1. ObsidianVale
    Offline

    ObsidianVale Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2009
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    ontario

    Can we have our own "it" factor?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ObsidianVale, Feb 7, 2010.

    Recently i asked a question and the answer i got back from a few individuals was "you either have "it" or you don't".

    Ok so i know there is this thing called the "it" factor. I know some people have "it" and some people don't. Do i have "it"? i have no idea. but it really scares me when people say you either have "it" or you don't becuase what if i don't have it? are they saying that because i wasn't born with this particular talent (something i had no control over) that i can never write what i want to write? And not just writing for my own pleasure. So becuase i wasn't born a comedian i can't write a comedy? or romance or horror etc...? . Is there a way ( that understandably would include alot of hard work, effort, research, observation, etc...) that those of us with out "it" could possible learn?

    And i mean come on! don't tell me that every successful writer didn't work hard to get there stories the way they are. That they didn't work and rework there jokes or dialouge or what ever they supposedly have "it" for. They don't just sit at a desk and spew genius all over a page!

    I'll agree that they are successful for a reason. That they have found a combination of something or a character or a technique or just whatever. they found something that works. But does it mean the rest of us will never find "it".

    What do you guys think?
     
  2. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California
    It's incredibly easy to look at a writer who is fairly young and who writes brilliantly and exclaim: "He's naturally gifted!" Yet, we say those sorts of things out of ignorance. We have no idea how much time or effort that person put into his writing. Simply assuming that somebody is naturally gifted, no matter their hobby, should be treated as an insult to the hard work that person has put into perfecting themselves.

    In the end, however, are there some people better than others? Yes, because they worked for it. Language is not an ability earned upon birth, but rather you learn it as you grow and, dare I say, you never stop learning. The same can be said for writing. I find it foolish to assume our ability to write is strictly natural and that the hours of work I've put into my writing means nothing simply because I am naturally predisposed to create. If other people want to let others, the hierarchy of literature, decide whether or not they're worthy, fine. I write because I'm a writer, not because Stephen King said I could be.
     
  3. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,893
    Location:
    Boston
    I think you can be good at anything with enough practice. Even the "geniuses" we have had throughout history are a product of hard work and perseverance. For example, Mozart's earliest compositions were nothing spectacular. There were mere copies of other composers' works. Some of today's child musicians/composers are much better than he was as a child.
     
  4. cboatsman
    Offline

    cboatsman Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    California
    I don't feel the "it" factor is to be taken literally. It has been proven that everyone's brain does work a bit differently. I feel this is where that natural gift comes in. With hard work anyone can just be, but some have a brain that is to boot more suited to process particular information. Why? If I knew that I probably wouldn't be here.

    However, don't take it literally. The key part of what I just said is that "with hard work anyone can just be" as in if you truly and genuinely desire to do something, you will. You will write. Plus we have to remind ourselves that even those that seem to have a knack for things still have to pour blood sweat and tears into it otherwise just like anything else when neglected, you lose it.

    Caleb
     
  5. InkDream
    Offline

    InkDream Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    the Evergreen State
    I think there is some truth to this. For instance, I cannot hold a tune. Even with lessons and vocal training, I'm no Aretha Franklin or Susan Boyle or whatever does it for ya. I know this so I don't sing.

    Writing is one of those things that like any talent can't be taught in the way that makes it unique or special. Yes, any literate person can write. But not every educated, literate person can write well. Maybe for some it's a lack of imagination or just not having a way with words, who knows, but to some extent --yes, you either have it or you don't. And "it" is purely subjective.
     
  6. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California
    This argument is moot. A voice is an instrument and can be tuned, but, take it from a bassist, some instruments are just not as well made as others. Not everyone can sing because not everyone has a perfect instrument. In regards to writing, we all have an imagination, most of us have the ability to write, and most of us have read a book. At the very least an intelligent man can look at the success of others and copy them. Does this make them a good writer? Well, define what a good writer is.

    If a good writer is somebody who is successful than the authors who copy others and get away with it fits the profile. If, however, we are judging writers on a case by case scenario then no one is a good writer since we all have opinions and we often find conflict when we differ even in the slightest fashion.
     
  7. vinkersole
    Offline

    vinkersole New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Australia
    Someone once said to me "You can't write what you don't know". This assumes that you can't write a comedy unless you're funny. You can't write a horror unless you've been in a horrific situation. You can't write about sex unless you've had it.
    All i'm saying is, sure, a lot of people have a certain amount of "it", as in, they "naturally have a gift of pulling words out of their ears that just simply "go", BUT at the same time, with hard work, dedication and research, i'm sure a LOT of people can write a decent novel.
    Just go for it, have fun and who knows, you might have "it" and don't even know it!
     
  8. bluebell80
    Offline

    bluebell80 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Messages:
    636
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Vermont
    I think the "it factor" as you call it, is a combination of several things; the ability to entertain people, an active imagination, honed in skills of the craft of writing, and at least a partial understanding of human psychology.

    The whole "write what you know" has so many different meanings and can be much like a fortune cookie, taken as a generic message that can be applied to a large amount of people.

    If "write what you know" were a real thing we wouldn't have Star Wars, or any space opera types of books. We wouldn't have books like 1984. We wouldn't have some of the monster horror books we have and the majority of romance/vampire/werewolf/ect wouldn't be written. These types of writers don't write what they know, cause they've never experienced these things. They write "what if" and use their imagination as to how it might be to experience these things, which is why an imagination is an important asset to the writer.

    Most writing skills can be learned and have to be learned. It's part of learning the language of English, just like it would be to learn to write in a foreign language, you'd have to learn the language first before you could write in it. These are skills and the person with enough motivation to learn them will learn to write a proper sell-able story.

    But, writing pretty prose is only part of the "it factor" that the writer must have. Imagination, inquisition, adaptability, and observational skills are all part of what make great writers great.

    So if you don't know if you have the "it factor" and are afraid you don't, examine yourself and find out if you have some of these qualities or if you can expand on the qualities you already possess.

    Everyone has an imagination, but like most muscles, if you don't use it, you lose it.

    Everyone can learn the habits of being observational, it's just a matter of training yourself to notice things.

    Everyone has the ability to adapt new ideas into their world view, it's just a matter of being flexible.

    Everyone can ask questions and wonder "what if" they just have to do it.

    So can anyone be a writer? In theory, yes. But not many people are willing to put in the effort to become a good published writer.

    So do you have the motivation? IF you do, then you have the "it factor."
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    to write much better than most does take inborn talent, as well as learned/acquired skills...

    with only the latter, it's possible for anyone to get what they write published/produced, of course, since so many passable/mediocre/bad writers do...

    but without that gifted spark of genius/talent, none can attain the 'great' status that lasts long after one has 'gone on'... though, sad to say, some will be so successful at selling their less than great stuff that the money and fame they gain will = 'great' to the undiscerning who see monetary success alone as a mark of genius...
     
  10. DragonGrim
    Offline

    DragonGrim Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    Messages:
    818
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Iowa
    “It” just means talent. I’m not sure where people got the strange idea of talent, but I’ll speculate.

    In some ways it is a safeguard for people’s self esteem. “I fail because I don’t possess the inborn talent to become a successful writer.” It is a way to shuck responsibility.

    It comes from ignorance. If one sees a person performing a feat that seems almost impossible, one may attribute it to some inborn gift, a sort of magic.

    It may come from superstition and or religious belief. The Creator gave certain people abilities (perhaps so, I’m not going to try to refute that claim if someone has it). With regard to superstition, I see a similarity: bad luck can follow one around, and so can good luck. “You were born lucky.”

    Lastly, bad science. When science began, scientists had all kinds of false notions about the brain. They continue to this day in the form of myths.
     
  11. JTheGreat
    Offline

    JTheGreat Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Messages:
    381
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Everywhere and Nowhere
    I don't think that being good at something just comes to you.

    I think that you can try something, like piano, and naturally enjoy it. And because you enjoy it you'll practice it, and in turn do better at it.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    sorry, but that doesn't explain the 'greats' in the arts, or in athletics... some are just 'born' with abilities far beyond what all the rest possess... exceptional ability is not learnable... just as one cannot 'learn' to be a genius...

    and yes, science has been able to corroborate this fact of life...
     
  13. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Whatever talent is, it's nothing if you don't have the desire and determination to learn the skills through hard work. I once played guitar and my teacher said I had talent, but I got bored with guitar and so I cannot play a single tune today. In itself, my "guitar talent" is worthless.
     
  14. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,893
    Location:
    Boston
    I disagree. All the "greats" are great only because they worked hard and practiced. Shakespeare wasn't born with the ability to write well. And Michael Jordan wasn't born with the ability to play good basketball. Both were a result of hard work and dedication, nothing more.
     
  15. Silver Random
    Offline

    Silver Random Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Scotland
    So with the same amount of hard work and dedication, you or I could be as good at basketball as Michael Jordan?

    Anyway, we know that there are many writers out there who put in as much hard work as others but still don't produce as great works. It might be an insult to deny that an author put in the work and is just "naturally talented", but it's just as much of an insult to say "anyone could do it if they could be bothered to put in the work."
     
  16. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,893
    Location:
    Boston
    Well, there are several players around my height that are of the same caliber as Jordan. So, yes, you or I could be as good or about as good if we practice. But really good players put in as much as 10 hours a day practicing, and quite frankly, I don't want to spend that much time on something I only have a small amount of interest in.

    It's not just about putting in the work. It's about practicing the right things. For example, if I practice incorrectly on the piano, I will never be great, no matter how much time I put in.

    When it comes to writing, some great modern writers say they write for 6-8 hours a day. Since most of us have school or other jobs, we don't have the luxury to write for that length of time. If we did, there's no doubt in my mind that we would be better than we are now.
     
  17. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    With writing, its hard to distinguish whatever natural talent there may be from the huge number of other factors that contribute to a work. Would Shakespeare have enjoyed the same success if he had been born today ? Would Hemingway have been as successful had he not experienced WWI? If Harry Potter had been Henrietta Potter, would it have been a hit?

    We say, in a completely unqualified, meaningless way, that these people are 'naturally gifted' or 'talented,' but given the innumerable number of factors that attributed to their success (and, as a result, our attribution of 'talent') I find it difficult to believe that Shakespeare was 'born to be' a great playwright. Science has shown that particular people have genetic proficiencies in particular areas (obviously, Michael Jordan's genetics make him an ideal basketball player, just as Shakespeare's genetic propensity for creativity suggests he would make a good artist), but these genetic 'suggestions', if you will, are not written in stone and are certainly not the same as being born a writer, or athlete, or anything else.

    As many others have said, 'talent' is the illusion created by countless hours of painstaking practice, endless dedication and immeasurable effort. To write an author off as 'talented' when really they are so much more seems almost insulting.
     
  18. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14

    I don't know how old the "it" thread is (I'd never noticed it before), so maybe you've already discovered that what people say is only an opinion. As a writer, if nothing else, you simply must have an opinion that is your own and one you trust at least as much as someone else's dull and boring platitude--of which "You have it or you don't" is a shiny, fine example. Especially so, if meant to suggest that either you have what it takes to be a writer or you don't. Last time I checked, there was no definitive diagnosis for that particular disease syndrome.;)

    I think arron's definition would be my choice du jour:

    P.S.: (just in from HorusEye): "... great authors are not made, they're born" is a very strong runner-up in the shiny platitude department. I love (and share) his opinion about it, too:

     
  19. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    I agree with Arron here, especially in that talent (or genetics, or whatever you wanna call it) falls into broad categories - I've seen too many cases with creative people being (successfully) creative across multiple media to think otherwise. Musicians who also paint and write poetry, etc. Talent seems more like "general affinity" towards a group of activities, where learning may come more natural, but still requires the same work.

    I've heard people say things like "great authors are not made, they're born" and I can't imagine anything more haughty, pompous and utterly false.
     
  20. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California
    I would rather be forever known as ordinary than have all of my hard work thrown into the mud by being labeled naturally talented. You see, when you realize that we are all capable of writing, but that one man was able to find a way to excel at it, it is a compliment that rivals none other. It is an acknowledgment of the countless hours pouring over chapters, the painstaking process of editing, and the horrifying realization that there are millions of novels out there and you're just some schmuck.

    Do you know why Michael Jordon is the greatest basketball player to ever grace the court? It was because he worked for it. No one ever handed him any awards simply for being born.
     
  21. DragonGrim
    Offline

    DragonGrim Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    Messages:
    818
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Iowa
    I just took a quick Google search of modern neurology. This comes from way back in 1998, when many of the old myths pervaded our understanding. Thorough research of the science will show that it is rejecting the concept of “talent.”

    Even without scientific evidence, it is just logical to assume that a writer cannot be born with the talent. Writing is too complicated to be effected by any built-in aspect of a brain.
     

Share This Page