On Writing : Talent: Am I a genius or just a simple shmoe? by Mark W Budke Jr.

Mark W Budke Jr.

Talent: Am I a genius or just a simple shmoe?

There are many of us who think, 'we have it'. I assume it's like the lottery. One out of a million is a good writer. I guess the odds could be thrown off based on your talent. However, if your talent is unknown then why bother.

Phil Davey

there is no such thing as talent. just those who persist and those who don't.

Owen Mowatt

Don't agree.

Talent is defined as a natural aptitude or skill. Rich pushy parents who "persist" with their kids will no doubt atone to this.

I had no aptitude or skill for singing at school, but a girl who had no training could sing like a bird.

Olaojoyegbe Bolarinwa

Phil! I really love to agree with you, but answer this question: are there gifted people, yes or no? If your answer is" Yes", then so also are there gifted writer .

Dan MaxXx

Plenty of mediocre Writers earning a successful living.

the special Writers- JK Rowling, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, Sam Shepard - they don't come around the block often.

Brian Shell

It takes delusions of grandeur to achieve Grandeur

Brian Shell

I'm pretty sure that Beethoven probably sucked the first few times he stepped up and tried to play a piano.

Boomer Murrhee

Talent takes perspiration.

Anthony Moore

There is natural talent for a skill, then there practice until you become proficient in a skill. The natural talent will have a much easier time achieving a certain level or degree of skill than someone who has to earn theirs through practice. Still, gaining a foothold in this business is still a matter of the right piece at the right time to the right person. A mediocre writer with a lot of luck can get a break faster than a brilliant writer who is unlucky.

Donna M. Carbone

I moderate a screenplay/stage play/novel writing class and this is what I tell everyone who attends: No one can teach you how to write. I can teach you how to format a book or screenplay. I can advise you as to sentence structure. I can correct your grammar and punctuation. I can help you with your plot and character development. I can tell you whether your story is plausible or not, but I cannot teach you to write. You either hear a voice in your head or you don’t. I also tell them that there is no such thing as a new story. There are only new twists on old pretzels. Everyone thinks their story is unique. It isn’t. Everything that can be written about has been written, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write about it again. Find another angle from which to approach the story. Does it take place in a world where everyone lives upside down? Do people walk backward? Is it a world of opposites – red means go/green means stop, walk means run, run means stand still. Is it a world where you are sad when you smile and happy when you cry? How will you make your story stand out from all the rest? Uniqueness is the true test of a good writer... and perseverance... don't ever forget perseverance. Accept that frustration is a part of the process. Accept that writing isn’t just rewriting. It is rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. It helps to learn how to smile while gritting your teeth.

Olaojoyegbe Bolarinwa

Anthony, you are very right. I can't but agree with you. Every gifted person or talented individual also needs to spend time to develop their skills to proficiency, but it will be quite easy than someone who is gifted or talented, as you've rightly said. But, no matter how, these people will always get it done easily compare to those who are not gifted or talented.

Brian Shell

My personal example in this is racquetball and tennis. I learned both at the same time by my college roommate. Me in tennis? Eh... Me in racquetball? I reached the pro level. The problem is; there's no money in rball because it doesn't lend itself to TV (and sponsors/advertising $). Sigh...

Donna M. Carbone

Here's the last bit of advice I give my writers: First, and with no intent to hurt feelings, there is a huge difference between being a writer and being an author. Anyone can write. Not everyone can author a worthwhile narrative. Authors -- no matter their chosen format (book/screenplay/stage play) are willing to go much further than the extra mile. Their lives are dominated by the need to write. On the toilet, in the shower, driving, eating (forget sleeping), authors are always thinking. Once a project is finished, authors turn their work over to beta readers and hold their breath. Two groups are needed. The first group reads the book/play just to determine if the story is interesting. They are free to make as many notations as they feel necessary. If they find typos, grammar and sentence structure mistakes, incorrect punctuation, they should be encouraged to go crazy with a red pencil.

After the author has made all the changes based on the first group’s suggestions, the second group is given a red pencil. They function as copy editors. I guarantee you the first group missed lots of errors. Never try to edit yourself. Your eyes only see what your brain expects to see. The reason... you know your story too well. You see what you believe you typed not what you actually typed.

Lastly, acknowledgment everyone in your book/movie credits. That guarantees they will want to help you with every project you undertake. Plus, people love to see their names in print. It's a cheap, easy and effective form of payment.

Remember, our books/plays are our children. We give birth to them. No one wants to hear that their kid is a brat. But… most kids are bratty from time to time. There is a difference between wanting to help a parent with a recalcitrant child and wanting to embarrass someone by using their kid as a weapon. Know the difference. Critiques, yes. Criticisms, no.

Listen to everything people say. Use what you believe can help improve your work and ignore the rest. No matter what anyone says, smile and say thank you. What you say under your breath… well, no one ever needs to hear that.

Brad Johnson

I value intentions a lot more than talent. A lot of people who might be considered a genius are not a lot of fun to read. Just like a lot of "smart" people have terrible instincts when it comes to business, politics, or any other field. A lot of the writing being done by 7th graders is probably better than mfa's because the grade school kids still have good natural instincts and the mfa's instincts have been ruined by a lot of theories on "craft", identity and other avant garde nonsense.

David E. Gates

Interesting response from Donna... I consider an author to be someone who writes books. I consider a screenwriter to be someone who writes screenplays. I consider myself a writer, as I write both - and more. It's not clear cut and sometimes someone will ask what I do and I tell them I'm and author or a writer depending on the context of why they're asking.

Brian Shell

If you're a screenwriter and tell someone that you are in a bar, inevitably you will hear, "Oh, my life would make a good story for a movie." This is what this thread was about. Genius or schmoe. The interesting thing about those people's interesting stories in bars is that they're a lot more willing to tell it than to take the time, learn the craft, and write it themselves... the way they really want it. Once it becomes work, they flake... usually.

S.J. Robinson

I think it's more a case of the 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. I think everyone can have a genius idea every now and then, but its the 99% sweat, blood and tears which make that great idea into a reality. Along the way you learn how not to have a big head and be a "schmoe" as you call it, and realise that constructive feedback is actually your friend!!!

Donna M. Carbone

@David Gates... those distinctions were true before the advent of self-publishing. Now everyone thinks they can write so I make a distinction -- at least for myself and my students. I've gone so far as to ask people to leave my class if they refuse to put in the effort needed to "create" a credible narrative. Authors are writers who strive for perfection in every format. A writer these days is anyone who can figure out how to use createspace. There was a time when claiming oneself to be an author sounded pompous. Now, I'm willing to sound a little full of myself because I know how much effort is needed to take a project from conception to completion... and do it well.

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