OK, so I haven't been here for a while. I've been busy outlining my next book while the recently completed one rests prior to revisions. And, well, I just didn't have anything I felt compelled to say.
But now I do.
The issue of how much talent counts is one I used to debate with my riding instructor. She basically dismissed the whole idea of talent and said anyone who applied themselves diligently (10,000 hours, anyone?) could reach a high standard of riding – or dancing, singing, swimming, whatever. I used to argue there were limitations in some people that might stop them achieving this, otherwise everyone would sing beautifully and swim like Ian Thorpe.
But ultimately we uncovered two factors at the heart of the issue: application and aptitude.
Some people unquestionably have a higher aptitude for particular activities, whether it’s writing fiction, riding a bike or playing a musical instrument. But even these people will never fully develop that aptitude without application, without applying themselves to practice and study. A student with less initial aptitude who works hard will sometimes outshine a very gifted student who goofs off and doesn’t apply themselves.
When I was riding a lot at the Uni where I was studying Equine Science (as a mature age student), people would tell me how lucky I was to be a good rider. It wasn’t luck, it was twenty years of instruction, training and application. If I’d decided whether to continue riding based on the initial aptitude I showed I would never have got anywhere, because I had very little. I had a good affinity with horses and I liked them, which was why I wanted to ride. But I had to apply myself to get any good at it.
My concern remains that people will be discouraged because they feel they haven’t ‘got it’, and they will never be any good. What is ‘good’? A better question should be do you enjoy it? The flip side of the talent/not debate is that people can seize on it as either an excuse or a reason not to bother, or to justify why they will never improve. Or it may be the reason they give up something they love.
When you are suffering from those insidious self-doubts, the idea that no matter what you try you will fall short of your goal can be enough to make you think about giving it away. This applies whether you are an athlete, an artist or a writer.
With writing, so much comes down to persistence and getting your work out there – so you can have the ‘luck’ of being in the right place at the right time – that I would hate to see anyone quit because they feel they don’t have the raw materials to start with. I don’t believe 10,000 hours is what you need in the literal sense, it just stands for a willingness to persist, and learn, and improve and keep doing it.
So if you love doing something, don't give up.
Whether you've got it or not.