Only Geniuses Can Be Writers


In today’s society there are a lot of unrealistic rules and ideas that are we are implemented into thinking are actually true. Barriers that stand in the way of many people from doing things because of these unrealistic rules and ideas.  A lot of these unrealistic rules and ideas are found when it comes to writing. There are numerous works of literature that talk about these unrealistic rules and ideas, one of them being Bad Ideas About Writing.One particular bad idea about writing specifically is that “Only Geniuses Can Be Writers.” This bad idea applies not only to published authors or poets who earn a living from their writing, but also every-day writers such as students. Teaching our students that you don’t solely have to have preternatural intelligence or talent to succeed as a writer is a better idea.                                                                             

   In their literature classes our students are consistently exposed to writers that have been labeled as geniuses of thought such as Shakespeare, Orwell, and Emerson.  They are taught that these are truly writers whose work is illustrates writing as something that should flow freely and easily. When in reality, writing is hard. It is a better idea to discourage these unrealistic expectations and to instead teach our students that you don’t have to be a genius to be capable of coming up with an original thought. When students are implemented with these unrealistic expectations that you have to meet certain requirement in order to be a writer, they fall short of being able to realize their full potential. In The Irish Times, author and musician Josh Ritter writes about he struggled with the image of these genius authors. He writes, “Never mind that for my entire writing life I’d been writing at my kitchen table, with my guitar on my knee and a pen and notebook handy, if I wanted to be a real writer, I would need a desk. […] And without the desk, how could I write my novel?” Ritter comes to the conclusion that grand writing tables, remote cabins, and candlelit sitting don’t accurately represent what writing actually looks like for anyone. Instead now writing is more of a collaborative endeavor in which writing requires asking for your colleagues’ help or finding ideas and inspiration in others’ writing. The education our students are receiving should embrace this model of writing of collaboration over isolation.  As stated in the essay, “As both history and contemporary practice demonstrate, writing has always required deep social engagement and influence, and no writer has succeeded solely due to pretern
atural intellect or talent. The pervasive idea of the reclusive author and genius birthing prose free from influence must die—and in its wake, a renewed idea of productive and meaningful collaboration (with other writers and their texts) will thrive.” (Bad Ideas About Writing, 69)                                                                                                                                                

If our society stopped implementing these unrealistic expectations on what it takes to truly be a writer, would there be more published authors today? Those who because of these unrealistic expectations hold back on seeking to become writers because they believe their creativity doesn’t meet the standards and they’re hesitant the quality of their work because they don’t consider themselves geniuses like Shakespeare.  If our students were stopped being taught these bad ideas about writers and taught them that yes, writing is hard, but geniuses aren’t the only ones that can be writers.  

Edwards, Dustin and Paz, Enrique “Only Geniuses Can Be Writers”, Bad Ideas About Writing, Digital Publishing Institute, 2017.

Ritter, Josh “Paperback Ritter”, The Irish Times, June 1, 2012.