Talent vs. Craft vs. Persistence

Note, this was originally a response to my colleague Lyda Morehouse in response to her contention there’s there’s no such thin as talent.

Interesting question, Lyda. I don’t think I agree with you on the basic point, but I’m pretty close to you on the end conclusion.

I’d say that talent definitely exists, but that it’s a minimum condition. There seem to be, at least in my experience, some people who simply don’t have the right wiring for writing fiction. But they’re a minority. There are also a tiny minority of people who seem to be able to write wonderful stuff from the first word they put on the page.

But for the vast majority of folks it’s about craft and persistence, and I’d argue that persistence is the more important virtue for a writer.

I have a formula for writing success that I give my students and anyone who wants to know: Publishing is about 15 percent talent, 15 percent luck, 20 percent craft, and 50 percent banging your head against the wall until you knock it over. Your forehead heals, the wall doesn’t.

In other words, talent helps, but no more than luck, and a lot less than craft and persistence.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog Sept 22nd 2006—original comments may be found there. Reposted as part of the reblogging project)