I posited the idea recently, amongst a group of other writers in the bar at a convention, that the only difference between a successful writer and a regular crazy deluded person is a certain level of talent. This suggestion was roundly shouted down with cries of “Not even that!” “Talent doesn’t get you anywhere!” and “Drink! Nother drink! Whez ma drink?”
I think talent does have a role in a writer’s success or failure (along with hard work, skill, persistence, luck, not being a jerk, the ability to drink gin for breakfast and having a delusional outlook on your prospects of success). I think, as writers, we often bias towards things like lyricism of prose (for me, Le Guin, Bradbury) or mastery of narrative (Gaiman) when we think of talent. So J.K. Rowling might get criticised for clunky narrative or Stephenie Meyer for mediocre prose, and their successes attributed to something other than talent.
I think talent is part of the reason why writers who (may) have shortcomings in aspects of their craft can find such success. Because, despite those shortcomings, their stories have got the secret sauce that makes readers’ brains fizz, that drag you into the story and suddenly it’s six hours later, the house is dark and cold and you’ve hopelessly missed the dinner with your friends that you’d been looking forward to this past week. I think the ability to create stories that do that is not something that can be entirely taught. And, to my mind, that makes it (at least partly) a talent.
But what about being a crazy deluded person? Why is that an important attribute for being a writer? Read more…