is writing in the genes?

Do you think the urge to write is innate – a quirk of the genes we are born with? Or is it behaviour learned from observing parents, role models or others close to us? Or could it be something else entirely, a random striking of inspiration, a bolt from the blue?

books open

My Dad is a writer and, although it was never his day-job, the image of him sitting in an armchair, pad of paper on his knee, scribbling away with a fountain pen, is one that sums him up for me in many ways. His stories and poems are woven throughout my childhood memories along with all the other books he and my mum read to us. My uncles are writers too, my grandfather is a wonderful storyteller and, in fact, everywhere you look in my family, there seems to be a passion for reading, writing, stories, books and well, just words in general.

So maybe my writing ambitions were inevitable. Certainly, I remember having ‘writer’ on my list of future careers (along with ‘vet’ and ‘air hostess’!) from a very early age. Why it took me ’till a few years ago to actually realise it was a career I wished to pursue, I have no idea.

The lovely thing is, I’m now seeing this passion for books in my sons too: my eldest (8) is a prolific reader and his younger brother (6) isn’t far behind. They both love to write too – I came down to breakfast the other morning to find them both with their heads down over pieces of paper, concentrating hard. “Good morning boys!” I chimed (oh, ok, since it was morning, I probably grunted it) only to be met with “Shhhhh, we’re writing our novels!” Oh, ok then.

Yesterday I found this on the kitchen table, written by my six-year-old:

cow story

I have no idea what a ‘wild life tiger toothed fish ocean’ is but I’m very glad the cows escaped from those nasty humans. Mind you, reading it again… three little cows who had to escape two big humans… that’s not a metaphor for him and his brothers having to escape their Dad and me is it? Hmmm, the less said about that the better!

How about you – does writing run in your family? Are there any passions of yours that you see reflected in your children?

Little Hearts, Big Love
Writing Bubble

33 thoughts on “is writing in the genes?

  1. Belle Amatt

    I do believe that a passion for books, whether reading, writing or both is learnt behavior. I would sit for hours as a child wading my way through Daphne Du Maurier novels with a dictionary by my side. I’d observed my Mother, lost for hours in these books and I wanted to find this kind of tranquility through reading. I see the same traits in my own girls. Surround them with books I say!

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  2. Carie @ Space for the Butterflies

    I think that’s a tough one- when your parents are the source of both your genetic make up and your roll models how do you tell what’s nature and what’s nurture? My Mum wasn’t a writer but she did enjoy reading, my Dad on the other hand is a complete bookworm, loved reading me bedtime stories (and now does the same for my three) and teaching me to learn poetry for the joy of it. He’s written two textbooks, a play and numerous poems in Latin or Ancient Greek to celebrate high days and holidays for his colleagues (he was a classics teacher) so I don’t think the Apple has fallen too far from the tree!

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  3. Silly Mummy

    Interesting. Both of my parents enjoy writing and are very good writers. Love that your sons were writing their novels and they clearly have a flair for it! Not sure I’d like to go in the wild life tiger toothed fish ocean! #ftmob

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  4. Nicola Young

    I don’t have writing in my genes that I know of, but I have always wanted to write. My friend and I used to put together our own magazines and write articles to go with them and I’ve often wondered how I ended up doing sciences, but I was unfortunately pushed in that direction and it’s taken a long time to come back to what I always wanted to do. I’ve said for as long as I can remember that I would like to be an author, but I never had ‘that’ book until after I had my third child and started working on my stories.
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  5. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    Gosh, I think I echo what Nicola says – writing is not at all in my genes. However, I read extensively as a child and I always wanted to write as well, stories and poetry, so maybe its a chance thing. Somehow I got stifled when I ‘grew up’ and I ended up doing very different things, although I kept reading. Now my girls love stories – reading or making them up, but unfortunately school has rather put them off writing them down at the moment. Nature or nurture is a hard question to answer because for most people they are given their genes and their upbringing by the same people. I constantly feel like I am running a twin genetic experiment, and it is interesting to see how different classes/teachers are influencing the girls learning and self expression (although I would agree that initial interest is probably innate) . Thought provoking, Maddy. xx
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I think reading and stories are the key to creativity – It’s a rare writer who wasn’t or isn’t an avid reader I think. Such a shame that your girls are being put off writing by school :(. It must be very interesting to watch twins develop though! Thanks for commenting, Alice x
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  6. Emily Organ

    What a fascinating thought. I don’t think writing runs in my family, my Grandpa wrote his memoirs of the war in a series of exercise books (which I’ve transcribed) but apart from that no writing in my family at all. How lovely to read about your own family. I put my need to write down to being a quiet child who didn’t feel listened to and so writing became my form of self expression. Well there has to be a writer angst story somewhere doesn’t there? However, like you I notice my children love writing stories. They read a lot and make their own books, I think its lovely in an age where everyone likes to blame computers for dumbing down our children. So I think my enthusiasm for reading and writing has definitely passed on, that might be nurture rather than nature.
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  7. Mummy Tries

    As others have said here, I’m a firm believer that this kind of stuff is environmental. As children we mimic what the adults are doing, good and bad… fortunately for you it’s a great thing to read and be able to write little stories, especially at such a young age. Sounds like your boys are certainly going to follow in their mum’s footsteps :) xxx
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  8. Sophie Lovett

    Interesting thoughts… Neither of my parents are very into reading, let alone writing, but they did always make sure the house was full of books when we were growing up and it wasn’t long before I became obsessed! I thought it was completely normal until I went on some home visits as a teacher and realised that have books – any books – at home is far from a given. Arthur is, of course, completely surrounded by words – and though he’s a bit little to be tackling novels he is very interested in letters and the act of writing. And he loves to read – ideally with someone else but he’s still happy to sit down and look through the pictures on his own. Time will tell if he catches the storytelling bug! xx
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  9. El

    Interesting and very thought provoking…I do not see any writing interest from anyone in my family but I have always loved writing and reading. And only 1 out of my 3 kids have the same interest – so I don’t really know. I would say it is a combination of both genetics and environment – the environment allows us to express and develop our interest and potential. Thank you for hosting WhatImWriting.
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  10. Susie Fiddes

    It’s an interesting question and I really enjoyed hearing about your family’s inherited written creativity. I always had a vivid imagination as a child and was a real book worm too. Whilst I was always read to and heavily encouraged to read, I don’t necessarily think I come from arty, creative stock. I sometimes wonder if I would be more confident about pursuing this path if I did as it would feel a bit more acceptable. I come from a line of professionals, mainly accountants and solicitors and I guess that’s why I drifted down that route – though I’d never really considered it from this perspective till you mentioned it. Thanks for this thought generating post X
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I think that what our parents, family members and those close to us do can have an impact on us in ways we don’t necessarily notice. It affects what seems normal to us. I can imagine your profession almost seeming like the path of lease resistance to you, even though you didn’t pick an easy career. Glad you’ve found the path of true righteousness now though (writing) ;) Thanks for commenting, Susie. x
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  11. Rebecca Ann Smith

    Interesting topic. I think it’s a combination of nature, nurture and individual spark/motivation. My grandfather was a great (oral) storyteller, and both my parents read a lot and were interested in stories, but neither are writers. Both my kids are keen readers, but I can’t tell yet whether their creative impulses will drive them towards words on a page or something else entirely!

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    1. Maddy Post author

      I think reading and stories are the key to kids developing an interest. Not that they will necessarily be readers – let alone writers – just because we are, but I think it pushes them in that direction and helps nurture any sparks that exist.

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  12. Louise

    Interesting to reflect on whether writing in the genes – no-one else in my family shares my passion for writing as far as I know but I too have felt a desire to write for as long as I can remember and used to write lots of stories as a child. I loved reading your son’s story and particularly the dramatic effect of changing the font midway through with a little illustration. What wonderfully vivid imaginations children have. Glad the three little cows got away from the two humans and the tiger toothed fish ocean. Thanks for sharing with #ftmob :-)
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    1. Maddy Post author

      I think they’re all safer on dry land! I liked the change of font too and he often illustrates his stories. Interesting how early on an urge to write seems to develop with you writing stories as a child too. Thanks for commenting, Louise and for hosting #ftmob
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  13. Rachael

    Good question! I thought not when I was younger, but one day seemingly out of the blue my Mum announced that she had written a story and asked if I’d read it and critique it for her (I must have been in my teens as it was a little risque!)… It was a fantastic piece of writing that blew me away. Until then, I had no idea (although her fascination with fairies probably did point to an imagination as vivid as the one she nurtured in me)… So maybe yes, who knows! My sister is creative too (she writes songs) and my brother, although he keeps that pretty quiet ;)

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  14. Dana

    How wonderful that you come from so many writers, Maddy! I wonder if it is a gene, I’d say, maybe so. You hear of people with musical ability having children with talent, so why not with writing? No one else in my family would identify as a writer, though I know my grandmother wanted to be a writer, and there are certainly plenty of story tellers. My daughter is showing signs of artistic talent, or at least interest :) in both art and writing, which pleases me immensely!
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  15. Jenny @ Unremarkable Files

    That is so sweet! One of my favorite things is reading the stories the kids write and school and bring home. My favorite: my son was supposed to write a story about a gingerbread man who came to life and it went something like, “Once there was a gingerbread cookie who came to life. A human ate him. He was scared.” The end.
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