The Talent Myth (Talent versus Hard Work)

I’ve been wanting to write this post about Talent versus Hard Work, but I just keep running into personal hang ups over how its turning out.  What I’ve got so far sounds so very cynical and negative, as though I’m bashing the entire idea of “talent”, and almost being a little bitter about it, which isn’t how I want it to come off at all.

The whole point of what I wanted to write was that people have a tendency to misuse and abuse the word talent.  It gets applied to things that are otherwise skills learned over time and through hours and hours of effort, like art and writing, which creates this terrible kind of myth that you have to have an innate talent for these things in order to do them.

This myth becomes detrimental in a number of ways.  Beginning writers that don’t see their work as being on par with more experienced (“talented”) writers can become discouraged, especially if they receive any negative feedback for a piece of writing they share, This could lead them to the false assumption that they don’t possess a “talent” for writing and cause them to give up.

More so, critics, especially ones that aren’t themselves writers, who fall into the falsehood that writing is a talent and not a learned skill finely honed through time and discipline might more readily dish out negative comments to less experienced writers, discouraging them from continuing with their craft, instead of making attempt to give advice/suggestions and encourage them to continue working at it.

On the flip side, writers that receive a lot of positive feedback, especially praise that they’re “talented”, may develop the false notion that they don’t need to actually “work” at becoming better writers, and furthermore, may be less inclined to tolerate and/or use constructive criticism given them by their peers.

Even worse, and this is my greatest conflict with this misuse of the word “talent”, it feels less a compliment and more an excuse, “Oh, you’re just talented”, for why you might be “better” at something than the “praising” other.  Writers faced with this may become apathetic towards their craft, that “why bother” mindset overwhelms them and the challenge in writing, in crafting something that will awe and move readers emotionally, is replaced with this overwhelming cynicism.

Now this is where I need to back-peddle a little.

There are talents in the world.  Talent itself is not a myth, and I’m not knocking on talent.  Talents are fantastic, as are talented people.  Nor am I attacking anyone who prefers to think themselves a “talented” writer or artist, as opposed to one who’s worked hard to master their craft.  I do think there are aspects of people’s characters which might make those people more inclined to learn particular skills, such as writing or art, and those traits might themselves be considered talents (whether these are things you’re born with or things that develop in early childhood due to upbringing is still up for debate).

Just don’t rule out hard work.

In our current social world, there seems to be a large emphasis on how special everyone is, and how everyone has a talent.  I’d rather not get into the debate of whether this generation is more pampered and coddled than the last, but I won’t lie, I did praise teacher, David McCullough Jr. when he delivered his graduation speech eloquently stating, “None of you are special”, while his message isn’t the one I’m trying to get across (rather, he wanted to drive the point home that in a world where we’re constantly told we need to be the best, it’s statistically impossible for all of us to be the best, so relax and enjoy life, do what makes you happy and stop stressing over it), the point I’m trying to make is that, although your vision may be unique and special, it takes a lot of hard work, and maybe a little talent, to bring that vision into reality.

So don’t give in to the talent myth, keep writing, keep creating, and keep working to better develop your skills.

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  1. Absolutely agree. Talent, for the most part, comes from dedication to the craft. Writers are not mystical people that come from a different planet. They, the great ones, just have great work ethics and motivation.
    –JW

    • Thank you for the wonderful comment as always! It’s true, writers are not mystical people from a different planet…well, most of them aren’t anyway. Thank you again for stopping by!

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