Flipping the Writing Coin: Talent is a Four-Letter Word

(Cross-posted from Write Club)

Years ago, while taking painting lessons through the Louisville Visual Arts Association, I made the mistake of asking my instructor if I had talent. She gave me a pained look. While I don’t remember her exact words, the gist was she didn’t want to go there.

At first I was hurt and even a bit upset. I wanted to know if I had “the right stuff” to pursue an artistic career. But over the years I’ve come to realize she was right.

“Talent” is a four-letter word.

The problem with talent is it’s meaningless unless accompanied by a desire to succeed and a willingness to work toward that success. I could be the next Koontz or Bradbury (which I’m not) but unless I devote time to learning and improving my craft, it doesn’t matter one iota how much talent I have.

My high school teachers (and some students) raved about my writing. They insisted I had talent and should pursue publication. I went on to major in English and minor in creative writing with every intention of getting my masters in journalism. Graduation came and guess what?

My writing career spiraled down that long slide into oblivion. I never attended graduate school. And it was nearly a decade before I started freelance writing for two local magazines. Worse still? Even though I’d written stories in high school and college, I’d stopped writing fiction until a few years ago.

I may have had the talent but I didn’t have the drive. And even someone without talent can learn to write, paint, etc. without the need for any special aptitudes.

So if you fear lack of natural gifts is keeping you from being a successful writer, just remember: Talent is not a prerequisite to success.

Determination, perseverance, and persistence are.

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