The Myth of Talent

A couple of months ago on the old RMFW blog, I talked about the Myth of Craft. The Myth of Craft promises us that if you learn how to write the perfect book, you will get money, fame, and your own purse dog.

I don’t buy The Myth of Craft like I don’t buy The Myth of Talent.

We’ve all met the talented writer. “Ooh, she has so much talent, surely she’ll hit it big. Wow, between her talent and her craft, she’ll surely land an agent.”

Maybe.

I have talent. I think most of the time my innate talent doesn’t help me because I think I’m too fancy, my books are too literary, and my “talent” gets in the way of me telling a good story. I fall in love with my words, and I don’t want to cut them. And more and more, I’m not cutting them because I like ‘em. If you don’t like my books, don’t read my books. *Insert a spit-storm raspberry here*

Then the internet laughs at me and says, “Well, son, that’s why you don’t have an agent or a big contract with a big traditional publisher. You don’t respect the craft and you think you have talent. Learn how to write and cut that purple prose.”

And maybe they are right.

But who cares?

As I’ve said before, this game is about doing it. It’s not about who has the most talent or who knows the most about craft, it’s about people who sit down, write books, edit books, and publish books. It’s about people who finish projects.

You can’t sell a perfect book you haven’t written. You can sell an iffy book that is finished. Some people will like it, however iffy, and some people won’t. It’s art we’re dealing with, people, weird, subjective, wacky art.

For example, many people have said my third book, Elizabeth’s Midnight, is their favorite. However, it doesn’t have very many Amazon reviews and it doesn’t sell as well as the others. Why? I don’t know. Art. Who knows?

Talent isn’t a bad thing, unless you fall in love with it, which I have. Better yet, talent has that mythical quality to it that I don’t think represents reality.

I love the idea of the genius writer, who sits down and spins gold with every word. And I wanted to be that. I wanted to write books in a vacuum, and use my innate brilliance to conquer the literary world. I didn’t want to learn craft, or suffer through edits, or any of that. I wanted to be a god!

Then I wrote books people couldn’t read. And then I had to learn how to tell a story. And then I had to learn about how to work with an editor. Learn, learn, learn.

Craft. Craft. Craft.

Ha, so if you wanna believe in a myth, go for the Myth of Craft versus the Myth of Talent.

My talent has helped me in one way: people have always encouraged me to write because they could see the spark I have. For a little while, the praise felt nice, but not much anymore. It’s never good enough or quite specific enough and I’d rather have book sales than praise. Oh well.

My friend Linda once told me that there’s talent on every corner and there is tons of genius writers in the world and I’m just another one. When she told me that, I kind of panicked. So my talent wouldn’t be enough???

Nope. Better than talent? Determination and courage and the will to write and publish.

I wish it were different. I wish there was magic to the talent and a guarantee of utter world-dominating success.

But there are no guarantees.

I will say this. It is nice using the talent I have and not letting it sit dormant. There is a magic to using my gifts to create, and while that may never turn into fortunes and fame, there is a feeling of satisfaction.

So use that talent you have. Write books. Edit books. Publish books.

Rinse. Repeat.

 

Aaron Ritchey

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King, both finalists in various contests. His third novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, was called “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart” by Kirkus Reviews. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. The first two books of his young adult sci-fi/western epic series, The Juniper Wars, are available now also from WordFire Press. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters. Learn more about Aaron on his website.


2 thoughts on “The Myth of Talent

  1. Thanks for these insights! They go so well with my morning coffee, Aaron. I loved this: “use my innate brilliance to conquer the literary world.” I blame all those “dazzling-success-against-all-odds” movies for such blissful dreams. Just a few, quick vignettes about hard work at the keyboard, and, voila! (I think your word for it in a previous blog was “poof!”)

  2. If it only took talent, the RMFW book lists would be bursting with bestselling novels and we’d all be rich and famous, right? I’m convinced persistence and a warped imagination are far more important than anything else. (The warped imagination is what produces unique/original ideas…the writing can be fixed by a good editor if the idea is brilliant.)

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