Four Things That Are More Important Than “Talent” Or A Lifetime Of Practice

2015 Artwork You don't need talent sketch

If you’re new to making art or writing fiction, then it can be very easy to look at famous authors or artists, compare your work to theirs and then conclude that they have “talent” and you don’t.

Whilst it’s probably true that they’re better at art or writing than you are at the moment, you should probably stop thinking about this fairly quickly.

But, no, as soon as most people realise this – they then tend to think something along the lines of “they were born with talent, I’m never going to be as good as them. I should give up now.”

Whilst a lucky few people have a natural aptitude for writing and/or art, many artists and writers (yes, even famous ones) weren’t born with this. They might give off the appearance of having “natural talent”, but this is because they’ve been interested in writing and/or art from an early age and have been practicing for most of their lives.

I mean, they were probably just as good or bad as you were after the same amount of practice you’ve already had. You might have only got into writing or art when you were older – but they probably started practicing when they were kids. So, they’ve had a pretty major headstart.

But, let’s face it, this is just as discouraging as believing that some people have natural “talent”. I mean, it’s very easy to think that it’s “too late” to become an artist or a writer.

So, let me tell you something else – you don’t need “talent” and it’s never too late to be a writer or an artist. Yes, you heard me correctly. There are more important things than talent or even a lifetime of practice. So, what are they?

1) Reliability: I’m something of a stickler for reliability. For example, I prefer using old technology which has withstood the test of time rather than going for newer and fancier things. I love websites with regular updates (hence why this is a daily blog rather than something I add to whenever I feel like it ) and, as I mentioned yesterday, I make sure that I produce something creative every day – regardless of quality.

No, I’m not saying this to sound egotistical or to brag. I’m saying this because reliability is one quality which is more important than “talent”. If you can work to a schedule no matter what and you’re willing to meet the goals that you set yourself, then this counts for a lot more than “talent” does.

If you can write 500 words of mediocre prose literally every day, then this is going to stand you in far better stead than if you can produce 2000 words of excellent prose on the rare occasions when you feel “talented” or “inspired”.

Or, to put it another way, if you produce things reliably then you’re going to end up with a finished novel or comic eventually – but if you just wait for your “talent” or “inspiration” to emerge – then this is a lot less likely to happen.

Likewise, if you’re posting your creative work online – posting something amazing online every once in a while might make people interested in you, but more people are going to be interested in you if you keep to a regular schedule and they can reliably predict when you’re going to post new stuff. Yes, this even includes mediocre stuff that you post online.

2) Speed and simplicity: Knowing how to produce reasonably good things quickly can often be more important than knowing how to spend a lot of time producing a masterpiece. In other words, simplicity and speed are your friends when it comes to creating things.

Why simplicity? Well, if you try to produce something more complex in a hurry, then it probably isn’t going to turn out very well. But, if you produce simpler things, then you don’t have to hurry – you can take your time and focus on doing it well, and still make something relatively quickly.

Plus, producing simpler things quickly gives you the satisfaction of actually finishing something on regular basis and this can be an essential motivational tool when you’re starting out as an artist or a writer.

Not only that, it also means that you can show off more of your work more quickly too – and, although it might be nothing stunning, if it’s something simple that is done well, then people will remember this.

Plus, in some art forms, technical mastery might not matter as much as you think it does – for example, a comic with simple art and good writing can be infinitely more readable and interesting than a comic with bad writing and extremely detailed high-quality art.

If you don’t believe me, then check out an amazing graphic novel called “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. The art in it is fairly simple (in fact, Satrapi’s art possibly had at least a small influence on earlier versions of my own art style – or, at the very least, they look slightly similar), but it’s such a well-renowned graphic novel for the simple reason that the writing in it is absolutely excellent.

3) Trickery: One of the interesting things about “talent” is that, if you’re smart enough, then you can fake it pretty easily. You can use all sorts of clever tricks to make your writing and/or art appear like it’s taken much more effort and skill to produce than it actually did.

There are loads of ways to do this and you should probably work out a few for yourself. But, here are a few examples to get you started – you can lift basic plot ideas from old public domain novels and plays, you can create the illusion of detail in the backgrounds of your drawings or paintings or you can use misdirection to make your art seem better than it actually is.

The fact is, if you know enough clever tricks, then people will start to think that you have “talent” even when, technically speaking, you might be less skilled than someone who has been writing or making art for almost their entire life.

4) Distinctiveness: Although I’ve already written about how to find your own art style and narrative voice a couple of years ago, it bears repeating. Having a unique “style” can actually be far more important than having “talent”.

Why? Because it’s memorable and because it’s something unique.

You see, this is where having “talent” can actually let you down. Yes, you might be able to paint photo-realistic landscapes or write beautiful “literary” prose, but what is there to differentiate you from all of the other “talented” people who are doing exactly the same thing?

Whereas, if you’ve only had a moderate amount of practice, but you write in a way that no-one else does or your art has a very unique “look” to it, then people are going to remember you a lot more easily.

People are going to look at something you’ve produced and think “Wow, that’s something different! It has personality!” And, well, personality can count for a lot more than technical skill when it comes to getting people interested in your work.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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