Are you a talented writer?

This morning, Bransford asks how do writers know if they have talent. This is something all artists struggle with. There’s an inherent insecurity that comes from being an artist and constantly opening your innards up to criticism. And if you happen to have an ambitious bone in your body, or lofty dreams, or parents who drove you hard to be the best, then you probably end up wondering if what you do is worth your time a few times a day. On average. Some days never, other days, every solitary second. In the past year, I have noticed that I question my abilities to my own detriment far more often than is necessary. It’s one thing to wonder about your talent in a low moment. It’s quite another to berate yourself over your lack of talent when you clearly have some. So here are a few ways I think you can figure out if you have talent.

1) When you’re telling a story, say at dinner, do people lean in and forget to chew?

2) Do people have an emotional reaction to what you’ve written?

3) Do people come back and ask you questions about your work, days/weeks/months later?

A few years ago I was sitting at an SCBWI conference with Harold Underdown (of the Purple Crayon site) and we started talking about why it is, in all the indispensible advice to writers that was being doled out that week, nobody mentioned talent. He felt that it should have been a part of the discourse. I’d always wondered about that, but I figured that talent was so intangible that you couldn’t really quantifiy it, or even discuss it. What could a presenter do? Tell people that if they don’t have any talent they were wasting their time? And how were they to figure out who the talented ones were anyway?

I’ve been reading a noveling blog recently where the characters’ magical traits are found out by an invoker early on in their lives. It’s a neat trick, but there are no invokers for talent. And if there were, there would be a lot of incredibly disappointed people walking around with their hopes dashed. I think it’s a good thing. Nobody knows what their potential is. Nobody can look at a person walking down the street and know what they would be perfect at. Life is a struggle to find out what you can about yourself. It’s a learning process. Whether or not someone has talent doesn’t make or break them as a human being, and in some cases, it may not even make or break a career.

Talent is an intangible, like faith. You walk to the edge and you jump. And the ones who jump are the ones who find out if they have it in them. And if they fall, they can always get back up and try again. You never know. In the last drop, some talent might have shaken loose.

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