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Talent vs hard work: 5 tips for a deliberate writing practice

Do you ever question if you have the innate talent to write a publishable manuscript? Many people believe that successful writers, painters, or athletes are born with the talent that led to their achievements.

It’s easy to believe that people who are super successful must have an extra measure of innate talent. But people aren’t born with specific natural gifts, according to British researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda.

Success happens by putting in hard work over time. But not just any hard work. It requires putting in time in a particular way.

This is good news for all of us. Because no matter where we are on the writing craft spectrum — rookie or expert —  we know we can improve by putting in the hours of diligent work.

It turns out that “how” you practice is critical to whether the time you put into practicing your craft will really pay off. Deliberate practice is key.

Here are five tips for deliberate practice:
1. Each time you practice, increase your concentration and have an explicit goal of improving.
2. Focus on your craft and think about why you’re creating the way you are.
3. Get feedback via several sources, such as a critique group or someone who you can trust to be objective.
4. Think about your work holistically and picture how the elements of craft fit together. Practicing this big picture, holistic way of thinking about your writing craft will enhance your sense of what works for each new project.
5. Be consistent. Practice frequently — every day — to improve your skills.

At the core of these tips is passion. Without motivation, it’s unlikely you will find it in yourself to go through this process of deliberate practice. How many people have given up because they began writing and didn’t see the results they expected?  So they concluded they, “weren’t talented.”

Yes, this idea of practice is not for the fainthearted. It takes guts and determination. The good news is that success is possible and within your control.

For more insight into practice and passion, read Carol Despeaux’s post, “How important is talent in writing?,” which examines the idea of persistence and patience.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Erinina #

    Hey, you quote the British researchers, but what publication? Want to check it out, thanks!

    June 7, 2012
  2. Virtually all of the things you claim is astonishingly appropriate and that makes me wonder why I hadn’t looked at this with this light previously. This piece truly did turn the light on for me as far as this topic goes. Nevertheless there is actually one point I am not really too cozy with so while I make an effort to reconcile that with the central idea of your point, permit me see exactly what all the rest of the visitors have to point out.Nicely done.

    May 15, 2013

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