Can the Writing Gene be Inherited?

Hello, SEers! Mae here with you today as we enter a new month. Happy first day of July!

In June, I raised the question “are writers born or made?” Today, I want to follow up with another question: can the writing gene be inherited?

strands of DNA

Think about the Bronte sisters. Neither parent was a writer, though both were said to be extremely literate. All three sisters, plus their brother, played games of imagination as children, possibly cultivating their creative side while dreaming up fanciful places. My earlier post, Are Writers Born or Made, would point to this as their “trigger” moment—assuming the desire to write was dormant inside.

We also have brothers Alex and Evelyn Waugh, known for Islands in the Sun and Brideshead Revisited, respectively. Their father, Arthur Waugh was a biographer (Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning), as well as a literary critic. Evelyn’s son, Auberon went on to become a writer, followed by his grandson, Alexander—a literary dynasty!

H.G. Wells’ illegitimate son, Anthony West, became a critically acclaimed author. West’s mother, Rebecca, was also an author.

Today, Stephen King is building his own writing dynasty through sons, Joe Hill and Owen King, both successful authors. King’s wife, Tabitha, is also a popular novelist.

It’s easy to look at the family trees above and believe children inherited the writing gene from their parents. Is it possible?

Science says yes—and no.

Consider abnormal behavior. Once thought to be the result of environment and trauma, genetics are now viewed as a primary influence. Certainly environment and life experiences are still factors, but do they unleash something already dormant inside?

Creativity can be viewed in the same manner.

Some scientists believe everyone is born with a creative gene, but that many lose the potential for arts as we advance through life. Most children view the world with curiosity and wonder, but that outlook is easily corrupted as we age. Life lessons, lack of time, and fear of failure all play a part in sucking dry our creative side. Those who subscribe to this theory believe creativity can be relearned at any point in life (trigger moments?). If, however, the creative side is nurtured from the time we are children, we grow and flourish in that environment.

What do you think? I don’t see everyone being born with musical or artistic talent. I can’t hold a note and my drawing skills are deplorable. Why would writing be any different?

My father wrote stories from the time he was in grade school, through his early twenties. I am convinced I inherited my gift of words from him. But writing wasn’t his true passion. He loved art—enough to obtain a degree from an art college.

artist brushes and tubes of oil paint

My family has many of his paintings, and as a child, I always remember art supplies in the house—oil paints, brushes, pastels, and charcoal pencils. But I never once remember my father painting. Occasionally, I’d ask him to draw something and he’d sketch it out on a scrap of paper, but it was as though the demands of life stripped away his creative side. With four kids, a house and a job, he didn’t have time to continue to nurture that gene. Instead, he and my mother nurtured mine—the sole reason I’m a writer today. If my father had lived into retirement years, maybe he would have taken up painting again.

I also wonder why didn’t I inherit my father’s skill for art? Was that a different genetic influence that passed me by? I have three siblings, but I am the only writer in the family. We all grew up in the same environment, so if all are born with a creative gene, why aren’t they writers, too? None of us are artists.

I know I’ve rambled all over the place with this post, but here’s the takeaway—two schools of thought. I’ve mixed some of my own into Theory No. 2.

Theory No. 1
We are all be born with a creative gene
That gene flourishes when nurtured

Theory No. 2
The gene for creativity is inherited
The trait could lie dormant for multiple generations
Trigger moments and environment factor into how the gene develops

Was someone in your family a writer? Can you trace your creativity to another member of your family or someone in your ancestral line? Perhaps your creativity is the result of having teachers and peers encourage you. Or perhaps you happened onto the writing path through your own determination and perseverance.

Now it’s time to share your thoughts—can the writing gene be inherited?

Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair


139 thoughts on “Can the Writing Gene be Inherited?

  1. Nobody in my family that I know of wrote or had any interest in writing. I started writing because I found it an easier way to express myself, and my family encouraged reading and writing because they saw that I ‘took’ to it.

    I definitely would say creativity and an imagination is inherited, because my family are all creative in different ways… Drawing/painting, calligraphy, knitting/crochet etc.
    In fact, quite a few painters in the family now that I think about it…


  2. My father wrote short stories and poetry, and has always had a passion for words (it was Dad who taught me to read). His mother, my grandmother, also wrote poetry. I would like to think that I inherited a creative gene. Maybe I did. But I also know that my Dad gave me a passion for words by allowing me to immerse myself in his book collection from as far back as I can remember. So perhaps, like you say, there is a creative gene that we are all born with, but like anything, it has to be protected and nurtured, otherwise it withers and dies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Eleanor! It certainly sounds like creativity and love for words runs in your family. It’s wonderful that it has carried through so many generations and is especially strong in you and your father. Books are also key. I inherited my love of writing from my father, but my mother was the one with the book collection.

      I wish you happy writing. Clearly, your talent was fed and nurtured by family. That’s the way it should be!

      Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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