Nature or Nuture?

holdinghandsI have a daughter and a son, and both of them love stories. I like to think my encouragement has something to do with that, but I also think some of it is intrinsic to their personalities. They also love making up their own stories, and my 7-yo daughter has even started up her own WIP on the computer. It’s about a princess who is kidnapped by a witch. :)

I am related to a famous writer. My grandmother, born Nellie Dickens, had Charles Dickens as her great uncle. Her grandfather was his brother. And when I was growing up, my family would often mention that my love of writing may be inherited. I have always wondered if that is true.

I just don’t know, either way. None of my other family members have wanted to write, although most of us love books and reading, but what is it in us that brings the writer forth, and is it an inherited characteristic? I’d love to hear what your take is on this. If you have children, do some look like they’ll take after your writing ways? I do know, like my daughter, I was writing stories since I could spell. But unlike her, I didn’t have a parent or sibling who was already doing it. It was truly a compulsion for me, whereas in my daughter’s case, it may just be her wanting to be like Mommy. I suppose time will tell which it is.

The reason I’ve blogged about family and writing today is because I’m participating in a mass blogging! WOW / Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We’re celebrating the release of Therese Walsh’s debut novel today.

The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers. Visit the WOW blog the Muffin to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all the blogging buddies. You can visit www.theresewalsh.com to find out more about the author.

And because as writers we are aware that we have to promote our own work when we get published, we have Therese herself blogging on Thursday here at MM about how she got the idea for this mass blogging, and how it worked for her. So come back Thursday for information on an interesting book marketing campaign.

About Michelle Diener

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction for Gallery Books. Her debut novel, IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, released in August, 2011, is set in the court of Henry VIII. It features the real historical figures of illuminator and painter, Susanna Horenbout, and Henry's Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the King's Robes, John Parker. A second book, also featuring Susanna and Parker, THE KEEPER OF THE KING'S SECRETS, was published on April 3rd, 2012. THE EMPEROR'S CONSPIRACY, a historical novel set in London during the Napoleonic Wars, is set for a November 27th, 2012 release.
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23 Responses to Nature or Nuture?

  1. Liz Kreger says:

    I’m hoping the love of reading and/or writing is both nature and nurture, Michelle. Since my daughter is adopted, I have no way of knowing what her birth family’s reading habits are. As far as nurturing, I try to encourage reading as much as possible, but with my little darlin’, its an uphill battle. She just doesn’t enjoy reading. Which, of course, breaks my heart since I’m such an avid reader.

    Hopefully that will change with time and encouragement.

    Will try to roam the internet today to see the WoW posts. Very kewl idea.

  2. Elle J Rossi says:

    Hmmm…Interesting question. I write. Three of my sisters write. However, we also used to sing–for a living. I think creativity may be inherited but I’m really not sure. Neither my mother or father wrote or sang, but perhaps somewhere in the family tree others did.

    I also have a 7 year old daughter. I’m very fortunate that she loves to read. Her storytelling capabilities are definitely there, I just need her to elaborate more. I like the idea of allowing her to use the computer to write her story.

    Enjoy your day,
    ~~Elle

  3. Erica Orloff says:

    I always love this sort of question–and I presume it’s a bit of both. Neither of my parents writes. My mom is an avid reader and modeled that for me. My dad always encouraged me to be a writer without concern for making a living at it, per se. I have two sisters, neither of whom write. One is an English teacher, though, and the other is incredibly creative!! (She is a wedding planner and one of the most celebrated in Boston–beautiful work she does!)

    I never cared about “practical” careers for me–or my kids. So far, I seem to have one musician, one genetic engineering programmer, one filmmaker and one Demon Baby/future rock guitarist. We’ll obviously see as they grow up . . . but I think they all have SOME arts interest–all play instruments, some of them more than one . . . but then again, they grew up with it all around them . . . but then again they have half my genes . . . and then again . . .

    LOL!

  4. Edie Ramer says:

    My mother didn’t write, but she was a voracious reader. None of my brothers and sisters write or are that creative. My son is very creative. He’s not a reader, but when in college, he wrote a story for his English class that stunned me, it was so good. Right now he’s channeling his creativity into his garden and his lawn, but he’s also made sculptures, headboards, candlesticks, etc. Functional creations.

  5. I’m in the nurture camp, probably because I know exactly what to do for a baby through ten years old to make them musically “talented,” LOL. It’s all a matter of REALLY knowing how to nurture something, and in that, it’s often a family member who needs the same trait in order to nurture it in someone else, so it appears as nature. :-)

    That’s just my take. :-)

  6. PS: You’re famous! You’re related to my hero! That is the absolute COOLEST!

  7. LaDonna says:

    Hey Michelle, really great blog! :smile: I do have another writer in the family, but haven’t met her. She was a second cousin of my moms, I think.

    Anyway, creativity reins supreme in my fam! My oldest is a photographer and it spills into other areas of her life. She has a knack for seeing results beforehand, whether it be decorating a room or a pose she wants to experiment with. One of my grandchildren has a WIP on his computer too. Two others write little songs to sing. My girls write occassional poems, and my mom expressed herself through acting and dance.

    Seriously, though, children are amazingly creative. In my opinion, that when it’s unharnessed and in its purest form. Nurture is the word of the day! :wink:

  8. Michelle says:

    Liz, the older of my two brothers didn’t enjoy reading when he was younger, now he loves it. So it can be something that changes with time.

    And I agree, very cool idea.

  9. Michelle says:

    Hi, Elle. Singing for a living sounds like a blast. You are obviously from a creative family. :)

  10. Michelle says:

    Erica, exactly. Round and round we go. Which is it? I’m sure, like you, it’s a bit of both.

  11. Michelle says:

    Edie, I love functional art! And funny about your son writing such a great story. He’d probably be one of those writers who writes a book and gets it published right off the bat.

    I am a creative person in other ways that writing, too. I used to sew, and I have painted, but most of all, I love to bake. Cakes and French pastry are really functional art :) .

  12. Michelle says:

    I agree that nuturing must go a LOOONG way, Natasha. But for example, in my case, why did I write stories from a young age? No one nurtured that in me at all. I did it completely on my own. Although I was given plentiful access to books. Hmmm. As I said earlier, round and round we go.

  13. Michelle says:

    LOL, Spy, I always found him really good, but a bit heavy on the descriptions. Are you familiar with his biography? He wasn’t always the nicest person. The recent Mann Booker Prize finalist Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold was based on his life, although parts of it were fictionalized. Fascinating reading.

  14. Michelle says:

    LaD, so true. What comes out of both my kids’ imagination is wonderful. I’ve had more than one good idea based on their musings!

  15. I don’t remember either of my parents (or my sister) being a heavy-duty reader like I was. However, now my sister and dad seem to read a lot. My mom is a major magazine reader (you should see the stacks of magazines in her bedroom and living room)

    As far as I know, there were no writers in my family. But how cool you can trace yourself to a famous writer. If I were you, I’d go with “it runs in my blood”!

  16. Kath Calarco says:

    It’s my nature to write, but if not for my mother’s nurturing, I may never have felt the wonder of stories. When I was pre-school and my older siblings in school, mom taught me to read as well as write. She was an avid reader, promoted my interest in visiting the library, and my father read to us every single night. They made both important.

    As for your relationship to Charles Dickens and your inherited talent, maybe you got the recessive gene. ;) Lucky you!

  17. Theresa says:

    The nature or nurture question is something I’ve always wondered about myself.

    My mom was always an avid reader. Her mother, father and brother were as well. And from what I hear my grandmother was quite a poet, and used to write jingles for a living. My mom used to read to us every night when we were kids, and as we got older, my older brother and I continued to read…but my sister and younger brother had no interest in reading. While my grandmother wrote, nobody else in my family did. But both my parents were very creative– my dad was an Architect and known in our small community as someone who was creative and way ahead of his time in his design astetic. My mom painted, sewed, quilted, gardened, did stain-glass.

    However I was the only one of us four kids who started writing. And like Michelle, I did so at a very young age and without any prompting from my parents. Lately, however, my older brother has started writing. He’s yet to actually finish anything– but he’s started and stopped a couple of books. I think in his case, the fact that his girlfriend writes, is what spurred him on.

    But the really interesting thing is my nieces. My youngest brother, who thinks reading/writing is a waste of energy has seven daughters. None of these kids were read to as children (except by me and my mom during visits)but three of these girls are incredible story tellers. Two of them have already started writing poems and little stories– both these girls are under ten years of age. To my relief my brother and sister-in-law are supporting and praising their efforts. So in my nieces case, I think it almost has to be nature…and it must be traced back to my brother’s side of the family since my sister-in-laws family doesn’t seem to have any creativity there at all.

  18. Donnell says:

    Michelle, how could you not write being related to Dickens. Oh my gosh, what an amazing literary line you come from. How fantastic That Therese Walsh’s The Last Will of Moira Leahy led to us learning this about you. As for children, my daughter is an avid, avid reader, and a great editor, but has no patience for writing. My son, it wouldn’t surprise me if he took up writing at some point. He’s entirely creative when he’s not studying to be a CPA (Oy talk about an oxymoron.

  19. Michelle says:

    LOL, thanks, Cyndi. I definitely have noticed my brothers in particular read more now than they ever did as children. My Mom read more now, too, I think.

  20. Michelle says:

    Kath, I agree that a nuturing, supportive environment is huge. A friend of mine grew up in a house where reading was considered a waste of time. I don’t know how I’d have turned out if I’d grown up in that same kind of environment.

  21. Michelle says:

    Theresa, how exciting to have budding writers in your nieces, and great that your brother and SIL support them.

  22. Michelle says:

    LOL, Donnell. Especially about your son. To tell the truth, when he bothers too, my youngest brother, a computer scientist, can write some mean sci-fi. If only he had the inclination and patience, I’m sure he’d do really well.

  23. Michelle, oooh, Charles Dickens. Very cool.

    My son seems to like writing more than my daughter, but I think they both have a gift. (He’ll sometimes ask out of the blue, “Can I go type?”) I wonder if it springs more from my husband and me reading to them constantly as little ones than anything genetic. Maybe it’s a combination–some nurture + nature.

    Thanks so much for participating in my blogging tsunami, Michelle. I look forward to coming back tomorrow to tell you more about it.

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