1. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    I'll have an order of Talent please...and can I get a diet coke, too?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by e(g), Aug 24, 2011.

    Talent is so necessary, so impossible to fake, so incapable of being taught. Everyone thinks you can learn to write, but that’s not true. Non-fiction, yes, but fiction requires talent.

    You can’t go to college and learn it. In fact I think too much college can stifle it. It crosses all demographic barriers: Some rich people have it; some poor people have it. And talent is not fair. It’s given to the most undeserving of people.

    You know when you have it, because writing comes easy to you. You may not like to write or you may procrastinate, whatever—but when you write, it comes easy. The words come easy. You may kill yourself trying to decide between two turns of a phrase, but the two phrases came easy.

    A talented writer has a way with words. They have a clever way of putting things. That’s what separates them.

    Having said all that, I’m wondering if you think there is anyway to create a talent for writing. Is there some way to live your life, some book to read, what?
     
  2. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    (good)Non-fiction doesn't require talent but (good) fiction does?

    How does that work when (for you at least) talent equates with 'a way with words' and 'a clever way of putting things'?

    If we are talking in terms of a mastery of language, a suggestion: an industrious writer might produce a couple of thousand words a day. You likely speak around fifteen thousand words a day. As you converse, you are using words to achieve a goal, to create an effect. Make an effort to speak with precision. Make an effort to use resonant phrasing and arresting images in your talk. (But, please don't bore people.) And so on.

    It is not always the case, but the verbally fluent are usually very reasonable writers. Writers who are diffident or who don't care to talk much will have probably discovered that they're capable of considerable articulacy when they're with folk they feel comfortable with.
     
  3. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen Member

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    What a quaint, archaic view. I imagine you can provide some sort of statistical analysis that demonstrates your claim, yes?

    Writing fiction can be learned because writing fiction is learned. No one shoots out of the womb with a masterpiece to write. Different people have different ideas to output, but the craft is a matter of practice. The only thing that will make someone into a writer is writing.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure how much of what we call "talwnt" is innate, and how much of it is hard work and determination.

    Certainly, some people find it easier to both unleash their imagination and yet train it to flow through the fingers onto a writing medium.

    Imagination can be encouraged. Children who play with simple or limitedf toys tend to exercize and develop their imagination more than those who play with prepackaged play scenarios. I used to make spaceship control panels out of cardboard when I was a wee lad.

    Reading, lots and lots of reading, helps develop a sense for narrative style, not to mention little things like punctuation and spelling.

    If you want it bad enough you can become a good writer. Perhaps the difference between good and great, in terms of ultimate potential, is a matter of innate talent.

    Would you like fries with that?
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a combination of both. Hard work will get you far, but it's a fact that some things come easier to some than others.

    Writing non-fiction requires a great deal of skill. Especially for someone to be able to write something that is not only scholarly, but more importantly accessible.
     
  6. Jessica_312
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    I think there has to be a bit of an underlying skillset, but I also think that a lot of writing skills can be taught: learning to stay away from adverbs, learning how to better write descriptions, learning how to write better dialects, etc etc. I'd say half is talent, the other half is honed through practice: a LOT of trial-and-error writing and a LOT of reading.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think talent is inborn. Skill can be gained through practice. Talent will determine how easily skill is acquired.

    When I first started guitar lessons as a boy, I was in a class with about six other kids. We all started from scratch - none of us had any previous experience with the guitar or any other instrument. One boy in the class progressed much faster than the rest of us. We all had the same teacher, the same books, the same class schedule, and practiced about the same amount of time per day, but he got better than the rest of us quickly. He had more talent than we did. I knew then that I would have to work three times as hard as he did just to stay in the same league, and I'd probably never catch up to him.

    I think it's the same with writing. Writing well comes easy to a few people, and most others have to work damn hard just to write adequately.

    Imagination is a kind of talent, but it's different from talent with language. Some writers have glorious imaginations and can create very vivid worlds and scenes, but have a hard time putting it all into words. Others are born poets, and wonderful language comes easy to them, but they're limited in what they imagine.

    As far as developing talent is concerned, I'll say this. It's important to read, read, read. Read good stuff. And do it early in life - I believe that kids who read a lot will have a much easier time becoming good writers as adults than kids who don't get into the habit of reading until, maybe, their late teens. Read lots, and read young.
     
  8. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    What? You want statistical analysis to show that it requires talent to write good fiction?

    Then you must believe everyone can be a successful novelist if only they want to be. I disagree.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I disagree with your disagreeing. :) I believe it is a matter of determination and hard work. If you want it badly enough to put in the work required, you can become successful. Brilliance may be harder to attain, but I think success is within everyone's grasp, if they are sufficiently motivated.
     
  10. LostInFiction
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    LostInFiction Senior Member

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    I really cannot allow myself to believe this. To believe this would be to accept my current limitations and puts a glass lid on some distant dreams...
    I do agree that people have talent and this cannot always be taught or learnt but, in my opinion, just because someone is talented does not mean it will be easy for them to produce their 'work'. They may struggle with it as much as the rest and they may never even see the glimmer of genius someone else does in their work.

    Would someone be a talented writer if they had great ideas but had to be taught how to construct a story on paper?

    I'm just jealous of anyone with talent :D. I'm sure half of them don't even know they have it!

    Is a talented writer always producing works that display their great talent? Could an untalented writer have a work which displays great talent?

    Life experience may in itself be one of the greatest tools for finding ones own talents. Maybe the answer is that someone who wants to learn and has the capacity for that learning will continue to search for their lessons and therefore move closer to their goal, if not by talent then by determination and practice alone?

    Interesting area of debate. Loved your post e(g) :D
     
  11. Clumsywordsmith
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    Clumsywordsmith Active Member

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    I like the way Stephen King put it somewhere in a book he once wrote that I never read but my sister quoted to me... Something along the lines of how there were poor writers, fair writers, good writers and master writers. Anyone could, with the proper determination and practise get themselves to the third state -- that of good writing (the point he considered himself, if I remember correctly). The true masters are, like the original poster stated, only possible through talent. And yes, it is quite unfair in that some of the masters might need only apply one tenth the effort to surpass someone else who had practised and studied for years.

    But the world is just unfair like that. Most people don't like to admit, realise or say it -- indeed, it's almost politically incorrect these days -- but there are glass ceilings out there, and every one of us is limited in how much we can achieve. The question is not whether the ceiling is present or not, but rather, how high it happens to be.

    (Oh, and as for speaking fifteen-thousand words a day? I'd honestly be staggered if I spoke more than a thousand today. I probably average about fifteen thousand in a work week. I communicate more through writing on a daily basis than I do verbally.)
     
  12. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    I must say, I thought that figure pretty high too, but that's the sort of figure that seems to appear pretty consistently in the literature. I seriously doubt I speak 15000 words a day, and I'll always be playing catch-up because before about 10am you can forget about having any sort of meaningful conversation...
     
  13. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Everyone can write. Anyone can be a writer. Simple as that. And anyone can learn to write fiction. Writing isn't reserved for those of us who have "talent." It just may come easier for some and harder for others. What counts is how we meet the challenges of writing. Some may just give up and let their inner editor get to them and destroy their dream of writing. Others might rise to the occasion and not rest until they get the words forming in their minds down on paper. The difference is how they approach writing. This is what sets those who write fiction and those who just write apart.
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Clumsywordsmith, and, by extension, Stephen King.

    Anyone can learn to be a good writer. That just takes work. Only a few have the innate talent to truly become great writers. That requires not only hard work but some quality that seems to me to be ingrained in the individual.
     
  15. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    I see this a lot in writer’s forums: That is the idea that writing fiction is the same thing as learning to work on cars. If you learn the sequence of events, if you obtain the right tools and know how to use them, then put it all together, you will produce a good novel.

    That’s simply not true. Or if it is true, then talent lies in one of those conditions and they can’t be learned. How can one learn how to make an interesting turn of a phrase or pick the right word to evoke both an emotional response and be accurate at the same time? How can one learn to see people and how they act and then write that in a way that both dramatizes it and yet doesn’t leave it unrealistic.

    Sorry to disagree with your disagreement of my disagreement. :)

    Thanks. But just because I say it takes talent to be a writer doesn’t mean “you” don’t have talent. We all stumble around wondering if we have “it.” But there’s really only one way to find out—we have to finish a project. We have to bring a novel to completion, and then we have to put it out there for people to read. Today, that’s easier than ever before with Kindle and Create Space and a bunch of subsidy small presses springing up.

    So what then is talent? In some measure, it has to be the ability to bring a work to fruition and publish it—traditional publishing or self-publishing.



    Yes. The older I get the more I realize the limitations that are unfairly put upon people. Of course, I think everyone has “a” talent. But whether or not they come to a place where they can be satisfied with that particular talent and then devote their practice and hard work to it is another question altogether.

    Yep. I review a lot of novels by self-published and small-published and large-published authors that prove that exact point. When I go through the list of horror novels on Amazon by publication date, I see maybe four potentials out of a few hundred every month that are even worth downloading a sample. I’m still looking (longing) for that novel that will warrant five ghosts (my highest rating). Most of the “anyones” are one ghost, two ghost, three ghost at best.

    But technically you are correct. Anyone, especially today, can be a writer.


    See, that’s just it. I don’t know that anyone can. What about the person with a 75 IQ? What about the person who really hates to read? What about the person who is more interested in mathematics?

    Maybe it’s in how we define talent. I think Stephen King once said that if someone will pay you money for what you write and if you ever use that money to pay the electric bill—you’ve got talent. I suppose it’s as simple as that.
     
  16. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    Very well said. Thank you.:)
     
  17. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen Member

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    No, I want a statistical analysis to show that talent cannot be learned.

    Your disagreement is silly. 100% of all successful writers had to learn how to write, as no one comes with innate knowledge of writing. Therefore, writing is a learned skill. Q.E.D. What exactly needs to be learned and how best to learn it should be what we focus on. Poorly defined magical ideas like "inborn talent" are just as ridiculous as alchemy and geocentrism.
     
  18. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course everyone has to learn. I suspect that anyone can be successful too; after all we have folk like Katie Price on our fair isle, who call themselves writers.

    Successful, as has been pointed out, doesn't necessarily mean good though, let alone great.

    Not everyone who studies the piano will become a Mozart.
     
  19. Shifty
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    Shifty Member

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    You need that spark of imagination that we all have (on this forum).
    Because we have that spark and capability, we tend to assume that everyone else has that spark that allows us to create our ficitional scenarios.
    We all here, i would assume have that spark of talent. As with all sparks however, it needs feeding, the more you feed the fire the brighter it burns.
     
  20. jpeter03
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    Fascinating argument. While I do agree that there are a few rare people with "innate" talent, I disagree with the idea that writing comes easily to these people. Joyce would take a month to write a single sentence, and this is hardly a rare instance.

    This is a very personal belief with which I'm sure many will disagree, but I believe that almost every single person has at least (and often only) one great story in them. Given the time and determination to improve their ability to express this story, most people are capable of writing something great. The problem is that these two necessities do not always coincide- many people with the ability to write end up choosing the wrong story to tell, or else those people who are observant and self-aware enough to recognize their story do not have the inclination or determination to do so effectively.
     
  21. NikkiNoodle
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    Almost anyone can make a grilled cheese sandwich.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It should go without saying that we are not talking about people with mental limitations that put them outside the norm or make it impossible to learn things normally.

    Barring such things, yes I believe any person can learn to be a good writer.
     
  23. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not to all perhaps, but what is talent if not a predisposition for something? (Doesn't have to be writing ;))

    I think Joyce sounds like quite the rare example actually, if that's true. One wonders how he ever finished the 260,000 plus words of Ulysses..
     
  24. jpeter03
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    jpeter03 Member

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    Certainly Joyce is an extreme, but from the autobiographies I've read it's not at all uncommon for those who possess what we consider innate talent to struggle as mightily as anyone else with choices in writing. The root of their struggle is different, to be sure, but I still stand by the fact that you can't always use this as a hallmark of the talented writer.

    Oh and to speak to the point made about grilled cheese- evidently this is not true, as evidenced by the fact that we Americans have felt the need to open up a fast food chain called Cheese Boy that is entirely devoted to grilled cheese. And on a related note, it took Joyce 2.5 hours to make a grilled cheese.
     
  25. NikkiNoodle
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