Friday, November 4, 2011

What About Talent?

I'm trying to write this post on my son's laptop, over at his house, watching the grandkids.  Parent teacher conferences today, no school.  This is a bit problematic since all my post ideas, notes, pictures, etc. are on the PC at my house.  So this will be an off-the-top-of-my-head post.

My local writing group met last night.  We listened to a guest speaker, local author Liz Coley, then broke into smaller groups for critique sessions.  As usual, the work being read ranged from wonderful to...well, not so wonderful.  I was especially discouraged for one of our members whose work was riddled with cliches and long-winded flowery passages. The group was gentle and offered useful advice but I knew she'd be back next month with more of the same.  She listened to what everyone was telling her but never seemed able to apply it to her work. 

We all talk about learning our craft, developing our skills. Even the most talented writer must learn how to channel that talent.  Right?  But I found myself wondering last night - can anyone learn to write?  With the right books or classes or teachers, can anyone become a good (or even great) writer?  Or does there have to be some natural talent underneath?  Is writing well a gift, a learned skill, or a little of both?  Can you have one without the other?

What do you think?

Have a great weekend.  Do something fun.

Groaner of the Day:  At New York's Kennedy Airport today, an individual later discovered to be a public school teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square and a calculator. Authorities believe he is a member of the notorious al-Gebra movement.

He is being charged with carrying weapons of math instruction.

(hee hee hee)

24 comments:

Jessica R. Patch said...

Total groaner! lol!!

Mike Keyton said...

Love the groaner. Passing it on to my wife who's a math's teacher.

Ref talent. All you say is true but the missing ingredient is 'voice' and except for the lucky few that only comes with giving it a go - persistence and time.

LD Masterson said...

Jessica - yeah, that was an lol for me, too.

Angela Brown said...

Love the groaner, as usual.

Now about that talent? Talent is useful, but, IMHO, it still takes energy and a willingness to apply the new things we learn to move beyond the place our talent starts us at. For some, the talent is really high on the charts. For others, not so much. It's possible this person is nodding in agreement to the crits being given but not applying it for various reasons, like they feel they are right to do what they are doing, they rationalize that the crits are subjective and therefore don't really matter. So they plow ahead with what they are comfortable with, maybe a little afraid to really put the feedback into action.

LD Masterson said...

Mike - Good point

Stacy McKitrick said...

I liked what I believe Stephen King said in "On Writing" (now, I'm paraphrasing here, but this is the gest). An adequate writer can learn to be a good writer and a good writer can learn to be a great writer, but an adequate writer will never be a great writer. When I read that, it kind of discouraged me, but it's kind of true.

Now I'm curious which one of the writers you thought wrote flowery.

I don't think I could ever bring my whole novel to the group. It would take too damn long to go through - 3 pages at a time! It's better suited for short stories.

Maria Zannini said...

You can teach syntax, characterization, pace and setting, but I don't think you can teach the art of storytelling (which includes the voice Mike mentioned).

What Stacy paraphrased too makes sense too.

I've read so-so writers who were readable but not very memorable. I've also read so-so writers who display the telltale signs of brilliance just under the surface. You know it's there, waiting to be mined.

Kay Theodoratus said...

I sure hope you can learn to write. That's what I trying to do ... if I ever grow up.

GigglesandGuns said...

Grooooan!

I think writing, like any art, is a talent. You may write well enough to pass the courses in school but it probably won't make you an author.

Where do you find those groaners? NO, don't tell me. Better not to know.

Dru said...

See, I love this groaner.

Anyone can write, but to be a writer, it has to be inside of you and like mentioned you have to be a storyteller to keep your listener/reader interested.

Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

Interesting post, LD. Since I don't consider myself a writer, I feel I cannot adequately answer your question. From a reader perspective, if I can't hear the 'voice' of the writer, I don't like what I'm reading. Is that talent or learned? I think a combination of both.

LOVED the groaner. I'm sharing it with my son's math teacher. Thanks! ☺ Happy Friday!

Pidg said...

Ohmygoodness...the groaner! I am so simple. I laugh so hard at all of them! Whew...okay. Personally I don't think just anyone can become a writer. It's a voice, a connection, a deep inspiration of characters that speak to that individual. I believe worlds can be created by anyone, but only a select few can depict them accurately. That's just me...I'm still sputtering over the groaner :D

Sarah Pearson said...

Oh, I love the groaner :-)

LD Masterson said...

Angela - I think you're right about the writer in our group.

LD Masterson said...

Stacy - That's why I haven't brought anything in a while. THe only thing I've been working on is the novel and I think people find it hard to crit three pages out of context.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - I think you're right about the art of storytelling. It's a little like teaching. Many people may know a subject but only some can impart that knowledge to others effectively.

LD Masterson said...

Kay - Me, too.

LD Masterson said...

Mary - Honestly, sometimes I spend more time hunting for the groaner than I do writing the post. It has to make me laugh, that day, or I won't include it.

LD Masterson said...

Dru - That's kinda what I think.
(Glad you liked the groaner.)

LD Masterson said...

Larri - Happy Friday to you. Hope your son's math teacher enjoys it.

(Oops, I should make that Happy Saturday. I'm a little behind over here.)

LD Masterson said...

Pidg - Be glad you're young. Laughing too hard at my age...well, we won't go there.

LD Masterson said...

Sarah - Thanks. I like giving people a laugh. We all need them.

Renee Miller said...

Excellent question. I think the answer's been pretty much covered, but I like to ramble, so I'll give my own two cents worth. :P

Talent is a small but vital part of writing fiction. As others have already pointed out in their comments, it's what separates the good from the great.

It can't be taught (IMO), it simply is or it isn't. But that doesn't mean that an author without that natural "voice" can't do well. We've all seen authors on the bestseller list who haven't even mastered the basics of grammar or dialogue, and who have no hope of even touching the art of storytelling.

Whether each of us is one of the lucky few is something we'll probably never know for sure. I mean, how many of us can be that honest about our own work? That doesn't mean we stop trying.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i always liked what stephen king said, that a mediocre writer could become a good writer if they put in a lot of work. And that a good writer could become a great writer.
But the chances of anyone moving up more than one level is very, very small