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.


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

    Hm, maybe the second one, definitely. Though my grammar is not by any means bad, it's not as good as I would like it to be? Which sounds more like the first one but I think I'm more of the second one.

    Yeah, writing is definitely a skill for me. I'm TERRIBLE at telling stories and getting to the point quickly. I had, like all writers had to research and work hard to get to where am I today. I still have lots to work on. I need more conflict in my stories and good resolutions. Also, descriptions would be nice.

    1. Yeah I'm kind of a mix. But I have more grammar skill than writing talent I think. At least that's what I had first. It's so great that you know what to work on! Accepting some critique and knowing where to grow is such a great starting point for improvement! :)

  2. Great insights, Abi! I'm not sure which camp I'd say I belong in...I would definitely like to think of myself as naturally inclined to write and tell stories, and though I sometimes allow my story-telling to push aside the rules and structures of writing, it's not so much because I don't know it...hmm. I guess what I'd say is that my talent for writing almost naturally propelled me towards the skills, just from doing it so much (and lots of reading as well). I feel like even if you're not necessarily out studying all about the writing craft that people who have a talent for it already are really able to pick up the skills and rules much faster. I think (at least for me anyway) that talent is often the beginning of dedication because talent generally equals enjoyment (again in my own experience), thereby carrying you forward into improvement. I really like your depiction of these two camps, it's making me think quite a bit!

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad you found it thought-provoking! :) I would agree with your assessment, which makes you camp #1 it sounds like! I mean, ideally we'd be this awesome blend. But I think everyone has a tendency to be better at one over the other! :D

  3. Great post!!! I thought this was very insightful. I think I belong to the first category. I am always spinning tales and weaving plots, and I tend to write like a classic, particularly Tolkienish. I DO struggle with grammar though. I am always leaving out commas, and fifth-grade English tends to look like Greek to me... Well, at least I can write with a LOT of emotion and passion. I think this post is a good one for helping writers pin-point where they need to work hardest instead of thinking "What does my writing friend do?"

    1. Why thank you :D Sounds like you've pinpointed yourself then! That's really so essential--knowing yourself. Then you're set to improve upon what you know needs work. Grammar, a pain though it may be, can be fixed so much more readily, so you're in the right boat ;P

  4. This is SO amazing!!!!! I love reading your articles. So informative and helpful and never too long. :D

    I definitely fall into the first group .... I can story, but my grammar stinks. (thus why I have YOU! :D ) I never did any formal grammar in school so my brain focused more on the story itself rather than how it was written and why it worked.

    I love this post sooo much! And you kinda answered the first question of the VAVC, too... ;-)

    1. Oh thanks that's good to know haha xD *bows* I'm just the opposite which is why we work so well together!! I'm trying to train myself to really think about the story, but all I am is a set of rules so ... that doesn't get me very far. I have to actually put words on the page?! *dies*


  5. This is exactly why I DON'T write. I tried dabbling in it back when I first joined the online creative community, but then realized that I can't really do writing? If I really tried and spent a lot of time on it and really honed my skills and learned I could, but it doesn't come easily to me and I just don't think it's the thing for me. By your categorization, I'm ALLLLL the way in the grammar-without-writing camp, safely tucked in all the way in the back with no intention to come out. XD

    1. Hahahaa, this wasn't supposed to scare you away! xD Well, I'm in that camp too, so anything is possible! But you're right, just because you CAN, doesn't mean it's for you. That's a good thing to know about yourself ;)


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