What is Talent?

I quit a job years ago so I could write a novel — the sensitive and wise story of a love that transcended time and physical bonds. I sat down at my desk, pen in hand, and waited for the words to flow effortlessly from my subconscious, through my fingers, and onto the paper. I waited, and I waited. The paper remained blank.

I couldn’t understand the problem. I’d written poems and short stories, and even summoned the nerve to send one of my better efforts to Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, though they declined to print it.

(Since you asked: the story was about a guy on a train who got stuck sitting next to a smoker. He asked the smoker to put out the cigarette, and when the smoker refused, the guy shot him, proving that smoking really is hazardous to your health. This story may not make sense now, but I wrote it before the prohibition of smoking in public places.)

I thought that since the novel didn’t come effortlessly, didn’t come at all, I had no talent. Perhaps I didn’t. But what I didn’t know then is that by learning and perfecting the craft of writing, one can fake talent. Or maybe talent is perfecting one’s craft. Doesn’t matter. All I know is that now when I sit down to write, I do not expect the story to appear on paper by mental osmosis or as some form of automatic writing. I consciously choose every word. I consciously develop every character. I consciously create every scene. And when the novel is completed, I rewrite it, edit it, polish it. None of it comes effortlessly. But so what if it takes a year, two years, ten years to complete? The joy is in the process, in the effort.

What do you think talent is? Is it something you can learn, or is it innate?

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