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Forget About "Talent"! Part 1


How is a writer to access her deepest and most powerful wells of creativity? How do we tap into our talent, our genius, our greatest potential for success? Writing classes often tell us how to plot, or structure, or build characters, or create poetic images, but the question of accessing our excellence is a slippery and elusive one. It is possible we’ll need to go outside our usual sources to find an answer.

Many will merely say “be born with talent,” coldly suggesting that writers are “born” with a particular amount of potential, and that one either has this or not. And you know? There is a certain amount of truth to this. It is hard to argue with the idea that geniuses like Mozart or Shakespeare were gifted. But the nature versus nurture argument is both fascinating and, for the average person, irrelevant.

After all, since we can’t go back and choose our grandparents, what are we to do? Just abandon our dreams of excellence if we don’t happen to be one of the gifted few?

I often say something to students that is both deadly serious and a slight (and deliberate) exaggeration. It is this “I don’t believe in talent. Every time I’ve ever gotten close to an excellent performer in any discipline, all I’ve seen is a lifetime of hard, honest work.”

Why would I say something like this? Because it is the way I truly feel. The fact is that I’ve seen endless people fail due to lack of honest work. And given those years or decades of work, I’ve seen few fail for lack of talent.

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