Faking Talent

Practice makes perfect. But does it?

I adore singing. I have been doing it for probably as long as I have been able to talk. When I was in primary school, I joined the school choir along with almost everyone else in my class that year. I loved it. I did not mind getting out of class twice a week to practice either. I would sing my heart out. In middle school and high school, I carried on being in the choir. With less people joining, it started to be clear who were the real talented singers. What else became clear was that I was not one of them, despite years of practice, I was never meant to be a talented singer. My choir teacher said that what I lacked in natural talent I made up for in enthusiasm. He was a very kind man and never let my lack of talent get in the way of my desire to carry on as part of the choir.

The whole point of the above rant is that practice does not really make perfect. If someone has natural talent, it certainly can improve his or her skills but it will never make someone without any talent become great. I am still a great advocate of practising something if doing it brings someone joy even if the person does not show a particular talent for it

Faking – to present as authentic or genuine

Talent – a natural aptitude or skill

Based on the two definitions above it is impossible to fake having talent since talent is something one is born with, a true natural gift. Therefore, talent is something that can never be acquired. This brings me back to the notion of practice makes perfect. You just cannot fake talent no matter how much you practice.

I think this holds true for writing too. I read everything from product packages to novels. Some writers just have much more natural talent than others. Their words flow so smoothly, their ideas are clear and concise. Practice may help them hone their skill but writing is truly a natural gift for them. I have a few blogger friends that I put into this category.

Lately though, I have been reading many novels by authors (often series of them) where I do not perceive the writer as having natural talent. I will call these writers charisma writers. They are writers who have come up with a catchy idea for a book, written it, and then spent hours working to edit it. It has then been fed into the market and slid nicely into a niche. These writers probably worked harder than those with natural talent to get their books out there in the world. They probably needed more support from editors and publishers to help them get their books ready but in the end, they did it.

This has led me to wonder more about what makes a good book. Is it the skill of the writer, is it the idea behind the book, is it the market trend at the time, or is it a magical combination of various things? What do you think?


About Billie Jo Schinnerer

Born and raised on the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment in eastern New York. Formerly a teacher. Moved to the North West area of England in 2003. Now a mother of three who doesn’t really know what she wants to be when she grows up.
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12 Responses to Faking Talent

  1. Brave, interesting post, Billie Jo. Not many want to take on the touchy topic of how many books are out there that were obviously written by people who haven’t any talent. It’s almost a taboo subject. I understand and agree with all your assertions here, but some would brand you a snob. Especially a certain vehement sector of the self-publish crowd. “How dare you say we don’t have talent!” I can practically hear the outraged shrieks now. LOL!

    Many people these days claim that talent is not necessary. And books like Fifty Shades of Grey would seem to back them up. It’s selling like crack on a Harlem street corner, and the author probably doesn’t give a fig for those who bash her lack of writing ability. She’s laughing all the way to the bank, as the saying goes.

    But if we’re talking about literature (good books, in other words) I do think talent plays a major role. But the reverse is also true: a person can be loaded with talent, but have no drive to hone their skills; no persistence to put in the long hours it takes to write a novel, and so they won’t get anywhere. Obviously it takes a combo of talent, ambition and a work ethic. You have all the ingredients, so no worries.

    • I have been known to not shy away from taboo or touchy subjects. I think life is far too short for that. 🙂

      I have read great self-published works from people I find that have immense natural talent and I have read heaps of horrible drivel pushed out by major publishing houses. Some of which sold many copies and made the writer a great deal of money. So perhaps those people that say you do not need talent are right and perhaps there is so much more to the notion of luck.

      Wasted talent makes me sad. I know a great natural artist that never used his talent because of something his parents once said to him. He went on to never draw again.

      I could publish a thousand times over and will never feel I am a natural talent. I am far too critical of myself. I think I may fall in the charisma writer category (or at least hope that I am even that good) but if I am there I know charisma writers can work hard and be deserving of success too. 😉

      • ‘Wasted talent makes me sad’ – agreed. I know two amazing artists who don’t draw any more, just because they don’t have the drive to. It’s an incredible waste.

        To be honest, the more I look at the publishing world, the less writing seems to make sense. I think it’s as much about luck as it is about skill (maybe even more so). Obviously natural talent is great, but practice helps. Naturally talented people would become mediocre people if they don’t practice whilst those without the talent do. Perhaps the question is less about how important practice is, but how important attitude is?

  2. pattisj says:

    Hmmm, you pose an interesting question. I guess there are as many writers as their are types of readers. We don’t all look for the same thing in a book. What one likes may not appeal to another. There’s room for everyone, the big thing is finding your audience.

    • There is much truth in what you say and I agree. I hated many of the things my English teachers at school assigned me to read (many of which are classics) and yet I have loved things often panned by critics.

  3. Dalya Moon says:

    Talent is what they call your hard work when they weren’t around to watch the rehearsals!

  4. Kaitee says:

    For me, as a reader, it’s a combination of a good story and skill. I don’t think you can have a pleasurable reading experience without one or the other to varying degrees. I’ll read a book with a good story with writing that may be written by someone with less natural talent (or perhaps that’s just me being a style snob because I’ve been reading the same type of books for the last 20 years) but I’d never do the opposite and read something without a good story.

    As a hopeful writer, my opinion of myself is far too critical. I know I don’t have a natural talent for the technical elements of writing, but I like to think I have stories and ideas that are worth the effort of editing. And I’m terrible at finding the time to practice.

    • I think I am the same as you. I am an ideas person but I lack the technical talent. That is the part I really have to work hard at, which is probably why editing is such a nightmare for me.

  5. Evelyn says:

    I agree, but I think you underestimate craft and overestimate talent. polished craft can make for super tight pieces and talent can get wrapped up in ego.
    I like the less polished, but true talent writers. usually they dont have the ego because they are relatively unknown. This goes for most things for me. The uncovered jewel is always a rough beauty.

  6. Selena says:

    Excellent post, Billie Jo. And, very thought provoking. I suppose that the key to the connection for me is your choice of magical combinations. I believe that technical talent comes from practice, practice, and more practice. But there is no substitution for a good story written with that elusive connection to creativity.

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