I had a back-and-forth discussion this past week with an aspiring writer, who felt crushed because she “wasn’t talented enough” to make it as an indie author. I asked her how she’d come to that conclusion. She said that all her previous efforts (which she was reluctant to share) were “useless” or “no good” or “dull”. She couldn’t seem to ignite a spark in or with her words that would make potential readers catch fire.
In reply, I sent her this image, courtesy of Alan Squires on Twitter a few years ago.
Not one of those attributes requires “talent” as such – but I’m willing to bet that an awful lot of supposedly “talented” people (including yours truly) are found wanting in one or more of them from time to time. Some of us may even lack most of them! (Glances guiltily in mirror.) If she would apply herself, and work at it, and keep on trying, sooner or later her writing would probably improve to such an extent that it would become more marketable.
I used myself as an example, pointing out that I’d taken several years and a couple of million words to learn the craft before publishing my first book. I still have almost 30 early manuscripts stored on my hard drive, most of which are too badly written to ever even get near publication status; but they helped me learn and improve, so they still served a useful purpose. If it comes to that, I don’t think my first book was all that good. I re-read it now and wince at some of the amateurish mistakes I made! I think my more recent books are much better. Still, I guess most writers will say something similar. We learn as we go along.
The conversation started me thinking. I daresay a certain amount of talent is necessary, no matter how much practice one gets or effort one puts in. Nevertheless, I think hard work with minimal talent will produce better results – perhaps much better – than talent with minimal hard work.
… that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless…
In his case, his blindness prevented him using his gift for writing (or so he thought in his despair). Needless to say, he worked things out, and continued to produce great poetry.
There’s also the fact that hard work will teach you certain things you won’t learn by not applying yourself. An example:
I’m interested to hear your opinions on talent versus hard work. What say you?