Ask Jonathots …December 3rd, 2015

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I’m a high school creative writing teacher. At the start of every year I identify a few really talented students, and more often than not, they end the year under-achieving–or even tanking–while students with average abilities work hard and rise to the top. I’m beginning to question my definition of talent. What’s yours? And how can I inspire these so-called stars to reach their potential?

Talent is a capacity for success.

Nothing more, nothing less.

We make two major mistakes when we discuss talent.

  1. It is God-given or we’re born with it.
  2. Talent, by itself, contains an engine to propel it forward.

Neither is true.

The major talent that all human beings are given is life.

The deterrent to talent is always perspective.

For example, if your mom and dad gave you life and also refrained from teaching you that life sucks, you have a chance to take that life, discover ability and then turn it into prosperity.

I do not want to evaluate your choices as a teacher. You certainly have a fine education and your own way of doing things.

Yet writers are not hatched nor are they coddled into production.

A writer is someone who has a story and is always looking for better and more concise ways to tell it.

Simply because someone has sentence structure or a comprehension of syntax does not make him or her a writer. As with every occupation or calling, the impetus comes from passion, not from the accumulation of knowledge.

If I found myself in your position, I suppose I would pick out the assignments that stimulate that inner anxiety to express, and then let those missions isolate the writers from those who merely have a grasp of grammar.

Yes, it is the work that defines the talent, not the talent that dictates the work.

Just as there are many athletes in the world but very few who actually can be counted on for performances on demand, the same is true with everything–including writing.

I don’t write unless I have something to share that burns so deeply inside me that I have no choice but to try to translate it into words.

I guess my definition of a good teacher is someone who allows people to find their own talent … without suggesting where it might be hiding.



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