Friday, March 24, 2006

Talent and Craft, Luck and Persistence

Talent is something innate, and can't be taught. It's what makes you want to write, and gives you an advantage when learning craft. Those children I lectured to yesterday had talent, but unhoned talent won't get you published. It needs to be focused, refined, and directed. Talent alone won't make you successful.

Craft can be taught. Structure, format, conflict, hooks, characterization, style, tone, the machinations of the publishing business---this is all learned. And it can be learned, regardless of your aptitude or level of innate talent. Mastery of craft alone won't make you successful.

Luck is simply being in the right place at the right time, and actually is the most important factor not only in writing, but in life. Every important event in your life can be traced to something beyond your control. Your birth. Your friendships. Your family. Your jobs. Other people and things had to happen for you to exist, for you to be who you are. Luck alone will not make you successful.

Persistence, like craft, can be learned. While you can't control luck, you can improve your chances at success by continuing to write, learn, and submit. Persistence alone will not make you successful.

In my experience, writers place too much value on talent, not enough value on craft, give luck too little weight, and often use persistence as an excuse not to improve craft.

While you can't control talent or luck, you can keep improving as a writer, keep writing, and keep submitting.

It's still no guarantee you'll succeed, but it is the way that most writers have succeeded.