There are several aspects to writing fiction. Rendering what John Gardner in The Art of Fiction describes as a ‘vivid and continuous dream’ is a complicated affair. Story is created from the imagination of a writer, who in turn must translate it onto a page of symbols so that another person can read, absorb, and experience the story in a similar fashion. It’s a remarkable process when you think about it. So, are you up for the challenge or is the writer’s quintessential question nipping away inside: Do I have the talent?
We imagine talent as some huge reservoir of subconscious knowledge that some lucky people are born with. We think of Shakespeare and Mozart and Einstein. But the truth is we all have talents of many kinds and measures. Think of your family and friends, and assuredly you can name many of their strengths unique to them. Talent is nothing more, or less, than an individual ability. And while there are gifted writers, I do not believe that having an innate talent is imperative to become an author.
Fiction demands a working knowledge of many points of craft. And while mastering craft can be daunting, each one of us has skills to meet the challenge. If you have an analytical mind, cause and effect will be solid. If you are intuitive, your story will take imaginative twists. If you are emotional, you will have a true internal compass to tell a riveting story. If you are a global thinker, you will see the whole. If you are a detail person, your story will be tight. If you are a visual, auditory, or tactile person, your story will be vivid. If you are curious, writing will never bore you. If you are empathic, your characters will be believable. If you’re old, you’ll bring a wide array of experience into the process. If you’re young, your story will be fresh. If you’re stubborn and relentless, your story, at last, will be finished. So what’s your talent? Most likely you have many, some not even touched upon.
Before going further, I propose that writing can be both taught and learned. I also submit that the quality you need most is neither talent nor knowledge but the mad, unrelenting desire to tell a story.
And with this passion, walk to the end of the diving board, loosen your shoulders, and take the plunge.
- Tom Perrotta’s Advice to Writers
- The Community Walker