

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For a few good laughs and a trip down memory lane, read “The Day I Almost Became A Great Writer and “White Hats and Happy Trails” at: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com


Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned thirteen Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for the Muse Online Writers Conference and the Catholic Writers Conference Online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.  Read about his latest, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

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  1. August 19, 2011 at 12:59 am

    What a great description: “To lead writers to rage, revulsion…” This is something I’ve wondered about a lot. What is that gift? Where does it come from and what does it consist of?

  2. August 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Jenny, I wish I had a better answer. I think it’s the same as in people able to create incredible music or art. It’s factory installed equipment when we’re born and only a select few have it. Another possibility is that we all have it, but most of us don’t know which button to push. If I ever discover the secret, I’ll spread it around.

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