Saturday, January 20, 2018

Talent vs Skill // {aka} Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Writer?

Back to a substantial post as promised! :) Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey from last week. It's still open! I think about this topic all the time, so I'm excited to finally share my thoughts.

If you pay attention in the writing world you'll notice that the talent vs skill debate is out there. People are constantly being told they have to do X to be a good writer. Some people are born with an actual talent for writing (ingrained, luck-of-the-draw aptitude). Some develop skills (intentionally learned and studied). 

First, let me argue that everyone, everyone should develop writing skills if they want to be a writer. It doesn't matter how good you are starting out, you can always improve. ALWAYS. That's part of it.

Because of that, many people advocate that anyone can be a writer with enough work. Skill. You learn the ropes, follow the rules, and voila. I don't disagree with this. Really I don't. But just because someone can do something doesn't mean he or she should (like Abi and paint). I mean, let's face it. It's really good news for every wannabe writer that with enough work they can get there. DO NOT let me discourage you. But now let's face the other hand: 

Everyone is born with certain talents which makes them stand out from the crowd. Is it fair? Well, everyone has talent; everyone's talent is not writing. *shrug* Fair or not, that's the truth of it.

The thing is, you don't have to have talent to have passion. And passion means dedication. Which will help you pursue skill.

It's not up to any particular person to determine who has what level of talent or skill. That's mainly based in perception. Some of the most well-known authors didn't live to see their own legacy. That's because perception is fallible. Big words, I know. ;) Broken down that means that just because you might not be appreciated doesn't mean you or your work is lame. Not at all. Don't let how people perceive you damage your vision. However, watch for useful nuggets of feedback because there is always room to keep moving forward. That was Disney's motto after all and look where it got him. ;)

So to sum all this up: How do you know if you have what it takes to be a writer?

I'm going to suggest it all comes down to commitment. It doesn't matter how much talent you're born with or without if you're just going to sit there. Talent is a great leg up for "success" by the world's standards. Not going to lie. But despite where you're starting from, no one goes anywhere without a commitment to improvement. Improvement is how you develop the skill set you'll need to reach your goal.

As an editor, I've seen it both ways (and I'm not talking about particular people here, so don't wrack your brain!). Consider these the two camps:

  • those with natural writing talent often lack skill, making the biggest and most basic mistakes
  • those with natural grammar skills often trod all over basic writing rules and lack the knack
That's because as an editor, I'm reading drafts. I'm helping people find what they're missing before their readers do. The goal is that a book never makes it to publishing missing an element that big. You have to find the balance. Notice that regardless of which camp you fall into, very few fall into both naturally. You're most likely going to have to "fake it till ya make it" on either talent (prose) or skill (grammar). In other words, be committed to improving your deficiencies. Which starts with someone like me pointing them out. Kindly, of course. ;)

I would suggest that then the sky is your limit.
Confession: I had the topic, but not the content of this article when I began writing it. And most of it was written very late at night. So I really want your thoughts on this one! I hope it made sense ;P

Which camp do you think you fall into? Writing talent without grammar skills or grammar skills without the writing knack?

Hint: I am definitely #2. Not because I can't get my act together, but because actually writing words, not the rules, is what stumps me.