Screenwriting : Are writers made, or are just born with talent? by Emily Ann Jefferson

Emily Ann Jefferson

Are writers made, or are just born with talent?

So according to all the professional screen play readers you have to be born with a talent to write. You can't just be a writer, you need to be gifted as a writer. So good writers are born, not made. A lot of so called professional writers say this. They make the idea that you don't have to study the craft, you don't have to work hard because your already born a good writer? And they push this all the damn time to other writers. Do you support this theory guys? I'm not making this up I heard this from most screenplay readers.

David Levy

I think some just have a natural talent for writing. It does help to study, hone the craft, improve your skills. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it and succeeding. Time and practice. I guess those who are born with it recognize it early on while the rest of us have to hone our skills in life. To each his own.

Izzibella Beau

I think it may be a mixture of both. I think those who are born to write are the little kids that could make up the best damn story to tell their mom or dad when they were younger, so they wouldn't get in trouble. They made it so realistic that most of the time the parents fell for it. BUT, I believe one can learn to write if they put their mind to it and work hard. They may not have the most visual story ever told, or maybe they can write about experiences or academic material, but none-the-less they are writers. I just think that those who have calling to write often do so stemmed from an imagination that runs wild sometimes.

Linda Perkins

To take ones imagination and put it on paper is easy. But is it a sellable screenplay, in the correct format, for marketing? One who learns to write, is in a better position to write a sellable script. So, to lay that imagination on paper for profit. one has to learn the craft.

Carl Plumer

What I have heard is that there are more failed writers with talent than there are successful writers without "talent." Because a lot of talented people don't do the work. I think it comes down to sticking with it, never giving up, and believing in yourself. Talent may open some doors for some people, but hard work and faith in yourself is key. Also, listen to your heart! Is it telling you this is your path, or is it not? Follow your heart. Also, I agree with what Jim Jackson says, too. Beware the darkness, meaning bitter people who try to take you down. They get joy from your failures. Joy! Can you believe it? Carry on, Emily Ann, you'll do just fine.

Patrick M McCormick

Great ideas are a dime a dozen, everyone has them. They become valuable once you have written them in a format understandable to the reader. A spec script is written for a reader in an agency, production office, or for a reader in a contest. It has a different format than a shooting script. All human beings are creative. That is our nature. Anyone that tells you it takes a "Special" individual to write a screenplay is wallowing in a delusion of self-importance. What it takes to write is dedication, hard work, and a desire to succeed. If you can't afford a good school, purchase an up to date instructional manual. Read it front to back and then begin to develop your idea. Follow the rules because the readers live by them. Professional readers aren't gods. Most of them never see one of their screenplays produced. They get paid to weed through "Junk" screenplays so the Agent, Producer, or Judge, doesn't have to do it. It is a job that helps them pay the bills. Some of them are much better than others, so if you get a bad read try another. If you get two similar negative reads, you have a problem... fix it and try again.

Jorge J Prieto

I agree with, Carl. Instincts and also the ability to pour out your heart into each of your stories, that come from a real place,. No one can teach us how to be storytellers, we are natural born storytellers or we are not. I think your instincts and your heart tells you. But once again we have to have the courage go deep inside our own painful, secret life, like Peter Russell, recently said on an interview with Film Courage on YouTube: " Secrets make great characters and great stories." Now as writers do we have the courage to create characters that carry our own wounds to make them real people like you and me and give them a chance that someone will care for them? Because as Peter said, embarrassment secrets will fuel every story you will ever tell in your life, because every character is about wounds. " If you can get interested in your own secrets, you're going to write a boring character." I believe in this, because I've now completed 7 screenplays ( Thank YOU Stage 32) and as I analyze many of them, they come from embarrassing, deep wounds from my passed. Hope this helps you Emily Ann and all my other fellow screenwriters on your next story.

Dan Guardino

Nobody really knows what it takes for someone to break in because screenwriting is a combination of about 1 percent knowledge and 1 percent talent and 98 percent luck. However, luck seems to happen to those screenwriters that stick with it a long time, write a lot of screenplays and use them to make some good connection with people in the business that can help them launch their careers.

Patrick M McCormick

Dan's hit the nail on the head, but you still have to get the format right.

Cherie Grant

What some people call talent I just call a series of personality qualities that help you be a good writer. There's no way to tell until someone just tries it. I think there's a LOT of ability out there though.

Patrick M McCormick

All people have daydreams, fantasy's, desires, secret ambitions, they are the stuff that screenplays are made of. The problem is the insecurity and inhibition which dog us all. How many working writers feel I'll at ease when showing a new piece to their agent or producer It's a lot harder the first time someone exposes their inner feelings to another person. It's a lot easier once you learn the proper technique for presenting material. Your ideas are also a lot easier to understand once they have been properly formatted. So what's stopping you?

Guillermo Ramon

Syntax, vocabulary, elements of composition, psychology of the characters, completion of ideas, logic, lack of logic, build, flow, showing through the composition, etc. There are so many things that you must know to just write anything over one thousand words. Add pages and pages. Then, you must understand plot structure. Continue by understanding that nothing is written for all audiences. You must have a clear audience. You don't realize it while you are writing, but you are connecting thousands of bits of knowledge. Therefore, you can not do it without knowledge of your craft. Writing, like anything else, requires years of learning. However, not all those ho learn end up writing great things. Doing anything above the standards of the rest requires talent. Talent is ninety per cent work and ten percent uniqueness. Perseverance, focus, effort under adversity, continuing regardless of other conditions is a great part of talent. The main problem is that you can never be certain of your talent until you get recognition. You must continue writing while the world rejects what you do if you want to take a chance to prove your talent. Once you start, if you give up before you get the recognition, the world will consider you as NOT talented. So, an essential element to be talented is to persevere.

Jorge J Prieto

HOPE never quits. Keep writing, fellow screenwriters, write 9 screenplays, and you and I will be ready. But, you need to connect emotionally with your characters, period.

Christopher Binder

Both.

Rachael Armstrong

Like anything, you improve with practice, so I say even if you are born with or without talent you have keep practicing and learning. I went back to school 3 years ago at 40 and just about to finish my degree. I was told I have 'something' and 'a voice' so now I have to work on something and find my voice.

Linda McIntyre

Both. You have to have talent, you have to be able to recognize within your content what needs to stay, what needs to go, and what is plain sh*t. But you have to practice your art, sweet talk it, take it to dinner, sleep with it, let it break your heart and then fill you with elation. In short, if you have talent without the passion, you have nothing.

Fiona Faith Ross

Dunno.

Rayna W.

This book was required reading by one of my screenwriting instructors. He wanted us to read it specifically to address the question that you've posed. Great read. It changed my entire approach to pretty much everything. http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/0345472322

Stephen Barber

I believe I was born with talent and then through discipline, forged myself into a writer.

Jorge J Prieto

Well said, Stephen. Agree.

Jorge J Prieto

Maj: Thanks for the links. Some eye opening articles.

Aray Brown

I believe writers are born, but it takes more than talent to get you to the next level. Talking about perseverance, drive, ambition. Screenwriting or writing in general may come natural to you but you still have to work hard. Nothing's ever easy

William Martell

It happens this way: You may be walking. Maybe the first sunny day of the spring. And a car will slow beside you, and a door will open, and someone you know, maybe even trust, will get out of the car. And he will smile, a becoming smile. But he will leave open the door of the car and offer to give you a lift... and if you get in the car, you will be a successful writer. It's all about getting in the car with the right person. They anoint you as "talented", and that's that.

Cherie Grant

So no modesty on this thread. People who need to tell other people that they have talent all the time are usually the ones with very little. Insecurity is an ugly trait.

Stephen Barber

@Cherie - Why would you (hijack) a positive conversation with negative judgment of others? People who (label) others, and describe their opinions’ as, "ugly" tend to be, in my experience the ones who're truly plagued with the insecurities in life...

Jack Middleton

@Stephen - and my experience also.

David Levy

Yeah Cherie, insecurity is an ugly trait. Especially when you feel the need to drag others down with you.

Baljinder Singh Gill

If you can tell a great story with grounded, unique characters you're a writer. Simple.

Beth Fox Heisinger

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." —Thomas Mann. Interpret the quote as you wish. :)

Steve Cleary

Don't listen to anyone. Write the story because you want to enjoy it. And if you don't enjoy the script yourself, then keep tweaking it until you do or move onto the next one. You'll only get better. Then, unfortunately, you have to hustle the sh!t out of it to get it produced.

Bill Costantini

A similiar forum topic existed awhile back. Science and long-term studies have proven that people who are highly creative have a smaller corpus callosum part in their brains, and that a certain gene clusters differently in those people. So nature certainly is a factor in pre-determining creativity. How well someone develops those natural tendencies, though, is up to them.

Vladislav Nikitin

Sorry, I am stupid, I don't know much about abything, but I just don't like the fact that this post is on top of the screenwriting part of the Lounge. It's great to see others on this website show sympathy, but.. Is this a plea for motivational speeches? Do you want to hear things like "come on, you screenwriter, you can do it no matter what anyone says"? Don't mean to sound harsh but that's what Katy Perry songs are for, to tell us "baby you're a firework". However, if you rely so much on what other people tell it's a problem, I am sorry, but people in the industry and other screenwriters aren't all Katy Perry's. I've never heard "you gotta be born a screenwriter" from other screenwriters (do you actually have examples of that, can you qoute anyone on saying that?) but I heard it from ignorant and dumb low-self-esteem people who want to feed on the other's weaknesses. You are a writer as long as you write. Thinking whether it's your faith to be on this earth as a screenwriter isn't gonna help to go through the writing block, egoistical thoughts like these will only dig a bigger hole.

Nikolaus Baker

You are far from stupid Vladislav and I see from you encouraging comments like minded. Everyone alive is born writer good or not. Good or bad is above is nothing to do with the writer, its more to do with who's the critic and what they say or don't say, fact or untruth or their truth or interpretation. A lot can be pompous, snobbery and basically crap. Don't let that put you off! Do it if you enjoy it, do it for yourself. I think (I'm not sure) that I have written good stories, a lot of people have tried to put me down. I'm not a trained writer, they judge me because I don't have a degree in literature and a lot of what I write is not grammatically correct, I cannot afford an editor and do it all myself, that's true. However I have a great imagination, I have the patience & determination to see it through to the end. My writing has matured with experience. I have found the experience enjoyable, a challenge, rewarding and therapeutic. Life is too short so my advice if I were to give it too anyone who is reading this is, keep going, don't be put off and enjoy your moment, its yours.

Conrad Ekeke

Emily, personally, I like to view the world from outside. Buying someone's theory isn't bad, but I say this, it's best to learn the world from your own observations and experiences. To me, it takes a mind that can contain the world to be a good writer, to write down a good idea and as Steve said, it's all about how much you can appreciate your thought in writing - in other words it's about the mind. Everyone can be a good writer. The mind is a flexible entity of our being and anything is possible.

Brian Walsh

I've always thought it's a bit of both, not just for writing but for most endeavours in life. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don't learn to develop it, you'll never realize your potential. I also think that you can get all the training in the world, but if it's just not in you, you'll never reach the upper levels of whatever you pursue. If you like it, do it, but not everyone will be best at it no matter how hard you work at it, so if your only goal is to become a big Hollywood writer then you're in it for the wrong reason anyway. Love the craft, and do it, and if you're lucky enough to be blessed with a natural talent, who knows how well you'll do, but if you work hard at it, you'll still be able to do good work.

Carl Plumer

@Beth, that Thomas Mann quote is one of my faves. Funny, sad, and true.

Patrick M McCormick

My own experience tells me that it's possible to improve your technical abilities as a writer and it is also possible to improve your mental abilities. All of us indulge ourselves with daydreams once in a while. A person that learns how to manipulate those daydreams and write about them in the proper format becomes a screenwriter. With a lot of practice and hard work, his/her writing will improve. With a lot of luck, that person can make a living by writing.

Cherie Grant

LOL David, Stephen, I haven't dragged anyone down with me and I can't see what about this I could possibly feel insecure about. I didn't call people ugly. I said insecurity is an ugly trait (so why flaunt it) I just see so many people posting on here how great and talented they are it's ugly. I'm sick of seeing it. That's not negative. It just is. No-one wants to read how highly people think of themselves. Don't you think agents and whatnot get sick of this attribute as well? A little modesty goes a long way.

Esther Farin

I don't think a good writer exists that hasn't studied their craft extensively and has put their heart and soul into what they do. You can be born with natural talent but if you're not utilizing any tools or methods to shape you, how do you advance? Maybe the people you are talking to think they're good writers, but aren't, or you're a great writer and they're trying to discourage you lol

Dan Guardino

Most people don't like to go around and claim they are bad screenwriters or have zero talent.

J Medina

it's sort of like sports. On a baseball team, for example, there are players who are just gifted with natural talent. they can run, jump, etc. There are other players who aren't physically gifted, but they are smart and work very hard. The two types of players bring different things to the table, but in the end, they are all on the team. Some things you can't teach, and talent plus hard work is unbeatable, but some people realize their shortcomings, work like hell to hone their craft, and make it to the big leagues anyway!

William Martell

To add to what Jaime said: Imagine you are Muggsy Bogues, and the tallest you get is 5'3"... but you want to be a professional basketball player. Do you quit because you're short? Or do you work harder? Bogues became a professional basketball player, played for the Warriors for a while - basically had a full career as a pro basketball player (at 5'3"). So if you aren't born that way, you can still work your butt off and succeed.

Michael L. Burris

I think talent is filling the toolbox, guiding the craft, flying to proper destinations and realizing that work is just work and there never should be means to an end of doing what you love. Success, failure, money, whatever, means nothing compared to the drive of creation. Talent is an overrated term once you truly embody your drive of creation but I must admit I don't just simply want or need to think about just writing anymore not because I can't but because I just simply can. Good luck Emily. You've been on here a while so at least you have persistence trying to get the feel. The work you dedicate to it, well, that's entirely up to you. I wrote poetry at age fourteen and as soon as they called it talent I fell out of love with it because I thought it was just essence of me coming from somewhere beyond me. I could go on with eloquent, fancy or even esoteric explanations but I guess maybe talent you're searching or seeking is something you only can see after truly completing years of many, many works, projects, goals, etc. Fill you toolbox and smile every time you find a cool new tool to add to the toolbox. Nobody will ever collect all the tools, crafters always invent new tools and don't be afraid to ask to borrow tools you don't have. Sometimes we even steal them but most crafters do especially with price gouging than can go for sometimes. Some tools are indeed worth the money too and don't be afraid to invest when and where needed.

Carl Plumer

@Esther, I couldn't have said it better myself. I work at my craft every day and I am actually excited to learn more and am excited at the potential of all there is to know waiting for me to learn. I'll be studying the craft of writing for the rest of my life. Every writer still has something to learn.

Dan Guardino

@ Patricia. That is the way it works for most people. I was just commenting on what Cherie said, "I just see so many people posting on here how great and talented they are it's ugly. I'm sick of seeing it." I usually refer to myself as a self-taught hack because that is what I am so I never go around claiming to have talent or that I am even very good.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

My take on what makes a good writer: 1) Be nice, 2) Act with love, 3)Trust in God, 4) Work Hard. Everybody is born with a talent not everyone decides to take an action and work to bring it to the surface.

Rayna W.

Well said @Steven

Conrad Ekeke

Steven, you said it all, Dan... Dan, there's actually lots of ways to display self confidence and talent. There's a fat difference between talent/inherent gift and skill. Skills develop and in every development, there's advancement... A talent is manifested - made known or buried and and remains hidden though existent. Some need help to discover their talents and knowing it is just one phase. You have to develop it, make it skilled and you'll never know your limits unless you count your steps. It's ugly when you go through their work and find it poor - below an accepted standard, coupled with their claims but you need to look at this as some phase of development and not some boastful way to say "hey I'm the best and I remain there..." As much as I would agree with you, I beg to differ on how this practice can be viewed. If you love what you've done, others can love it too. But you can't have it, keep it, and then boast of it. Virtually, that makes no sense. I think it should be seen as a way to better a talent and whatever way the student puts his idea forth, his willingness should play a great role in helping him/her find the right course.

Dan Guardino

@ Conrad. I don't mind it if you disagree with me but I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

Regina Lee

I'm stealing my friend's analogy. Screenwriting is like playing piano. Some people are born with a great amount of musical talent including a good ear and physical coordination; others aren't (like me!). But almost everyone can learn to play the piano with some level if skill if they put in the hours of rigorous training and practice.

Michael L. Burris

Hey Eric I like your analogy but to take that in a different direction: for practice once: I started to stare at paintings that I liked, hated or inspired me and see how far I could run with concept, logline or even story. It's not that a true writer ever runs out of real life inspiration but a funny thing is sometimes those doodle's, artwork, whatever actually develop into whole threads and maybe even episodes. Then what I found a bit more amazing was (You know that one feller who gets some stuff to syndication quite a bit) Chuck Lorre makes artwork of some kind after every episode. Then it occurred to to me: does he really make them after or before each episode and how many concurrent themes are in such doodle's? Parallel's is what writing is all about and every good writer or writing team understands the parallel's of their creation , that simple.

Dan Guardino

Some people think screenwriting is art and you have to be born with talent while some people think it is a craft that can be learned. For me it's just something I like to do and people can call it what they want.

Michael L. Burris

Dan Guardino: Yep! You got my friend. Not to thread on John August.

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