Accomplished artists become so by working their way from finger painting to stick figures and then from sketching still life to portraiture, continually growing and learning. What were once shaky, uneven lines or poorly differentiated gradations of shadow and light become the clear and precise representations of the visions from their mind’s eye they are choosing to share with the world. This process often takes an entire lifetime of repetition and learning. Ask any professional artist, and they will undoubtedly tell you that despite how good they are now, they always strive to improve.
A talented musician begins by beating on pots and pans with spatulas and spoons while wearing a diaper in the middle of a kitchen floor. They may save their allowance from mowing lawns or shoveling snow to buy that first guitar, bass, or drum set as they grow. They play the instrument for thousands of hours. They fall asleep strumming the guitar while listening to their favorite artists through headphones, attempting to hit every note at just the right time. They get together with other musicians and form bands or join orchestras where they learn they learn to blend their sounds with others. Even the most successful musician will tell you they are always learning new techniques or breaking through sonic barriers to reach new heights.
All this is to illustrate that becoming an artist is a process. Becoming a good writer is no different. The painter and the guitarist are not born with the ability to play their instrument or the eye for color and texture needed to create beautiful pictures. Some individuals may be apt to learn more quickly, but they are more likely dedicated and persistent in their desire to create and share their joy with others. We all have innate talent. However, some individuals choose to spend more time developing it.
Neither are we born as masters of the written word. We must first spend years learning to speak and then read the language of our culture. We must absorb and navigate the subtle nuance of tone, meaning, body language, and intention. Then, even before we have wholly grasped all these skills, we must learn to put them down on paper. We diagram sentences and practice grammar. We are asked to formulate coherent opinions and express them with words. We are being guided by those who did so before us and can share their successes and failures to help us benefit from that success and learn from the mistakes, lest we make them ourselves. I can assure you that we will still make these mistakes. Over and over. But learn and persevere; we must.
For those who wish to perfect the art of the written word — and make no mistake, it is an art — like the painter mastering the blending of colors on their palette or the guitarist committing the fretboard to memory with hours of scales, we must learn to use language, punctuation, and grammar to convey our message. We learn to share a more profound meaning with symbols and metaphors. Like a musician stringing chords together, we learn to embed our writing with onomatopoeia or alliteration to share our inner stories and emotions. We can and do learn to be better writers and communicators over time and with practice and intention; anyone who wants to be a better writer must dedicate time and effort to their craft. We are all born with the ability to be good writers. It is a conscious choice to become one.