At the Candy Dance Festival three weeks ago where I was exhibiting my books, I spoke to a woman who has read all of my books and been supportive of my work for years. This woman is also a professional singer. Our conversation veered toward artistic skills. Immediately, I sensed a frustration that I know well.
She said that people have always made statements to her along the lines of, "Oh, it must be so wonderful to have such singing talent." And, "How great to have been born with such a voice!"
Before I could respond, she added, "While I'm so pleased and flattered that they like what I do, I want to shout, 'It isn't talent! And I wasn't born with my voice! It took decades of constant, never-ending work to develop my voice and singing skills.'"
I told her about the common experience of writers hearing people say, "I'd love to write, if only I had the talent."
I used my oft-repeated example of the figure skater. Writing (and singing and painting and dancing and acting etc.) is not something you are born knowing how to do. Nor can you learn just by studying. Studying is of course great. Classes and how-to books and support groups and critique circles and youtube videos are all smart to pursue. They are very useful and well worth the time. But learning to write is only accomplished by doing it. Just like figure skating.
You can be born with excellent bio-mechanics. And you can be born with a well-made brain and nervous system to control your muscles.
But all the natural abilities in the world won't make it so you can strap on a pair of skates and go out and do a triple-twisting leap.
You have to put in 10,000 hours on the ice, practicing over and over. That is the only way to learn to be a competent figure skater.
Or singer. Or actor. Or painter. Or musician. Or dancer. Or writer.
It's true that you can't succeed at these things if you don't have some basic brains or motor abilities. But the professional singer talking to me at the Candy Dance festival is right. It isn't talent. It's many years work.