Blog | Oct 22, 2010 | 5 Comments

[the writing gene]

[where does writing talent come from?]

Lately, I’ve been musing about the degree to which talents or interests are inherited, especially those that lead to a career. That led me to thinking about the writers in my own family.

My father said that as long as he could remember, his mother, Louise, wrote at least a dozen letters each week.

These were not cards or short notes, but long missives composed in cramped handwriting on both sides of at least a half-dozen pages of stationery. Ten sheets was probably the average. And Louise was a busy farmer’s wife and entrepreneur who raised four children during the Depression and war time.

These letters were packed with information about people and places I never knew, yet her chatty, informal writing style won me over. Sometimes a paragraph continued for two pages and I would read breathlessly to the end, amazed at her ability to carry on with one thought for so long. I also loved her short-cuts: esp., tho’, tho’t (thought), and more.  I admired her ability to keep track of the details of the lives of a large extended family. I was always amused at her intense interest in the weather, and marveled at how she actually made it sound interesting.

Louise also contributed to the small paper in her very small town in Iowa.

Her specialty was obituaries but she occasionally contributed small articles about her family. I would often get clippings with her letters. Once or twice, I was featured in her articles, as when I graduated from high school all the way out in Oakland, California. When she wasn’t able to write any more, her daughter, Emma Lou, took up the obituaries and occasional family news item.

Louise was a born communicator.

She always talked a lot, too. I mean A LOT. Emma Lou is from that mold, too–cheerful, chatty, and always keenly interested in what everyone else is doing. She writes shorter letters and more cards, but at 80+ she is extremely active on email. I applaud her ability to embrace technology and keep in touch with family and friends far and near.

So, this is my writing pedigree.

No novelists or professional journalists, and not even an English teacher. Just average people who loved to put pen to paper to “keep in touch,”  honor the dead, or show their pride in family.

Have you ever thought about where your skills and talents come from? Did you receive any inspiration or encouragement from family? Please share a story here.

Photo credit: Photo by Adrian Clark on flickr. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


I think a lot of what we love to do is inherited, if not through our genes than through our environment and upbringing. Our family and friends are our strongest influences.


Claire Wagner Reply:

Steven, the interesting thing is that I only met these women a few times in my life because I was not raised by my father. My “family of upbringing” did encourage the arts, though more in music. Thanks as always for your fine comments.




AND you have an aspiring professional-writer daughter! Lucie is news editor for La Voz Weekly at De Anza College. Her latest article on the Dalai Lama’s visit to San Jose is here: Way to go on that genetic-writing-gene thing!


Lisa H.-S.


So many variables. I think there are some natural story tellers. From leaders to writers their tales are woven with varied materials but all share the same drive to engage the world directly. The only way I know how to do this is to actively give way for the muses that flow through those around me. It’s not my place to question why. Wouldn’t want to jinx things.


Claire Wagner Reply:

“Give way for the muse.” That is a good lesson for me this coming week – thanks for the reminder. We don’t know where they come from – the environment, friends, family, our personal history, or even the Divine. We just accept the gifts.




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