One of the answers to my last question, got a lot of comments.

My question based on that is: Is there such a thing as talent in writing?

Are some people naturally gifted in writing, which means everyone else is doomed to mediocrity?

Or is writing something that can be learned and improved with the correct practice?

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    I think the comments there summed it up pretty well. This seems like a highly subjective question with answers that will be quite unsupportable; voting to close.
    – Standback
    Jul 4 '11 at 11:35
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    I have to agree. It's an excellent topic for discussion, but SE is not a discussion site. Sorry. Jul 4 '11 at 12:52
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    And even though I answered, @Standback and @Lauren are right. Jul 4 '11 at 12:55

This is an exceptionally difficult question to answer, because no-one actually knows the answer. It essentially boils down to the "nature vs. nurture" debate, and that's been raging for years, and is unlikely to be settled any time soon. However, current thinking has come up with some intriguing clues to the answer.

There is evidence (such as with studies of musicians) that things are more nuanced, and that "innate ability" as we understand it may not work in the way we once thought. For example, methodical training and deliberate practise actually alters a person's brain in key ways, making them even better at what they do. The key point is that this arises from development after birth, not something they were born with.

That comes back to the 10,000 hours idea: while not absolutely everyone can be a Beethoven or Shakespeare (they could be physically or mentally impaired, not have the same drive or passion, may not have the necessary tools at their disposal) with enough time, passion, effort and dedication, you should be able to elevate and hone your skills.

I remember reading this article about whether there is a genius in all of us, and I'll quote it here at length, because it describes current thinking very well:

"There are no genetic factors that can be studied independently of the environment," says Michael Meaney, a professor at McGill University in Canada.

"And there are no environmental factors that function independently of the genome. [A trait] emerges only from the interaction of gene and environment."

This means that everything about us - our personalities, our intelligence, our abilities - are actually determined by the lives we lead. The very notion of "innate" no longer holds together.

"In each case the individual animal starts its life with the capacity to develop in a number of distinctly different ways," says Patrick Bateson, a biologist at Cambridge University.

"Like a jukebox, the individual has the potential to play a number of different developmental tunes. The particular developmental tune it does play is selected by [the environment] in which the individual is growing up."

Is it that genes don't matter? Of course not. We're all different and have different theoretical potentials from one another. There was never any chance of me being Cristiano Ronaldo. Only tiny Cristiano Ronaldo had a chance of being the Cristiano Ronaldo we know now.

But we also have to understand that he could have turned out to be quite a different person, with different abilities. His future football magnificence was not carved in genetic stone.

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    Any can get better with practice. Hemingway was not Hemingway because he was born that way, he was a master because he worked at it, hated bad writing, and thought a lot about what that meant.
    – Joel Shea
    Jul 4 '11 at 14:15

Are some people naturally gifted in writing, which means everyone else is doomed to mediocrity?

I'm going to ignore the second part of this question, because it sets up a false dichotomy. If we truncate it to "Are some people naturally gifted in writing?", the answer is yes.

We can also say yes to: "Or is writing something that can be learned and improved with the correct practice?"

Talent and hard work both matter. In writing, as in any field, talent helps. If you're talented -- but not super-talented -- you can compensate by working even harder.

From looking at your questions and answers, you have some talent. So, rather than worrying about writing, you should sit down and write.

Good luck!

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