Writing success: Is it talent or hard work?

You’ve written story after story, but none of them ever seem to measure up to your favorite authors’ pieces. Meanwhile, the few of your stories that you thought were actually decent won’t sell. You’re starting to wonder if you have the natural-born talent to be a writer.

Before you start getting hard on yourself, we should explore your underlying assumption: that some people are born with a natural ability to write.

No one really knows if such a talent is “genetic”. There’s no doubt, however, that some people spend their formative years garnering the experiences and mastering the skills that later will make them good storytellers. So, with a qualitative “yes”, there are people with talent.

But they can squander it. Many become journalists, speech writers or college professors who never pen the Great American Novel despite their love of writing and literature. Others find their family’s needs and the daily grind of their jobs leave them too little time to write.

In any case, there are those with “less” talent who work at making themselves writers – and their writing shines brighter than many who are talented. Remember, George Orwell once was viewed as an average kid with no talent; today, he is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

So how do you “work” at becoming a “good” writer? Three ways:
• Read – Read a lot. Read the great works and authors of this genre, like Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein. Read the great works and authors of all time, like Homer, Shakespeare and Hemingway. You can’t be a good writer unless you see how the masters did it.
• Write – Olympic weightlifters trained and practiced every day for years to achieve their success. Likewise, writers have to train and practice to achieve their success. Write every day, even if what you pen isn’t any good. It will get better over time.
• Get feedback – Placing your manuscript in a drawer for no one else to see rarely leads to improvement. Join a writers’ critique group (there are many online), attend writing workshops, hire a manuscript editor (full disclosure here: I offer such a service). See how others react to your work and use their advice to improve.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.