Do You Have Talent?

Recently a writing friend asked me, “How do you know if you’re any good?” It’s funny that she mentioned this because that same week I was talking with another friend about writing and I told him that I wondered if I was smart enough to write fiction. How would I know? How does anyone know? Especially if you’re like me and haven’t published any fiction yet.

In The Scene Book, A Primer for the Fiction Writer, author Sandra Scofield, who I met a few years ago at the Iowa Summer Writers Festival, addresses the issue of talent. She writes,

A person with a talent for writing has a sound grasp of language, a love of words, and a natural “narrative faculty” …. That faculty comprises a love of storytelling and a gift for recognizing, remembering, inventing, and telling stories — a gift you surely have if you are driven to write. It’s an aspect of talent you can cultivate by immersing yourself in more reading, and in reading more diverse stories, such as those by ethnic and immigrant writers, foreign writers, and other tellers of stories far from your experience.

“Technique, on the other hand, can be taught, practiced, and learned, whether it is constructing a scene or learning to use repetition for emphasis. My experience has been that an odd thing happens in craft workshops: As writers practice skills, their “talent” flowers.

The takeaway message here for me is clear. If you have a desire to write, you are a writer. Talent can be nurtured and technique can be practiced. Spending too much time wondering or worrying if you’re any good or if your stories are worth reading detracts from the mission at hand. Get in the room and write. Don’t get up. And finish it.

Photo: arkuin / Flickr Creative Commons

10 Comments on “Do You Have Talent?”

  1. With those last few lines, it’s clear that Ron Carlson is in the house at this blog. It’s like a mystic and angry mother gave birth to all you naughty writers and keeps on yelling at the top if her lungs: “Y’all stay in your rooms till I say you can come out!”

  2. I like that author’s take on talent and technique as well as your own advice to just get in that room and do it. Sometimes that’s the hardest part. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate it. I just found you on Twitter as well.

  3. I often worry that I’m not enough of an intellectual to write fiction. I worry that I use the same words over and over, that my ideas are banal. I think we must all feel that at one time or another. It’s hard to see writers who are 23, brilliant, already widely published and praised. It’s enough to make an unpublished writer (like myself) want to quit! But I think we go on because we love writing, sharing our work with others, and ultimately, improving. There’s pride in the work. Like any artisan, it’s a craft and we simply need to keep working at it, polishing it until it’s something we can feel proud of.

    Thanks for another wonderful post!

    • I feel the same way! Some people have natural talent. There is no way around it. You find it in every field, like sports or entertainment. But I do agree with Scofield that the more you work at your craft, the better you’ll get. Just keep at it.

  4. Pingback: The Exploratory Draft | Text Heavy | Tracy Staedter

  5. Pingback: Writing Advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald | Text Heavy | Tracy Staedter

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