Is Natural Talent Enough?

I’m not 100% certain where I plan on going with this.  The topic came to mind after a day of hearing people tell me how talented I am when it comes to writing.  For a while, I’ve been struggling with a lot of doubt in regards to my creative abilities.  This is the first time in my life that I’ve been this low, so I’m thankful for the support. Their words did make me feel better about my situation, but there was still a sting to it.

The sting came from me wondering why I couldn’t get anywhere if I did have talent.  I’ve read works by other indie authors who are incredibly gifted, but they are struggling or have left the game behind.  Various published authors that I love have very little name recognition even within their own genre.  As an author, if you don’t praise one of the big names of today then you’re made to feel like something is wrong with you.  It’s like we’re supposed to grab a mentor who doesn’t know we exist and follow their path.  We bring them up more than our own works in the hopes of getting attention or being associated with them.  I think.  Whenever I see this being done, I begin to wonder if natural or even developed talent are enough.

We live in an age of short attention spans, rapid fire information, and connections to the world that we can’t always turn off.  People can get famous on YouTube for being foolish just as easily as they can for being talented.  So, is talent even a factor today?  Can it be overshadowed by somebody who is simply charismatic and famous?  I started to touch on this with the celebrity author post in November.  It does feel like quality of writing isn’t as essential as it once was.  It’s more important for the author to be marketable or the story to be easily adapted.  So many people refuse to touch a book that hasn’t been turned into a movie or TV show.  It’s rather frustrating for someone who is focused on the literary side of art.

This topic opens a fairly big door too because I’ve realized that talent isn’t always agreed upon.  If not that someone has it, but on who has more when comparing authors.  For example, one of the conversations I had in the celebrity author post made me realize that I see Tolkien as more talented than Rowling.  The other person made it sound like Rowling was more talented than Tolkien.  Now, I’m not calling anyone out and hope that I didn’t offend because I want to say that we’re both right.  It’s personal taste and preference that guides our definitions of talent, which means these aren’t universal.  This makes getting higher up the author food chain even tougher because you need to appeal to the right preferences, but that might not be possible if your talent takes you in a different direction.  For example, I’ve been told a lot that I should change my style from 3rd person present tense to something more common.  Just don’t have it in me to make that kind of compromise because part of my storytelling talent stems from evolving within that style.  My only hope is that I can find someone with the right contacts and pull who wants to give me a chance.

Yeah, there’s that other aspect of being a successful author.  Natural talent is part of it, but luck might be the bigger factor.  How many talented people have gone unnoticed because they weren’t lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time?  That one query letter that you didn’t send could have been the one that struck gold, but the agent didn’t seem to have an interest in fantasy.  Responding to that one negative review has painted you as a spoiled author who can’t take criticism even though you simply wanted to clarify something in the story.  Every step on this path can lead to an event that overshadows your talent, which makes things very frustrating.

So, here I sit with my talent and voices and notebooks.  I’m not sure what I have to do to get anywhere with my writing.  All I can do is push forward, but it’s hard to do when you go for so long without finding a carrot.  I’ve been starved for reviews, sales, or anything for a long time.  Seems like I’m not the only one, so at least I’m in good company.  Yet, it does make me wonder and worry.  How much of the equation is talent these days?  Does the talent have to be in writing or simply in promoting yourself?  What can a person do if they’re talented at writing, but not very good at the promoting and business side of the author world?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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52 Responses to Is Natural Talent Enough?

  1. Not that I’ve published anything, but you are exactly right with your observations and assumptions.

    Writers and authors everywhere are saying people don’t read as much. The market and the internet are chock-full of writers, good and bad. We have so many creative people able to create that we have hit a point in time where there are too many shows to ever watch, too many artists to pay an artist a marketable price, and too many good writers to even only read what’s good.

    …Assuming, as you put it, that we can all agree on what’s good.

    Also, you need natural talent, work, work, work, really good connections, great writing that appeals to most people, and that elusive thing called luck.

    I’m reading all over the place, though, that an author cannot live by authoring alone. Maybe it’s a ‘times are changing’ thing; maybe it’s always been difficult. Writers are saying that writing needs to be a hobby, for real.

    Knowing you’ve succeeded so well before, take that information (that I think you know, again, judging from your comments) and work your success within those bounds. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read the same thing with authors getting main jobs. Even award winning ones are needing a more consistent income. It does seem like talent could be a jumping point, but then you can’t depend on getting very far.

      One odd thing is that I think there was always a wide variety of choices. Tons of books at the library and movies at Blockbuster. TV shows were harder due to needing to be taped, but you could do it. Yet, it’s kind of changed. There are now a chosen few that everyone MUST experience or they’ll be out of the social media loop. For example, I haven’t watched ‘Bird Box’ and I’m not really interested. Not my kind of movie. I’ve been told by others that I’m missing out or something is wrong with me. There’s not as much acceptance of someone missing a trend or attempts to let them skip. So, peer pressure and mob mentality add the popular ones to many people’s already tight schedule. Why would a person dive into an unknown when they need to keep up with the masses? Definitely limits the audience to a point where talent isn’t a factor at all.

      That was a bit more ranty than expected.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. L. Marie says:

    Some big questions here. Many authors are talented, but have difficulty promoting themselves. Promotion is a skill. Some authors have publicity people thanks to a publisher or hire them themselves to do the promoting or at least give tips for the author on how to promote himself or herself. (Some of us don’t have the funds to hire publicity people.)

    Some authors I’ve talked to said that yes they were in the right place at the right time with their premise, which caught the eye of the right people. But many others have cited that persistence was the biggest factor in getting them where they needed to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funds and lack thereof is definitely a promo factor. Though I noticed last year that most of my paid promos didn’t help. At least those that ran for a limited time when compared to those that remain on a site. Interaction was another factor. The more, the better.

      Have to consider persistence. That’s hard at times when many people will tell an author to quit or wait until life is settled.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My advice is to either hire a PA (expensive) or invest time into the marketing aspect of publishing. There are many informative classes available to help with this. Try Youtube to get an idea.
    Hope this helps!

    Like

    • Thanks. Though I do wonder what one does if they simply aren’t good at the marketing side. It means that talent isn’t enough or might not even be a big factor at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s not true. Readers have to know you’re out there in order to become fans. That’s one reason why I participate in so many box sets. It’s an easy way to find new-to-me readers.

        Like

      • The thing is that I’ve done promo after promo in the past. About two years ago, I found that none of them worked. That’s when I talked to others and found they were having the same issue. The working promos cost hundreds of bucks, so many were getting left out. As far as box sets go, many are barely able to get their own work done and they need to find a group too. So, it isn’t an avenue that everyone can pursue. That’s part of my point too. Talent tends to get overshadowed by marketing. A mediocre book can make a fortune is marketed right while a well-written one gets no attention if the author can’t master or afford promotions. It means talent comes secondary at times.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Adele Marie says:

    I agree with what you’re saying, Charles. It is a quandary that many of us find ourselves in. Talent via marketing. There are people out there who call themselves marketers who will, for a fee of course, do the marketing for you. But…life everything in life I believe a little luck can help nudge authors in the right direction. Just haven’t found the luck yet. I thought about Tolkien via Rowling. I read The Hobbit when I was 11 would I say he is more talented than Rowling? They both created a world which drew thousands of readers in, they both wrote characters which will be remembered but I lean towards Tolkien.

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    • Tolkien kind of set the genre standards that allowed for things like Windermere, Potter, and GoT. They might stray to many extents, but he made the fantasy foundation. At least that’s what I think. Very true about luck and authors. Some days it feels like that’s a bigger force.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. C.E.Robinson says:

    Charles, the answer to succes is a flat, It Takes a Village! Make connections! Sell yourself! Advocate for your genre! How does it relate personally to the reader? Find a promoting editor! Believe luck comes your way! Most of my NP advances in healthcare came from “connections” and being in the right place at the right time! Maybe that’s just luck in the end! 📚🎶 Christine

    Like

  6. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Charles poses an interesting question in this article – Please let him know YOUR views in the comments under his original blog post 😎

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  7. You raise all the right questions but like you I have no answers. I have been kicking around for six years and don’t feel any further ahead recognition wise. I really think the answer is a ton of money spent on name recognition is the key. I’ve tried most everything else. Even having a number one seller on Amazon is no silver bullet. Like you I have to wonder. Before I leave your post let me say I think you are one of the most talented writers and deserve to be recognized as such. Hope there is no sting having said that.

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  8. I hear and feel exactly where you are coming from Charles. First you need to be writing for the current fads – neither you nor I do that. Second you need to know a person of influence who will push your work. Third you need a huge piece of luck. I’ve read NYT books that are rubbish and some wonderful books from obscure writers. Some of the most successful authors are sales gurus who can interpret the stats and find out what works – like selling insurance it’s a numbers game after you have found your target audience. I’ve managed very little of any of this.

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  9. I agree to everyone. To be successful, you need money. and that usually, we indie authors don’t have. What i always say is: one needs a person, with money, that person is doing all the work, advertising and everything, because that person believes in you and your books. And when the success is coming, and the money if floating in, that person will be paid. But to find one like that, that is like 1 in a billion. (I guess)
    I read a lot and i buy always more books, than i can read. And i make sure, to review them as well.

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  10. In traditional publishing (in the past), the writer wrote and the publisher promoted. Now writers (even trad pubbed ones) have to do it all. I think self-promotion or marketing talent is more important for success in the form of sales. I’ve lowered my expectations and redefined success for myself, but that’s my choice. I’ve been mulling over this issue as well, but I don’t claim to have any answers. I hope that persistence will pay in the end.

    Like

  11. Sorry to tell you this, but… No. It’s not enough. Talent helps, but you also need to put in a lot of work, and have a dose of luck if you’re going to make it big. The talent is something you have. The work is something you can do. But you’ve got no control over the luck. It’s like in a D&D game: you just don’t know what that dice is going to say until you roll it.

    Don’t change your writing style to please others. The right viewpoint and tense is the one that works for you and the story. Some people will like it. Some people won’t. But that’s the case no matter what, so just do what feels right to you. Also, don’t compare yourself to other authors. That’s something a lot of people do, but it’s also something that’s guaranteed to make you spend some quality time with the demon of self-doubt. You’re a fantastic author from what I’ve read of your work. There’s nothing wrong with your writing style. Maybe one day you’ll make it big. Maybe you won’t. Just write, do what you can to market your books, and hope the dice rolls are in your favour.

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    • Talent has really been losing the battle in this post. Seems as much as we praise it, we don’t consider it a deciding factor in success. Tends to get more attention after a person makes it. Like we try to use it as an excuse for the victorious.

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  12. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from the Legends of Windemere blog that asks: Is Natural Talent Enough?

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  13. I’m there with you. I believe in myself and my body of work. I started out thinking that maybe there would be something to supplement my retirement income. I still have about ten years to go, but that’s looking more like an absurd dream. Time and desire are a big part of this mix. My quality time can be spent writing, reading, or promoting. I can’t do all of it, because there aren’t enough hours. I pay for some promotional stuff, but the returns aren’t what they once were. Art is subjective. I’ve seen visual art I like in museums, and I’ve seen it spray painted on overpasses. Right now, I feel like I’m hanging out under the overpass. Music is the same way, some I like, some I don’t. I dislike promotion, and that’s one of my problems. There is a ton of competition from the short attention span world. Telephone games, social media, and videos peck away at the time people could be reading. If I had the answer, you’d be one of the first people I would share it with.

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  14. Natural talent is the starting point, but you also need many other qualities. Patience and determination to keep writing and master your craft. Audacity to appear in public and act like your book matters. Flexibility and (again) determination to keep learning new things at every step.

    Right now I’m working to master my mailing list, which is fairly dead, and turn it into a viable enterprise. Many, many steps lie before me.

    Like

    • Ive been curious about mailing lists. They were big not to long ago, but I’m not seeing authors push them and newsletters as much these days. I wonder if they’ve changed in terms of popularity and use.

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  15. They do have cycles of popularity, much as blogging does. I’m trying to make mine more active as a sales factor. The theory is that you engage people systematically and build a fan base, rather than sending notes only when you have a new book out.

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    • I’ve been trying that for years. As my post of the day points out, I ran into an issue of people not jumping to my other books. It’s an obstacle that means I go back to square one with every series.

      Like

  16. Pingback: Surviving a Whirlwind Week | Legends of Windemere

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