The Page a Day Writers Group

What is Talent?

Posted on: March 31, 2010

This morning, my Wednesday walking buddy mentioned she would love to be a painter. Too bad her genes didn’t include talent with a paint brush.  I told her most so-called innate talent isn’t. If she wants to pick up a paint brush, she should go for it. Why not?

What is talent, anyway? Where does it come from? I say, talent comes from personal interest and a willingness to have fun in the beginning without having to be an expert. Zig Zigler says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.” In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes a pretty convincing case that to become a “gifted expert” at something, it takes about 10,000 hours of concerted effort. So if my walking buddy truly wants to paint master pieces, it may take 10,000 hours of practice, but she could enjoy creating rich, rewarding pieces along the way. I, for one, would definitely hang one of her paintings in my home, no matter what it looked like, even if it ends up on the wall in the walk-in closet.

Child prodigies in any skill are rare at best. Many young, successful artists, musicians, or writers just started practicing their passions earlier than the rest of us. They get through their 10,000 hours sooner than most of us begin. Christopher Paolini, young author of the Inheritance  series (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr), wrote the first book at age 15. He wrote and rewrote Eragon, self-published it, and promoted the book by doing readings and presentations wherever possible. Eventually a publishing house picked it up, and his editor made him rework and rewrite the book again. Eragon came out after Paolini turned 19. Is Paolini a child prodigy or a kid with a keen interest, a burning desire, a willingness to learn, and an early 10,000 hours of practice?

Does it matter?

Writers’ experiences and interests prepare us to put words together for others to read, but there is no substitute for those 10,000 hours of hard work and the willingness to strive to develop our skills. Becoming an expert at any craft also requires the ability to hear feedback, to collect opinions from others and process how those viewpoints may offer kernels of wisdom to help us progress.

And patience. Writing well takes lots of patience.

Over the last few years, I have enjoyed watching my own writing improve. I’m looking forward to spending less time reworking paragraphs to communicate exactly what I want to say, but I’m enjoying the road with my Page a Day writing buddies.

No matter where or at what point in life any of us start as writers, it is most important to make note of improvements along the way and …

Enjoy the journey.

Happy Writing!


2 Responses to "What is Talent?"

Thanks for this reminder. I agree that it takes many years to grow into the person you’re meant to be. But wouldn’t it be nice to have all that knowledge about 20 years earlier.

At least 2o years earlier. I finally know what my mother meant when she used to tell me youth was wasted on the young. I have to admit I’ve enjoyed the road, though.

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!


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