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?