The question came up the other day, “What do I do when I start to question my own talent?” And “Does anyone else ever go through this?” My original answer was everyone goes through that, but after further thought, I discovered a common but little known confusion that changed my answer. The confusion is this; talent and ability are two completely different things.
Talent is a natural motivation to accomplish something in a certain area. Writers have a natural motivation to write; engineers have a proclivity for math, and structure. You can have a talent to do something, but you may not have a great ability, which just means you have to work a little harder.
I had a friend in high school that was a perfect example of this. His true ability was comedy, and writing, but he really loved to draw comics. It used his sense of humor, and his writing skill, but his art ability was mediocre, so he would spend hours practicing his drawing. Eventually, he became exceptional, and was able to draw comics better than his older brother, who actually did have a natural ability.
Talent can be such a driving force, that it can seem to be an obsession, except it doesn’t come from an irrational fear. When I was younger, I was told that my drive to write was a waste of time, and that writing is nothing more than a hobby that only a few special people can make any real money, so I suppressed the drive. Have you ever felt like something was missing from your life; like you are miserable, but you don’t know why? This is what I felt like for all those years I didn’t write. I lived my life by going through the motions, but they were just empty.
The moment I started writing again, it was like someone broke down a wall to reveal the spirit that had been blocked for years. Many people say that if you don’t use your talent that you lose it, but it’s not true. You can hide it, and ignore it for years, but the moment you start using it, it comes back. While you may be able to hide your talent, you can’t truly question it. What you can question, however, is your ability.
Ability, according to the “American Heritage Dictionary”, is the power to do something. I believe this is one area that, at times, should be questioned. Questions can force you to look at your current level, and begin to seek answers on how to improve. Those answers will eventually lead us to work harder at improving our quality.
In case you haven’t noticed, I never used the word “doubt”. The reason for this is simple. When you question your ability, you are seeking answers that can keep you going in the right direction, but when you doubt your ability, you are telling yourself “I just don’t have what it takes”, and that can lead to giving up.
If you do find yourself doubting, the answer is to keep going and “force the doubt right out” of your mind, it’s not doing you any good.