Writing Well: a skill or a gift?
By Louise Tulissio – Teacher at Leap into Literacy
When it comes to unleashing your full writer’s potential, do you tend to shrug away, feeling that your ability in English will never improve?
Reading and writing is a skill that is perceived to be mastered at school, but for some of the best well-known authors, this isn’t necessarily the case. Take Roald Dahl for instance. His stories are one of the most renowned childhood classics, yet as a child himself he struggled with sentence structure, spelling, and creative thinking.
Dahl reveals this rocky start at school in one of his rare non-fictional tales titled Lucky Break: How I became a Writer. His personal journey into literacy was one that extended well beyond high school and lucky for his readers, one that still continued throughout his lifetime. When we think of his best loved books Matilda, James and the Giant Peach or The Witches, we certainly don’t think of his ideas as bland or his grammar lacking, yet this was the type of feedback written on his end-of-term English reports. And so, it was no wonder, that when Dahl left school, he never dreamed of becoming an author.
It wasn’t until C.S. Forester, writer and reporter, who was interested in selling the adventures of WWII pilots, that Dahl aged 26, was first encouraged to put down his thought on paper.
And what an experience it was! Enthralled and captivated, Dahl spent five hours straight writing out his fondest memories as a British Royal Air Force Fighter. He was asked by Forester to make just a few notes, but to add in lots of specific details – as this was what the readers really wanted to hear! And to both Forester’s and Dahl’s surprise detailed it was, so detailed in fact that the Saturday Evening Post was happy to publish it as it was, no edits, no cuts. Ironically, it was an autobiographical story that was to begin Roald Dahl’s livelihood as a famous fiction writer.
So is writing well a skill or a gift?
From Dahl’s account, it’s fair to say both. Towards the end of Lucky Break, the reader finds that Dahl’s writing career would never have even been a twinkle of a thought had C.S. Forester not offered his time and personal recommendation. Nor would it have prospered without Dahl’s continuous efforts to refine and revise every story he had ever mastered.
Ultimately, written expression is a gift that needs to be encouraged. And it’s a skill that can be practiced anywhere, by anyone, at any time. The thing to remember is that what links the two and makes for a truly successful writer is passion –the passion to hone writing as a skill, and then make it your very own!