Thursday 14 March 2013

Talent vs. Learning: Do You Have to Be Born a Writer? by K.M. Weiland #ChaBooCha

 Talent vs. Learning: Do You Have to Be Born a Writer?
 by K.M. Weiland
(repost from her her own blog)

Do you have to be born with a genius for writing? Do you have to have some crucial chromosomal heritage from brilliant parents? Or maybe just a happy coincidence of the right mental wiring? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then only the protégés among us are going to make it at this writing game. And the rest of us? Well, we’re just as stuck as all the disappointed five-foot-twoers missing out on their NBA dreams.

But what if it’s not true? What if writing, like basketball, is something we can learn, but, unlike basketball, isn’t something we have to depend on our genetic heritage to ultimately fulfill for us? What if the dream of becoming a bestselling author is something within the reach of anyone willing to do a little hard work?

What is talent?

According to Barbara Baig (“The Talent Myth, The Writer, April 2012):
Talent, I have long told my students, is the assumptions we make about other people’s abilities that keep us from developing our own.
We could define talent several different ways, but I define it like this: talent is aptitude, and aptitude is made up many different factors, including the ability to spell, an ear for words, a sense of story structure, and an empathy for character.

And which of those can’t be learned? Granted, some of us are born with a natural gift for these things, and some of us arent. Some of us grew up winning spelling bees, while some of us can’t remember that “e” in “chicken” to save our lives. But most of us learned how to spell and how to parse sentences, just as we discovered story structure through much reading and trial and error. In an April 2012 interview (The Writer again), award-winning novelist Sharon G. Flake admitted:
There are many ways to be a writer. You can be like me—self-conscious, a little learning-disabled, with a poor memory for details—and still do some awesome work.

How do you learn to write?

The answer to that one is easy. You write! You study. You rewrite. In the words of Samuel Beckett, you “try again. Fail again. Fail better.” There is no aspect of the art and craft of writing that cannot be learned. Anyone from any background or any walk of life can learn the essentials of writing.

So breathe a sigh of relief. If you weren’t born a writing genius, no sweat. You’ve got all the tools you need right at your fingertips—so long as you have…

The magic ingredient

Ultimately, the secret ingredient to writing success isn’t the elusive talent. It’s passion.

For all I know, my next door neighbor may have the mental skills and experiences necessary to make him a far better writer than I can ever hope to be. But he’s not interested in writing, so what good are those skills or that natural aptitude going to do him? Not much. On the other hand, there are those of us who love writing and are dedicated enough to put in the long hours of study and work. We are going to succeed in the end.

Not only is that great news for those of us who fear we lack the necessary talent, it also means we can take much greater satisfaction in our work. If we achieve great things in our writing thanks to hard work, how much cooler is that than being born with a truckload of talent?

K.M. Weiland is a lifelong fan of history and the power of the written word, she enjoys sharing both through her novels and short stories. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, where she mentors other authors and shares the ups and downs of the writing life.

And now for the prize announcement! I bought a copy of K.M Weiland's book "Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way To Success" to giveaway with this post, and Kathryn very generously offered to donate another copy of her book, so this time, I get to give away two prizes! First, in order to enter, you have to already be officially signed up for the challenge. Then the only thing you have left to do in order to gain an entry for the prize is to comment on this blog post. You have until noon GMT on the 21st to enter as that is when I will be using a random number generator to pick the two winners.

Now, I understand that, as so many ChaBooCha members already buy writing books, some of you might already have the books offered as prizes during this challenge. Because of this, if you are drawn by the random number selector as a winner for this prize, and you already have the book, you can do one of two things; you can choose to give the book as a gift to someone else in the challenge, either anonymously or with your name attached and it will be sent directly to them instead of you OR you can choose ONE of the following two things from the Chapter Book Challenge 2013 shop. The first person drawn will get this choice and if they choose the book by K. M. Weiland or to give it to someone else, then the second person drawn will get the choice of prize. (I can only give the choice to one person as one of the books is from me and the other if from the author.)


  1. Have to agree completely. I cringe when i read my older work. i have researched and learned so much over the last four years and i think doubled it all in the last year with the help of 12x12... Chap book challenge and with the fab people involved. and dee if course. love the post

  2. I also agree, writing can be learned. It's a bit like music. There are some people where writing/music comes easy, but they still need to learn. There are others where it's a bit harder, but it can be taught/learned.

  3. When I was a kid I was a phenomenal reader. Sometimes I wonder if my parents hadcontinued to nourish that reading (and school hadn't been such an obstacle) would I be a better writer today? Thanks for the post. I guess I'll just have to work harder. ;)

  4. I wasn't born a writing genius, but I was born with determination and persistance (thankfully!) I have also learned so much in the past couple of years that I have persuing this new career path and it is joining groups like your great Chapter Book Challenge that helps me along.
    Great post, thanks

  5. I agree with the passion. Because "writing" is more about storytelling and weaving magic than actual "writing" - though that's an essential part (like when we need to revise... or organize... or outline).

  6. Great post, I love how passion is the magic ingredient!

  7. Love this post. Writing is something you can learn, but it is also about passion. If you have the passion to do anything then you can learn how to do it better. I notice a difference in my writing from my first published book to my second and again with the one I am having published now. I also know my first drafts are getting better in terms of structure. Learning and improving is half the fun of writing!

  8. Wise words of hope. Sometimes I just have to be patient with myself when I ready other talented writers and feel like I will never be as good as they are!