The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Does Talent Exist?

Does Talent Exist?

Probably, in the same sense that “height” exists…but in the game of life, how high you can jump, and how hard you train to increase agility, counts for more than whatever genetic gifts you may or may not have been given.

Similarly, most people think of talent in connection with writing, and wince.  Either they have it, or they don’t.  And they fear that if they don’t, what’s the point?
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Just Sunday, I was speaking to a television writer, who spoke of an acquaintance, a man who worked on a show with him.  The man, he said, was a genius.  Understood structure intuitively, had a phenomenal grasp of dialogue and character, and wrote like a whirlwind.  He could only ask himself: “why do I bother?”

Well, there are multiple answers to that.  The first is:
Because you must.  Because you are a writer, and that is what writers do. They write. 
The second is: because there are very, very few such people, and they can’t write everything themselves!  Just look at film, television, books, stage…and you will see very swiftly that the majority of the work is NOT written by blessed, intuitive geniuses.  No, at best most of it is written by people with moderate talent who work very hard at creating the contacts and skills necessary to survive in the writing game.

Never be intimidated by “talent.”  Rather, spend all of your time and energy improving your own skills, cutting closer to the bone, being more honest, reading a higher level of work.  THAT is the way to move forward in your life and career, not by envying the few “natural talents” you will encounter in life.

And by the way: the writer I spoke to is healthy, with a lovely family.  The “natural” talent was just working on his third divorce.  To me, this indicates not “natural talent” but a willingness to sacrifice emotional health for career boost.  And this is not the Lifewriting way.