Hard work vs. talent

“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” John C. Maxwell

They say hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. And I do agree. After all, talent is never just an innate ability. It’s a lot more than just that.

It’s hard work, perseverance, discipline, vision, courage, faith, and a bunch of others all mixed up into one.

But can hard work alone make you a good artist?

In a way, yes. Of course, it’s not going to be easy, but there’s only one way to get better at anything: by doing more and more work.

Trying to be better than you were yesterday takes a lot of hard work. Then again, it’s also important to figure out what is it that you’re doing wrong and fix it.

So, yes. Hard work alone is not enough. You need to know on what to work, you need to acquire a certain vision that work alone does not offer… you gain than only by observing those who are better than you.

Watch and learn… watch and learn.

They adaptability is our greatest resource. It’s what actually makes us intelligent enough to do all the things that we do. We not only change ourselves to our environments, but we change our environments to suit our needs.

That’s one of the things they call talent: you shape the medium, you break through the norms and the rules, and you create something different. You adapt the work to suit your particular skill set.

I know talented people who have no vision. They can’t create something that’s theirs. They’re just really good at imitating other artists.

So, yes, it might sound as complicated or whatever, but, in all honesty, it’s not. If you want to be a writer, just write and read. If you want to be a painter, just paint and absorb as much art as possible.

And then there’s the other neat thing: live your life. Don’t forget to do that once in a while.

Art is simply the act of enhancing reality in a way that transmits a message.

Never forget that.

But art is also a craft, a job, and a business.

Never forget that as well.


34 thoughts on “Hard work vs. talent

  1. At some point though a person needs to accept that they are or are not cut out for writing. Or need to accept that what they wrote about is not their strong suit, which can be quite disheartening. Personally, I know I am not the greatest at historical fiction, so I’ve made the decision to focus on fanciful worlds and scenes I can describe in order to make real to my readers.
    Hard work is demanded no matter what a writer’s level is though and when you can appreciate that, you and your writing becomes better for it. Very, very few people can just knock out a novel or even a decent short story without hard work, but then it comes down to them to either accept their talent, ability, or whatever you want to call it, or find something that does make them work hard.

  2. Couldn’t have agreed more! You have to be willing to put the effort in to see some results. Otherwise you’ll be stuck where you started.

  3. I agree with this. But it’s not just talent and hard work. Sometimes (or a lot of the time) it’s about networking. Depending on the market sometimes you just need a drop of talent but high amounts of hard work and knowing “the right people”. At least nowadays. Great post!

  4. I agree for any creative endeavour, writing, painting, music, sculpture photography, whatever you undertake – there’s a craft attached to it and you have to learn that craft so it underpins the inspiration and ideas. You have to spend time in the engine room to do that. The talent I think is the inspiration – the measure of originality that makes greatness but there is no greatness without hard work.

  5. This is a great reminder, or lesson, for me to read. Being new to the world of blogging, I just would like to think it would all come naturally. I take so much joy in writing that I forget to get better, cultivating my craft, will require work. Thank you for sharing

  6. “Watch and learn” is true enough. It is important to be humble enough to look at the craft that has come before and glean what you can. It’s important also to try and internalize what you consider “facets of solid writing” and apply it to your own endeavors, but I think there’s something to be said for trusting in your talent and your talent in “working hard” to see you through the day. It may sound arrogant, but there’s a cockiness in me now. I know that when a challenge comes along (and a challenge is always coming on down the road) I’ll be ready to apply myself to it and overcome!!! What I’m trying to say is confidence can go a long ways, just try and make sure it isn’t completely unfounded! 😜 But if you’re confident enough in your own abilities, you have a healthy esteem for your work, and heck maybe you’ll find yourself in a position to offer advise to others and help them see writing and storytelling from a perspective that’ll help them reach for the next rung in the ladder of solid storytelling, writing, or craft in general.

  7. Isn’t researching and observing others also part of that “hard work” and not a result of talent? Artists, in general, are true to what they are.. whether the public gets it or not. As many can attest, they don’t become famous until they are dead and can no longer reap the benefits of their success. But if you ask can a seemingly “untalented” person acquire talent, or is it God given? Well you are being commented by a woman who lived most of her life an underacheiver, and ran her first marathon at age 44. I believe we humans can do ANYTHING we ever dream. 99% of it is fear of failure. When you get past that fear the whole world opens up. Truly.

  8. Wonderful post! They both go together no doubt, but as some folks here commented, a talented person who works hard produces greater works. A masterpiece is usually created by a writer who works hard and developed his talent. It’s about understanding the niche you cab survive in quite effortlessly and keep working hard to develop it. Personally, I love writting and am as much as I would want to write articles and editorials, I find creative writing quite easy. I paint with words and it does a lot of good working hard developing my strong points and discovering along the way that I am getting better in the areas I am less talented. Indeed hard work beats talent but when talent meets hard work, miracles happen.

  9. IMO talent is mostly a myth. Skill exists, but ‘talent’ is just an excuse people use to let themselves off for not being good at things. “Oh, they just have more ‘talent’ than I do.” Or, “I can’t draw because I don’t have any ‘talent’, so why should I even try?”

  10. I honestly believe that this is completely true because you can be the most talented person in the world, but if you do not apply that hard work and dedication, its really just a waste of time. I love the post!

  11. Success, either in terms of achieving your own writing goals or in terms of getting published and having that external recognition, is very complex. If we are going to make an informed decision about the interplay between work and talent at achieving our goals, I think it is useful to broaden our scope beyond just writing. I have just returned from a 5 day ski trip. When it comes to talent, I have everything stacked against me. My physical health is pretty poor…I have a severe neuromuscular disease which results in muscle weakness and this same disease has also attacked my lungs. I also have hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and have pretty poor balance. I fall often enough tripping on a simple footpath to have very poor expectations of being able to ski. On top of all of this, I live in Australia 6 hours drive away from the nearest ski fields so you would have to say that I have it stacked against me. You would expect me to really be able to stand up on skis let alone ski successfully down any kind of slope. Well, I joined the disabled Winter Sports Association and got some private ski lessons with specialially trained instructors. I ended up skiing two hours a day for 5 days and ultimately skied down Happy Valley in Perisher. I didn’t fall down once. While I am tempted to bview this success as a divine miracle, I worked hard and had excellent, private instruction and I do believe luck played a big role as well. I waskeeping my eyes open but no one else skied into me and wiped me out either. I was very motivated to pursue skiing even though it was out of my comfort zone because my husband and kids love skiing and I want to be an active part of our family. We seems to have made a commitment to go sking every year. Commitment is another important component of success…as is passion. You have a passion for anything and I reckon that will defeat natural talent hands down because that person will do whatever it takes to improve and build on their work and they will put the hours in…that 10,000 hour rule really does work.

  12. You mention a quote from John Maxwell,. We have many of his leadership books at our house. We also had the privilege of meeting him at a seminar a few years ago. My Lord has used him and thousands of people’s lives. Continue on, Christian.

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