What Does Talent Really Mean?


Every morning when I open my current work-in-progress, the same thought confronts me: (well, it’s a question, really) Do I have enough talent?

And What Is Talent, Really?

Perhaps asking yourself if you have any talent is something you tend to do as well. I know for me, my greatest obstacle has been wondering, always wondering, if I’m a worthwhile investment, or if I’m one of “those” people. (I don’t even know what I mean by “those” people, but they definitely exist in my mind, and they are a powerful deterrent to following my dreams.)

Imaginary Strangers Can Be Scary

I realized something a few months ago. Well, I started to realize it a few years ago, but that realization was about acting, and we’re talking about writing now. My writing journey is much more recent than my acting journey. We can start with my acting discovery, though.

Let Us Examine The Actor

You might have acted in some things yourself; many writers dabble in the performing arts at some point. You were probably pretty good, and you probably thought, briefly or more intensely, about becoming a professional.

But Writing Won Out, Probably

I had a student, an acting student, many years ago, who might have been a little like you. She was very serious about developing her talent, and she was very, very concerned with doing everything right the first time.

She Was So Earnest

I will be honest with you; when this girl first came into my professor’s class (I was an acting assistant, but my boss had an open mind, and I taught most of his classes for a year), she had all the hallmarks of a soured high school actor (this was at a large university).

What’s A Soured High School Actor Like, Victor?

Stiff, over-choreographed, self-conscious, and very, very high strung. This girl worked her butt off on everything to do with acting, but her work was terrible. I gave her correct methods and specific direction, and after massive amounts of work, she started to become natural, spontaneous, and a joy to watch.

It Took A Couple Of Years

The question this girl struggled with, more than any other, was this same question that I run up against in the early mornings. (I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write before the sun is properly risen, I have a hard time writing anything at all!) She wanted to know if she had talent. She wanted to know if she had enough talent. And she wanted to know if anyone else was going to be able to see and experience her talent.

Am I Good Enough?

At bottom, this is really a different question; when we ask ourselves about talent, we aren’t asking if we’re popular enough, or good-looking enough, or fit enough. We’re really asking, “Am I worth it?” We are referring to our essential sense of self. Talent is tied to our inextricable part of being, our spark of life that makes us us. This girl was afraid that she, her true self, was not worth it, and to compensate for this fear, she worked and worked and worked to make up for a perceived lack within herself.

Accept You As You Are

I am telling myself now the same thing I told this actor years ago, and I will tell it to you as well; good acting, good writing, and good performance come from acceptance. Only when you allow yourself to be what you are, without any striving adornment or frantic grasping at artificial concealment will your true self arc out of your body and interact with the soul of another.

That Meeting Of Inner Selves Is Art

When we say talent, what we really mean is authentic connection. “He’s so talented.” What we’re saying, when we say that, is that he reaches into a part of us that makes us feel whole, and seen. “She has so much talent.” This is what we say when we see a reflection of our deep humanity.

Are You Talented?

So. Do you have talent? And is it enough talent? And do I have talent? And did this actor have talent? Yes. Instead of asking yourself if you have talent, ask yourself if you can share your authentic self with another. Ask yourself if you can strip away the mask of competence, and the shadow of pretending. Ask yourself if you are willing to show courage and be a beacon of friendship to others like you.

The Sharing Of Self, With Technical Finesse, Makes Great Writing

If you can answer yes to any of those questions, you have plenty of talent. You are enough, and your creation, your communication with others, is enough. Today, or tomorrow morning, or whenever it is that you sit down to write, when you feel yourself becoming edgy and nervous, ask yourself, “Can I share my authentic sense of self with someone else?”

Are You Willing To Share?

No one is born with the ready-made ability to speak, or to write, or to type. We are all, however, born with the desire and the ability to share our deepest selves (look at the way infants shriek; that desperate wail is a piercing communication). You can communicate, and you can learn to be yourself through story. That is talent. I believe in you. You are enough.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My editor loves this book. The frogs in the Amazon rainforest have a book club, and they’re going to read Into the East next week.