Writing: Skill vs. Talent
A question I often struggle with is this: What makes a better writer? Is it talent? Is it skill?
Part of the problem, for me at least, is that I don’t really understand what talent is. I can get skill. I can understand developing facility with craft, and approaching something through effort, but talent… I just dunno.
I sometimes wonder if “talent” is something we use to justify it when we don’t want to put enough work into something to become good at it. “Oh, I can never be as good as her. She’s talented. She doesn’t have to work at it.”
I knew a “talented” musician once. Perhaps musician isn’t the right word. He could pick up any musical instrument and learn to play it in a couple of days. No, really. ANY instrument. He never really worked at it. He didn’t have to. But the funny thing was this: he never mastered any instrument. He could play anything fairly well, but he was never a virtuoso with anything.
Could that be the difference, then?
Is talent just a love of something? Could it only be a propensity toward a certain skill? Then, is it work… serious work that makes a virtuoso?
Malcolm Gladwell, in his wonderful book “Tipping Point” suggests that mastery isn’t a matter of talent, it’s a matter of work. Ten thousand hours, says he, of anything, and you become a master at it. Of course he means ten thousand hours of working at something. Eating, sleeping and breathing don’t count, I think.
When it comes to you and your writing… are you talented? Are you skilled? Are you some combination of the both? Do you know? Would you admit it (one way or the other if you did know?)