It’s not uncommon for parents to look at personality traits as they develop in their children and think, Oh, that’s just like me. So a joint study recently released by researchers from Yale and Moscow State University should not come as any great surprise: that creative parents tend to produce creative children.
Okay, it’s not a surprise. But it is a wonderful confirmation that the creativity writers pour into their work is a trait that we may have received from our parents, and will likely pass to our children.
My youngest wrote his first story at age four. He wasn’t old enough to type the words, but he dictated while I typed. Called “Forest Adventures,” this one page story was about a man who goes into the forest where all sorts of horrific things happen, including being attacked by bees, and also bears who crawl all over the man’s bus “including that part where the people go in.”
Okay, so it’s probably not going to win the Newbery, but as both a mother and an author, it gave me a slight bit of hope that maybe one day, there might be another writer in the family.
There are several examples of literary families: the Bronte sisters and the brothers Grimm are perhaps the most famous, but David Updike, the son of John Updike, is a children’s and short story author. The daughter of feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft is Mary Shelley, author of “Frankenstein.” Mary Higgins Clark co-wrote several books with her daughter, Carol, who has gone on to write books of her own.
The joint study analyzed the creative writing of 511 children between the ages of 8 and 17 and compared it to their parents’ writing. The themes for the writing were the same for each age group, such as “were I invisible” for children and “who lives and what happens on a planet called Priumliava” for adults. The stories were then rated for their originality, plot development and quality, and creative use of prior knowledge. Factors such as general intelligence and the way the family interacted with each other were accounted for.
The researchers concluded what most parents have long known, that there are inheritable traits that have nothing to do with hair and eye color. They stated, “It may be worth further studies to confirm that creative writers are indeed born, as well as made.”
So how does this affect us as writers? Well, for those who are also parents, this is a reminder that the work we do is not solely for the story, or for our readers. Exploring our own creative instincts becomes a role model for our children, who, research shows, may have those same instincts. Let your children see you create so that one day they will create for themselves. And what parent would not be thrilled about that?