The Talent Myth

The myth of effortless talent has always annoyed me.  Nobody is great at something naturally.  Everyone who has mastered anything has put time and effort into it.  Studies have shown that child prodigies are talented because they started young and thus, have an edge in terms of experience and practice to those of similar age, and not because they were born with some magical gift.

Because I’m a professoinal novelologist, a lot of people think I went to college.  I didn’t.  The next assumption is that I have always been interested in writing, even from a young age.  I wasn’t.  I didn’t really consider writing as a career (or even a hobby) until I was 16.  I was a decent writer, of course, but it wasn’t a calling.  I felt no need to tell stories.  I wasn’t driven by some inner muse.  It just sort of happened.

I do believe some basic ability is important.  A monkey can’t write a book.  A dwarf can’t be a basketball star.  But I am here, as a writer, because I worked at it.

There’s nothing special about me or what I do.  Nearly anyone can do it.  And plenty of people want to do it.  But wanting to do it and doing it are two very different things.  I’m a good writer and it’s not because I was blessed by a muse that whispers in my ear.  I’m a good writer because I write, because I wrote.

I wrote for 13 years with nothing to show for it.  I wrote when there was no payday.  I wrote when it looked like I would never get published.  I wrote stories I was pretty sure would never even get published.  How many pages did I write, how many hours?  When I look at my seven published books sitting on the bookshelf, I realize just how much material I’ve produced that has been published.  And how much more I’ve written that hasn’t been and never will be.

It’s easy to do something when it’s fun and rewarding.  But if you want to be really good at something, you have to work through the hard, discouraging part.  Every book I’ve ever written has had difficult sections, parts where the characters refused to cooperate and the plot didn’t want to work with me.  But what makes me a writer is getting past those sections through sheer stubborn determination.  If I just waited for a finished book to flow out of me uninterrupted you would not be reading this now because you would never have heard of me because those books would never have been written.

Talent doesn’t come from the gods.  It comes from doing something and doing it over and over again until you get good at it.  Or at least until you get lucky.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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One Comment

  1. Elizabeth
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Yep-I feel the same way about being a politician.

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