The ability to do something well comes from a number of factors. The two big categories we often reference are talent and skill. Talent being a natural affinity for a particular subject. Skill being practice at doing it.

Skill is, IMHO, by far the most important. At least among humans. Experience is how we measure and evaluate expertise. Someone with a “knack” for anatomy isn’t going to top a medical doctor with 15 years of training. And it’s why we give a premium to experience in the workplace. If a human has done something before, particularly hundreds/thousands of times, they tend to be good at it.

Animals and athletes can break this mold. A grizzly bear may never have boxed a day in his life but if he goes up against the best MMA fighter that ever existed, I know where I’m putting my money. 7-foot players are hired for basketball all the time with very little experience with the game.

But skill and talent, in humans, aren’t so separate as concepts and they overlap. If someone enjoys doing something or enjoys the fundamentals of a task, they can become quite proficient at it. It’s hard to say enjoyment is a talent or skill. If you love reading fiction, for instance, you’ll have a huge head start as an editor over someone who never reads but was trained as a full-blown editor.

I’ve had a lot of visual artist friends and they simply liked doing it. So they were always practicing fundamentals which non-artists don’t even think about. Like I would be out with a friend and he would point out some unusual feature. Like how the sidewalk meets the road or how the power lines are slanted. Things that were essentially invisible to me. And once he pointed them out, I would process it, and indeed realize the feature was atypical. But I never would have spotted it on my own. Because I’m not constantly looking at the world to see how it is visually put together.

I’ve had a handful of cartoons published over the years and it was a terrible slog for me to do them. I was mostly putting into visual form my comedic idea. But I’d have to stop and practice and look in the mirror. How does a face appear at 3/4’s turn? Can you see both ears? Do the eyes tilt? How does the side of our hair join at the face? I have no clue because in my long life I have never paid attention to that. But if you ask a visual artist to draw hands coming out the tailpipe of a car that’s driving through a puddle, they could likely whip up something. Even if I practice and become skilled at drawing cars and hands and puddles, I won’t be able to easily put that together because I don’t have a library in my head of those images. Simply because I don’t enjoy doing that. So no matter how skilled I become with pen and paper and paint, I won’t have the key components that bring it together.

As a writer, I’m focusing on concepts and ideas. Thinking about stuff others don’t bother with. Like the content of this stupid post.


I do a friday update for my patreon people. It's usually me walking the dog and talking about what writing I did this week. I...

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