Saturday, September 10, 2011

Talent vs. Hard Work


Terri Guiliano Long wrote a wonderful post that really resonated with me. If you haven't read it yet, I strongly urge you to jump over and read Why Work Matters More Than Talent.

*elevator music plays*

In summary, she asks these questions:
  1. What is talent, anyway?
  2. If we can't define talent, how can we possibly know if we have it?
She makes an excellent point that with writing, we control how hard we work. We each have varying levels of talent, and yet it's the hard work that makes the biggest difference. An incredibly talented writer won't get very far if she fails to produce pages or improve her skills. Likewise, a s0-so writer can work hard, learn new things every day, and spring ahead. I find that comforting.

It's fair to say that most of us probably have days when we feel like talentless hacks. (Or is that just me?) Feeling that way on one day doesn't mean we don't have talent. It just means we're having an off day. We have the choice to either quit or keep working, and I know most of us choose to keep working.

Long quotes Stephen King's yardstick for talent--"you wrote something for which someone sent you a check...you cashed the check and it didn't bounce." Even if you've never received money for your writing, have you improved with each piece you've written? Has an online magazine published your work? Has an agent requested a partial or full? Doesn't this prove you have talent?

We can't control what other people think of our words, but thankfully we're blessed with the opportunity to nurture our talent through hard work.

If you read Long's post, were you inspired? And what's your opinion on talent vs. hard work? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

And if you need additional inspiration, be sure to read Tahereh Mafi's post Don't Be Afraid to Write a Bad Book. It's amazing.

34 comments:

  1. You're always full of the most awesome outlooks, Julie! :D And, ahem, you are definitely not alone in having those moments.

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  2. How hard we work is pretty much the only thing we can control so we should make the most of it :-)

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  3. Thanks for sharing the link.

    Terri has a great post there. So sad for Toole. He gave up, bigtime. He never saw what was in his future.

    Everyone is not going to love us. We shouldn't give up the ship though. We need to take the talent we have, work hard and make it bloom.

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  4. That's such a cool way of looking at things! I, for one, think that talent is just a lot of hard work and inspiration to keep doing what you love! Thanks so much for the link!

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  5. So true. Talent, however it is defined/measured will only get us so far, and not far at all if we don't put the work in. Excellent post as always, Julie. :D Thanks for the link to Terri's blog.

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  6. what an excellent post! I was always pretty sure I was talented - except when reading someone brilliant like Ursula LeGuin - but it wasn't until I really started putting some hard work in that I've seen any results from it. That bit about how to to be king was right on.

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  7. I like King's definition. Doesn't make me feel any more talented, but it's funny.

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  8. We improve with everything we write, great point! Nothing we write is worthless because of that. :)

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  9. Lisa-thanks! It's nice to share our doubts and know we aren't alone.

    Sarah, that's what I loved about Long's post. We can control how hard we work!

    Loree, I was struck by Toole's sad story. If only he hadn't given up.

    Jess, so true. What's the saying? 1 % inspiration, 99% perspiration?

    CherlyAnne, my pleasure. I was so inspired by it!

    mshatch, it truly is amazing how much we improve when we put in the hard work.

    Alex, King is just so darn plain-spoken I love that about him!

    Heather, the "nothing is wasted" mantra helps me through those times when I feel as if I've wasted time on a book that will never sell!

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  10. I find that comforting too. Do something for long enough, you're sure to see results.

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  11. Great post! It's important to never give up, learn from others and improve every day. Have a good weekend.

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  12. Doesn't every writer wish talent was enough? Obviously without a lot of work you're going to be the only one enjoying your talent.

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  13. Love King's yardstick for talent because it means that I have some! Yippee!!

    On other aspect that plays into the equation is luck. But, luck can't strike you if you haven't put yourself in the position through hard work and talent!

    Thanks Julie!

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  14. Thanks for sending me over there, Juile. Was I inspired? Yes. Inspired to keep working hard. Something I've always believed in. ^_^

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  15. I understand that moment when you feel like a fraud. I've felt it even as a successful designer. Ah, the fragile ego of talent. I agree that hard work is an essential part of the artistic journey. It also makes the payoff so much sweeter when we feel we've put in our ultimate efforts.

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  16. Awesome article. I've always said that succeeding is more about hard work than talent. True, you do need at least a little talent to make it; hence, why I'm not on the Olympic basketball team. Or any other basketball team. But skill can be learned, if you work hard enough. I always like to remember this, on days when I'm reading a particularly excellent book and am simultaneously inspired and depressed. Thanks for the reminder!

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  17. In all things, there seems to be that recipe of part talent, part hard work. And in publishing, add in part timing, part luck, and part who knows what. We can't ever control the biggest percentage of that except the hard work, and as you said, building our talent by learning. If anyone really had it all figured out, there would be a world full of Stephen Kings. I keep it pretty simple. I do my best, then the next day, I try to do better. How that plays out for me is part of what makes life interesting. That was a great post by T. Mafi. Thanks for the link:)

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  18. Thanks for a great post. Talent is that tool that everyone has access to, but with some it's laying on the ground and for others it might be buried. Some can pick up that tool at a very early age, and others unearth and brush off the dirt at a later age. We all have access to it. What we do with that tool depends upon the amount of effort. we are willing to give. Effort and hard work make the difference. Because, even if you don't have immediate access to the talent tool... there are many more tools you can use to create the same outcome. "IF" you are willing to work hard. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

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  19. Excellent post; even talent needs a nudge (or more) once in a while. Or hard work can take over when talent is snoozing. ;o)

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  20. Lovely post, Julie! I think everybody is gifted with kinds of talent, but I absolutely agree that talent means nothing without hard work to back it up. Success, or any variation thereof, is one percent talent and ninety-nine percent hard work.

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  21. Hey, I'm counting on hard work to get me where I want to go. Talent alone is not enough!

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  22. Don't be afraid to write bad books? Well, if you're talking about quality, then I write plenty of those. lol!

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  23. I like this post, but what about the writer that works too hard? I'm going to do a post on that later this week and I'm probably going to link back to you and Terri. Great post.

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  24. I know a lot of very talented writers who haven't made it because they lacked perseverance. I also know a lot of good writers who aren't as talented who have made it because they kept sending out their work and tried to improve their craft. You've got to keep at it if you want to succeed.

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  25. Read the article and agree completely.

    See, talent can be squandered or capitalized. Note that nobody says talent = 0%.

    You need ~some~ talent, but you also need a great deal of determination.

    One thing that gets me, especially with writers, is that everyone dreams of playing in the big-leagues.

    It's all right, folks, if you want to dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, but the reality is you have a far better chance of coaching your son's fifth-grade team. Satisfy yourself with reality, and align your efforts with your talents.

    Not everyone has the talent required to hit the NYT best-sellers list and make a million bajillion depreciating US dollars. That's a true fact of life. Accept it.

    But you might be able to hit a few small publishers, post on some blogs, and ~enjoy~ what talent you possess.

    You may even earn enough $USD to pay your light bill and your cable. For one month, anyway.

    - Eric

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  26. Well, I'm not sure of my talent, but I work hard at writing. I think I have an inherent skill, so to speak, and I hope when coupled with my hard work, I produce something worth reading. I guess I'll find out in a few more weeks if I ever hear back from those darn agents!

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  27. Oh, the talentless hack feeling...yes, I've had it. I think we've all had it, except for those whose egos are on steroids and I don't want to hang out with anyway...

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  28. I love this post, Julie. There are days I feel very talent less and then there are days I feel I am not working hard enough.

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  29. What a wonderful post and link, Julie! I love this discussion. I have always believed (and hoped) that hard work and perseverance pay off.

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  30. Motivation beats out talent any day! One of my fav sayings ( and I can't remember at the moment who said it) is The only thing between Tri and Triumph is a little umph. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  31. There is also talent in knowing what kind of hard work needs to be done. Without this, you can flail away forever without results of any kind...

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  32. Sheer effort doesn't matter at all if the task was done incorrectly for the entire attempt.

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