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DO YOU NEED MATH SKILLS TO BE A GOOD WRITER?

September 15, 2021

            Okay, the article isn’t really about that, per se, but about the subject of additional skills in general required to be a writer.

            Last week (as I write this), or maybe the week before, that exact question came up on one of the forums (Facebook, of course), and my answer was a resounding NO! Of course, I was polite in my response, but I did mention that I’m allergic to math.

            When I think about it, it IS a legitimate question. There’s some logic to it.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT…

            When you’re a plotter, it could be assumed it takes a mathematical mind to map out a plot in a logical timeline or linear way, and to lock all the elements into place.

            That seems like a logical assumption.

            However, that’s not the case in real life.

            People with math skills don’t necessarily have anything to do with people with plotting skills. In fact, people with extreme or too focused logic skills might have a very hard time with imaginative creative skills. I’m not saying some don’t, it’s just that there’s no direct correlation. On the other hand, without skill at logic, one cannot put together a plot that makes sense. It’s a matter of degrees.

ONE DOES NOT MAKE ANOTHER

            While one may well be very good at one skill does not make them very good at another.

            Someone very good at math, might also be decent or very good at plotting or writing. A good mathematician might be terrible at plotting, or so rigid that their stories are flat and dry and have no life to them because their imagination is too stripped due to their rigid logic.

            Another person with no math skills may be great at plotting and writing and be no good at math only because they were introduced to that skill in the wrong way. Or, it could be that they really aren’t any good at math. They can plot and are decent enough at logic to put together a good plot, but when it comes to numbers, that all falls apart.

            On the other hand, having skills at many things can play into your writing by being able to draw from those experiences into your writing. We’ll get to those in a moment.

            Someone very good at proper English and grammar may still suck at writing. One does not make another. Properly being able to put sentences together is a huge help. However, if one doesn’t have any imagination, there’s no point in having a great skill you can’t use for anything except technical writing.

            At the same time, having a super wild imagination does one no good if you can’t put it down into something comprehensible.

            Being a good athlete does not make one a good writer any more than being a good mechanic or a musician. Those skills can all be great to draw on for story purposes, but the key to writing is imagination AND an ability to be able to put sentences together AND be able to write, have a desire to write, AND be able to put something together in a logical fashion. The extraneous skills, whether math, accounting, English, grammar, bird watching, carpenter, mechanic, spelunker, are all things you can draw experience from. The key is still being able and having a desire to tell a good story.

SUMMARY

            You don’t have to be good at anything else in particular to be a good writer except be decent enough at English and grammar so as not to be too much of a burden to your editor. The desire to write and it being a passion, at least to me, are the most important. If it’s a desire instead of a hobby, then you will not only find the time to write, you will continually hone your skills. You will find the method of writing that works best for you, whether it being a pantser or a plotter. You will draw on life experiences, and/or research for your ideas. Some of those life experiences may include other skills you already have, but I’ll just bet a lot of them DON’T. For many, that may include math!

            Happy writing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2021 2:37 am

    Oh yeah, while I feel that math isn’t a pre-requisite, it’s also a skill that you can draw from to enhance your writing, just like all the other skills that will breathe life into your stories. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    • September 18, 2021 12:42 pm

      Stuart,

      Thank you so much for the feedback! Yes, any skill can help but most of them not are mandatory, per se. I’m terrible at math, at least deep math, yet I use simple math every day. I guess it may help in some way.

      All the best!

      Fred

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