Can You Teach ‘Talent’?

Last night at my ‘Time To Write‘ course (where writers clear their evening schedule for one hour of inspiration and two hours of dedicated writing time), we got into a discussion about craft versus talent. As in, what you can teach about writing versus ‘the invisible qualities of story’ that a writer’s talent/original voice can only bring. So, what elements of craft can you learn?

Scene description, scene construction, characters (crafting interesting characters), plot, narrative, story, pace/structure, story development, tone, genre, format. 

OK, but what are the ‘invisible qualities of story’? What elements help showcase a writer’s original voice?

The ability to generate emotion, impact, interest/engagement, attention, interaction, originality (idea/characterisation/plot), complexity (character/story), humour (humour is technically visible but is wildly subjective and more reliant on writer’s talent/voice to make it really shine through).

But where does writing talent come from? Is it just natural instinct or can it be crafted?

You can certainly improve your level of craft by constantly researching, watching and reading; analysing what you love and don’t like, and getting suitably inspired to raise your game. But is that enough to improve your talent? Here’s what I’ve found:

I’m lucky enough to be regularly writing & making TV/film, and I’m finding the writing bar is always rising. Or at least, I feel my writing should be improving at every stage. This isn’t a pressure I put on myself, more an observation on what I want to achieve with each script and project. I can certainly feel my writing changing, getting more confident in style and intent, but still always a challenge in terms of originality, character and story.

So, my individual writing talent has reached a reliable quality yet there’s always so much to learn and improve. The search is always on for fresh insights and a deeper understanding of craft, something that can only be achieved through researching, watching, reading AND WRITING.

You can teach yourself a lot about craft but only regular writing can improve your level of talent.


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