Hello, SEers! Mae here with you today as we enter a new month. Happy first day of July!
In June, I raised the question “are writers born or made?” Today, I want to follow up with another question: can the writing gene be inherited?
Think about the Bronte sisters. Neither parent was a writer, though both were said to be extremely literate. All three sisters, plus their brother, played games of imagination as children, possibly cultivating their creative side while dreaming up fanciful places. My earlier post, Are Writers Born or Made, would point to this as their “trigger” moment—assuming the desire to write was dormant inside.
We also have brothers Alex and Evelyn Waugh, known for Islands in the Sun and Brideshead Revisited, respectively. Their father, Arthur Waugh was a biographer (Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning), as well as a literary critic. Evelyn’s son, Auberon went on to become a writer, followed by his grandson, Alexander—a literary dynasty!
H.G. Wells’ illegitimate son, Anthony West, became a critically acclaimed author. West’s mother, Rebecca, was also an author.
Today, Stephen King is building his own writing dynasty through sons, Joe Hill and Owen King, both successful authors. King’s wife, Tabitha, is also a popular novelist.
It’s easy to look at the family trees above and believe children inherited the writing gene from their parents. Is it possible?
Science says yes—and no.
Consider abnormal behavior. Once thought to be the result of environment and trauma, genetics are now viewed as a primary influence. Certainly environment and life experiences are still factors, but do they unleash something already dormant inside?
Creativity can be viewed in the same manner.
Some scientists believe everyone is born with a creative gene, but that many lose the potential for arts as we advance through life. Most children view the world with curiosity and wonder, but that outlook is easily corrupted as we age. Life lessons, lack of time, and fear of failure all play a part in sucking dry our creative side. Those who subscribe to this theory believe creativity can be relearned at any point in life (trigger moments?). If, however, the creative side is nurtured from the time we are children, we grow and flourish in that environment.
What do you think? I don’t see everyone being born with musical or artistic talent. I can’t hold a note and my drawing skills are deplorable. Why would writing be any different?
My father wrote stories from the time he was in grade school, through his early twenties. I am convinced I inherited my gift of words from him. But writing wasn’t his true passion. He loved art—enough to obtain a degree from an art college.
My family has many of his paintings, and as a child, I always remember art supplies in the house—oil paints, brushes, pastels, and charcoal pencils. But I never once remember my father painting. Occasionally, I’d ask him to draw something and he’d sketch it out on a scrap of paper, but it was as though the demands of life stripped away his creative side. With four kids, a house and a job, he didn’t have time to continue to nurture that gene. Instead, he and my mother nurtured mine—the sole reason I’m a writer today. If my father had lived into retirement years, maybe he would have taken up painting again.
I also wonder why didn’t I inherit my father’s skill for art? Was that a different genetic influence that passed me by? I have three siblings, but I am the only writer in the family. We all grew up in the same environment, so if all are born with a creative gene, why aren’t they writers, too? None of us are artists.
I know I’ve rambled all over the place with this post, but here’s the takeaway—two schools of thought. I’ve mixed some of my own into Theory No. 2.
Theory No. 1
We are all be born with a creative gene
That gene flourishes when nurtured
Theory No. 2
The gene for creativity is inherited
The trait could lie dormant for multiple generations
Trigger moments and environment factor into how the gene develops
Was someone in your family a writer? Can you trace your creativity to another member of your family or someone in your ancestral line? Perhaps your creativity is the result of having teachers and peers encourage you. Or perhaps you happened onto the writing path through your own determination and perseverance.
Now it’s time to share your thoughts—can the writing gene be inherited?
Ready, set, go!