I learned that I enjoyed writing in college. Given the choice, I would choose to write an essay over a multiple choice test in a heartbeat. Partly because it’s easier to fake your way through an essay, but mostly because I enjoy puzzling out ideas through writing. It helps me put focus to my thoughts, more so than conversation, more so than just thinking about a topic or even reading about it. Writing is the only form of communication that allows me to revise until I get it right. I like that. But, I wasn’t born with an inherent gift for writing.

Of the four characteristics mentioned in today’s title, I would argue hard work is most important. Common sense dictates there has to be some measure of talent, and you have to have a love of words and story, but if you aren’t willing and anxious to work hard, you may as well lay the pen down. You have to put the time in at the computer developing the craft. With nothing but my own experience to back this up, I believe strongly that a person who loves to write usually has a natural affinity for it. Figuring out where the talent lies may take a while (nonfiction, genre writing, literary fiction, essays, etc.) but if you love to write that’s part of the fun. Over the past twenty years I’ve written picture books, young adult, short stories, literary fiction (I use that term loosely – it was more fiction than literary), romance and the list goes on. I finally settled on mystery because each subgenre holds its own set of rules, and by changing so often I had never allowed myself to master anything. I settled into mysteries almost ten years ago and have been studying and practicing ever since.

So, at least a degree of talent (or nature) is important, hard work is a given, what about nurture? Does a successful adult owe his good fortune to DNA, or the nurture he received from caring parents who helped prepare him for the world? I don’t suppose nurture is a must for a writer unless the end goal is publication. Ever read the Acknowledgements page in the front of most books? Most published authors have many people to thank for their good fortune. Unless you are born with that rare inherent talent that allows you to spew novels from deep inside your sheer genius, you’ll probably need some help along the way.

The MFA, Masters in Fine Arts, is a great choice for someone with the time and money to commit. I didn’t have either. But, I loved to write, and eventually I discovered the need to branch out and meet others through writing conferences. I talked at length about the value of writing conferences in an earlier post. But, I want to elaborate on the lasting effects here. There are four women who have helped me reach my writing goals. I’ll discuss them all in future posts.

Next time – Sandra Scofield