Is Writing Skill Better Than Talent?


 By Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter

 I read a very interesting paper, Innate Talent: Myth or Reality? by Lynn Helding. It delved into whether you can truly succeed, become extraordinary in your field without innate talent.

It got me thinking of writing among other things, such as musicians and mathematicians.

-Do some writers have an innate ability (talent) to create amazing and memorable stories?

-Do the words just flow onto the page with less effort than the average writer?

-Can a writer with an innate ability come up with storylines when needed without staring at the computer or pulling their hair out?

-If you don't possess that innate talent, can you become a skilled writer and produce works as outstanding as someone who has talent or is gifted?

Bottom line, does practice and HARD work make up for innate talent?

While I'm not an expert in the field, in my humble opinion, I believe that people do possess certain innate abilities, whether that be talent, physical prowess, agility, exceptional intellect, or something else.

With that said, and aside from physical attributes, I don't believe the lack of an innate talent in a particular area limits anyone from excelling in that area.

Jeff Goins in his article, The Truth About Natural-Born Talent, agrees with this. "Certainly, there may be some amount of natural talent for some abilities. But as Geoff Colvin pointed out in his book Talent Is Overrated, if talent does exist, it doesn’t really matter."

Goins goes on to say that it's all about hard work, practice, consistency.

In an article at Fortune Magazine, Secrets of Greatness, it pretty much states the same thing. "You do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist. You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful."

Even the paper I mentioned at the beginning of this article concludes that innate talent is not what creates greatness. It's the time, effort, and work one puts into a career.

On the flipside, in the Fortune Magazine article, Warren Buffet said that he was, "wired at birth to allocate capital." The article does note that Buffet devoted his life to studying his field.

What's super-interesting in that article is the research shows that a lot of people who work hard for decades in a particular field may not achieve greatness.

The researchers found that it takes 'deliberate practice' and consistency to make the difference, to take one's performance to the elite status.

As I mentioned, I do believe that some people do have something, an innate talent or physical attribute, that may make writing, playing an instrument or sports, or excelling in the business world come easier and allows them to become extraordinary in that area.

One perfect example is the 7'2 basketball player. Won't it naturally be easier for him to make a slam dunk than a 5'10 player could? But on the flipside, imagine that 7'2 guy trying to do gymnastics.

I guess the physical attributes may play more of a factor than innate talent. As research is showing, an average person can become great with hard work, deliberate practice, and consistency.

The innate talent may get the individual started and it may initially be easier for him, but, some with an innate talent won't go on to greatness or develop expertise without putting in the work and time.

What do you think?

This article was first published at: Writing Skills Vs Talent


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Karen’s children’s books include Walking Through Walls and The Case of the Stranded Bear. She also has a DIY book, How to Write Children’s Fiction Books. You can check them out at:



deborah lyn said...

Thank you Karen for this thought provoking topic and your read on it. We certainly can build skills for writing or sports or ___, but talent is a wonderful boost, such as natural storytelling.
I think time must be spent to develop whatever we endeavor. thanks again, deborah

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Your question made me think, too. Here's the thing. Even those with "innate" talent learn a few things about writing...and publishing...and marketing....along the way. If they don't, we probably never heard of them, never heard that they possessed innate talent. Maybe innate talent is nothing more than curiosity, or an intense interest in words or language. And did they get that from nowhere? Or were they exposed to it and realized they wanted to do more with it. I'll go with "innate" curiosity. Not so sure about "innate" talent. So there.

Karen Cioffi said...

Deborah, I agree. While working hard to improve skills, talent is a wonderful boost!

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, that's an interesting thought. That kind of leans toward Warren Buffet. He was wired at birth to do what he does, but he devoted his life to the field. So maybe a spark and a lot of hard work!

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