1. D-Doc
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    D-Doc Active Member

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    Aptitude for fiction writing...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by D-Doc, Nov 8, 2012.

    I'm sure that many of us have some degree of talent, and many of us pour countless hours of hard work into our writing, but how does one know if he has The Gift? Does one ever even know? I guess one reasonable way for a writer to tell if he is gifted is to have published books and received flattering reviews on all of them, but it seems that by the time a writer could even reach that point, he would know already.

    I wonder how some of the great writers felt about themselves during the beginning stages of their careers. I think a lot of them knew they had at least something, but was the true extent of their talent apparent to them? I wonder how many of them suffered from self-doubt during the journey. I'm sure many aspiring writers believe that they are talented, but actually confirming it is something else. I guess talent is hard to measure. What do you guys think?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm leaning towards no. After all, art if subjective. There are many authors who I think were great writers but never got the recognition they deserved during their lifetimes because critics hated their books and/or because most people never read them. A lot of them wrote multiple books, so there had to have been something to keep them going (support from family/friends, self-confidence, ego, whatever). I believe that if a writer doesn't have some form of encouragement, he/she is eventually going to quit writing.

    Every writer has doubts about his/her talent. Take Kafka for example. Aside from the personal problems he wrote about in his diaries, I remember there being a few pages where he doubted his talents as a writer (which may explain why he never finished anything). And he's just one example of many.
     
  3. Fatback
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    Fatback Banned

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    Those who are more talented than their peers always know... Those who become published and meet great success are not always the most talented.. Popular opinion unfortunately is made up in large part with very stupid or linear thinking people.. That's why I spit on popular opinion.... I mean I can't actually spit on it... It's not a physical entity... So I just pretend my grandma is popular opinion and I spit on her... Or in her mouth or whatever.... Don't judge me, she suffers from dementia.... She doesn't even know I'm doing it.... Of course grandpa on the other hand..... He is very aware... Not to happy that one.
     
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  4. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    No one should compare themselves against someone else anyway. I know when quoting something on editing about King, I got the feeling people thought I wrote like King. Well, no. CK is not David Weber, King, Koontz, Ludlum or many others. I am who I am, and instead of trying to be them-concentrate on being the best you can be. It's all there is to anything one attempts anyway.

    Comparisons by critics are just their opinions anyway.
     
  5. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    One of my favorite quotes of all time: “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” -Steven Pressfield

    I don't know that anyone ever really reaches a point where they wake up feeling absolutely confident in everything they write, and a little self-doubt is never a bad thing. It's healthy - keeps us editing, changing, evolving. I'm sure most writers believe they have something (something different, something fresh, something to offer), but I'm not sure how many would readily label that thing as talent.
     
  6. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    If I had a gift then writing for me wouldn't be like wading through wet cement.
     
  7. svartalfheim
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    svartalfheim Member

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    I generally think you would realize when you get others to read what you've written and their face chances because they've been that drawn into it. That to me makes me happy, makes me feel like I can do it. I just lack the motivation to write a full blown story compared to just writing bits and bobs. I think becoming over confident causes you to damage your work because your not critiquing it as you would if you weren't confident. I read then re-read all my pieces out loud, if I didn't my writing wouldn't flow nicely. Confidence in your work is good but to a degree, cockiness is another thing altogether.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You make it sound so ominous, "The Gift" - I don't find that helpful personally. You write, or you don't, you either write well, or you don't. Sure I consider myself to have the gift of writing - I do see it as a gift from God - but to entitle it "THE Gift" - it sounds too grand, too melodramatic to the point of feeling as though it is some abstract and unattainable thing that is only "bestowed" on the "gifted". I dunno, I prefer more down to earth terms - half the battle is having some faith in yourself and such terminology does not help any writer in their journey I find.

    And to your question - I think Kafka wanted all his writings burnt or something, didn't he? He never wanted to publish anything 'cause he didn't think it's good enough, and someone disagreed with him and published it all after Kafka's death. That's the story I heard anyway :) Self-doubt is really a rather normal thing. I think a certain measure of self-doubt can be healthy - it ensures humility and an open mind to always learn and improve.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would imagine that even the most successful writers are always thinking, "Can I do it again?".
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as for having 'the gift' to be a 'better than most' writer, i couldn't ignore the fact that i had a natural talent for writing, when in all grades from first on, i got top marks for anything to do with writing; in high school was begged to be the editor, crossword puzzle creator and columnist for the school paper; was able to pull A's for term papers tossed off the night before due; and won first prize in the american legion essay contest, without even trying... this was confirmed years later, when clients would pay obscene amounts of money for me to fix their writing, or do it for them, even though some had masters degrees and phd's and i'd turned down a full scholarship and acceptance to two others, but never gone to college other than to ace audited 2nd & 3rd year courses in french and italian...

    there's no ego involved in any of that... just the inescapable acceptance of the 'what is'...
     
  11. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Mickey Spillane was loathed by critics. But his books were making gobs of cash. He once said something to the effect of "more people drink beer than eat caviar. If the people think you're good, then you're good."

    I was once dragged to a puppet show in NYC. It was weird. I don't mean the good Tim Burton kind of weird. I mean the disconcerting Charles Manson weird. People went crazy over it. The local artsy fartsy types thought it was inspired. Me and the four guys who got dragged there thought it was an odd way to waste $15 (per person). So figure the weird puppeteers appealed an an audience of 60 out of a population of around 9,000,000. Considering the show never made it to broadway (or even off-broadway), it likely didnt make anyone rich. It was not Les Cage Aux Folles by any stretch. But let's say, out of the entire city, a total of 2,000 ended up liking it after all of the showings.

    Having 2,000 fans is not bad for a weird puppet show in my opinion. I used to live in a town where the population was only 1,200. So it would be the rough equivalent of going to that town and ever man, woman and child (as well as some folks from the outlying areas) thought you were awesome.

    Even if NO ONE anywhere in the world thought you were good, wouldn't you still try to appeal to your 2,000 fans? Or would you say "screw it" because if you had "the gift" you would be beloved by millions and these 2,000 people just aren't worth your time?

    I think "the gift" is a myth. There are people who published books that were commercial flops until an Oprah Book Club sticker was affixed to their cover. What was mundane before suddenly became brilliant? Or people went on a buying spree because a famous person told them to buy something? I live in a place where a 3 year old's fingerpaintings sold for 25k. I live in a city where people have published books through reputable publishing houses and still work at Starbucks. And I regularly visit the museums where people we now consider geniuses were considered the wannabes, losers, hacks and posers of their own time.

    I think that if you spend your life trying to prove to yourself or others that you have "the gift" you are wasting a lot of energy you could be spending on writing. Commercial success is not always an indicator of quality. Sometimes it is just an indicator of marketing plan efficacy. If you want to write, then you should write. You should continuously work to improve your craft. You should take as much feedback as possible and you should always be striving for improvement. Believing in "the gift" is a cop out that people use to excuse their own shortcomings rather than pushing through the difficulty to do what they claim to love doing.
     
  12. Cerrus
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    Cerrus Senior Member

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    I don't believe in natural talent, or "a gift". I only believe that people are only good at what they do because they've worked hard for it and or they aspire to do it more than others. I've always enjoyed writing more than others. Does that mean I have some special gift? Hell no. That just means that I enjoy doing it more than others making it somewhat easier for me to do. I've never really cared for sciences. Does that mean I just don't have some special talent to be capable of excess amount of knowledge. Hell no. I'm just not as interested in it as others.
     
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  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do believe in natural talent. What makes someone successful (and to what extent) depends on what they do with that natural talent. I also believe that someone without a 'natural' talent can become successful with enough effort - but if someone from Group A (natural talent) puts in the same amount of work as someone in Group B (without natural talent), they stand a much better chance of success, or of gaining more success. All subject to the randomness of readers, of course. ;)
     
  14. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I think any writer / artist who keeps pursuing, learning, creating has a gift - whether they wind up published or
    become wildly recognised. It's like a singer who has a voice. Whether or not they sell a ton of records doesn't
    diminish the fact that they can sing or that they have a natural talent.

    That being said. A gift doesn't come with a magic wand. Not everything you put down
    will be brilliant and you still have self doubts - even the writers we
    set the bar, to strive to be like - had self doubts. A lot of their manuscripts barely escaped being burned and were only
    rescued by loved ones. Moby Dick didn't become a classic until long after Melville was dead. Did that make his work
    any less important?

    A Gift is not synonymous with success. Plenty of mediocre writers swim in success, write and publish
    lots of books - do they have a gift? or are they just commercial?

    I believe I have a gift, I have faith in it. It'll be my drive and dedication that will
    get me published.
     
  15. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I think there are two types in any skill: Those who are born with it naturally, and those who want it very badly and keep trying.

    Remember, Harry Potter was sent to twelve publishing houses and was rejected twelve times. Skill and luck make someone who they become. It helps to have both.
     
  16. Fatback
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    Fatback Banned

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    Very well said. Those who lack elite talent question the self awareness of those who do possess it, all in a frail attempt to put themselves somewhere on or near such a tier. I myself have no such talent yet I know those who do..... Trust me, they know they are better than you.
     
  17. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Many people like to think they have 'the gift' or even talent, while most of them don't.
     
  18. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Humans are born with a gift for crying, a gift for eating, and a gift for crapping. Everything else is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Inspiration is the ability to see the underlying message that life gives each and every one of us every day, and that is just as learnable as the 90%, which is learning how to frame our communication so as to touch others with our messages.
     
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  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This made me smile. So true. I find that those without talent, or with less talent, are usually also the ones who feel the need to look down their noses at you though. Of course equally that person could be just plain insecure, talent or no, but it stands to reason that the less talent you have, the more insecure you're gonna be in it. I let a friend of mine read a page of my work once - and I just saw the way she looked at it - that air about her that already assumed my work won't be good enough, and I just thought to myself, "Ah well."
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Those aren't gifts; that's just basic physical biology, and not limited to humans. I wouldn't term 'natural talent' as a 'gift' necessarily, unless it was phenomenal (as in child prodigy, genius, etc), but there are people with natural talents for some things that other people don't have. Singers, for example. Some people can sing, others can't hold a tune in a bucket. And among those who can sing, there are varying levels of talent - some need very little training, others need much more. I don't know why it's so difficult to acknowledge this.
     
  21. D-Doc
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    D-Doc Active Member

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    Forgive my use of the phrase, The Gift. I used it for dramatic effect, and I agree it's just a sappy way to describe talent.

    "Believing in "the gift" is a cop out that people use to excuse their own shortcomings rather than pushing through the difficulty to do what they claim to love doing."

    I disagree with that statement. You speak as if all people who believe in natural talent believe in it for the exact same reason; to justify their decision to give up when it gets tough and to ease their pain as they do so. Some people might do that. I'm sure many people do not. I will speak for myself and say that I believe that a few, rare individuals are born with an extraordinary talent for writing, but that belief has no effect on my determination, my willpower, or my joy of the craft. I know what I want to do and I will see it through until the end, regardless of my talent compared to the talent of others.

    "And among those who can sing, there are varying levels of talent - some need very little training, others need much more. I don't know why it's so difficult to acknowledge this."

    Agreed.

    Stephen King made an interesting point in his book, On Writing. He believes that writers can be seperated into a few groups. On the bottom are the bad writers. They will never be anything other than bad, regardless of how hard they try. That's not to say they cannot be published through some fluke or something, but they are just not naturally apt for the craft of writing. Above the bad writers are the competent writers. They have some natural talent. Most writers fall into this category. With a lot of hard work and passion, some competent writers can rise to the next level, the level of good writers (Based on King's descriptions of himself and his ability in the book, I would wager that he places himself in this category). Above the good writers are the great writers-the literary geniuses. King claims that a good writer will never be a great writer in the same way that a bad writer will never be a competent writer. Some of the great writers were eccentrics who lived frustrating, depressing lives and died unhappy. Some were not

    When I speak of those who are gifted, I speak of the types that King describes at the top of the talent pyramid (which is just his way to break down talent; I'm sure there are others). I understand that one man's great writer could be another man's bad writer, but I think we can all agree that there are a select group of writers at the top whose names and works have remained poignant through history. For the record, I would classify myself as a competent writer with a deep desire to become a good one, or rather, to improve continuously and as much as my natural ability will allow. I do wonder how others will classify me, though- specifically the readers.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    so, you can paint as well as michaelangelo, leonardo, degas, van gogh, et al., if you only work hard at it and want to do it?... and play basketball as well as jordan, soccer as well as pele?... design buildings as well as wright, pei?... write as well as homer, shakespeare, poe, faulkner, et al.?

    c'mon, get real!

    fatback...
    will you please, please, PLEASE stick to black, at least, to save me [and others?] from migraines and blindness--or having to avoid reading whatever you write here?
     
  23. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Aside from a handful of exceptions, I don't believe in natural talent. Every good scientist/writer/singer/whatever worked really hard to get where they are. Take basketball as an example. Jordan was good only because of his work ethic. In college, he was not even among the best players in the nation. As a current example, take LeBron James. He's basically a freak of nature, but he took a lot of heat (no pun intended) in his earlier years for his lack of passion and poor work ethic, which was evident in a lot of the most important games of his career.

    "If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent." - Isaac Newton
    "If I am anything, which I highly doubt, I have made myself so by hard work." - Isaac Newton
     
  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Those quotes are good and all but I think Newton's just being humble, as truly talented people usually are. Sure, talent without hard work will forever remain only "good" and never reach its potential, but purely hard work is not enough. Hard work helps - it can help a bad writer become a good one, and a good writer become a great one, but our abilities are limited and no amount of hard work would change that.
     
  25. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Yeah, that was a little bit of humor there, thanks. I'll be playing Vegas all next week. Tip your waitress.


    Because things like vocal ability are trainable. The unspoken assumption you're making is that the training is uniform, and the trainees are of equal intelligence to understand the concepts being related, and that they possess equal diligence to put the training into practice, or ...

    My point: you're assuming here that any differences in ability must be attributable to talent when in fact there may be other explanations. Begging the question is fallacious reasoning.

    I don't see anyone here claiming they're close to [fill-in-your-favorite-writer-here] in talent. Might you perhaps make your point without casting aspersions about those who simply disagree with you?
     

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