As I have preached at writers’ conferences and workshops over the years, I have crossed paths a time or two with a college writing instructor. His claim is that writing is a “skill” and that with proper instruction and practice, anyone can learn to do it.
That may be true at a basic level. But I believe that getting beyond that requires some modicum of talent or aptitude or innate ability to wrangle words.
The same, I contend, is true in any endeavor. For example, beyond basic arithmetic, I cannot fathom numbers. No matter how deep you dig, you’ll find no athleticism in me. I don’t understand chess. The intricacies of music escape me. I could go on.
Perhaps I could improve my ability in these areas with enough training and dedication. But I do not believe there would ever come a day when I could calculate prime numbers for recreation, excel at soccer, maneuver pieces to execute a checkmate, or compose a symphony—or even a show tune.
And, having read nearly incomprehensible strings of words written by people at every level of education from first grade to advanced degrees, I think the same applies to writing. For whatever reason, the ability to string sounds and words together into phrases, sentences, paragraphs and all the way up to books, in a way that makes them accessible, even enjoyable, for readers is not distributed equally among us.
I, for one, am happy about that. I am happy that I may have at least a little of what might be called talent to go along with the “skill” involved in writing. I am equally happy that other people are born with the innate ability to accomplish other things, particularly the many things beyond my competency.
No matter the endeavor or enterprise, the old saying, “practice makes perfect,” doesn’t always apply.