Blogging Basics: Do You Need Talent to Write?

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BTS-writingtalent

by Simona Stefanescu | Simona Media

Do we need talent or discipline to succeed as writers and bloggers? I recently listened to a speaker who said we don’t need talent – that other things are more important when it comes to successful writing. I felt quite offended. I feel that many writers have a calling, a special skill set. Yet, lately, I see so much useless writing in blogs and newspapers, lack of style and information without much structure, splashed on the web. I listened to the speaker’s arguments and tried to filter them through my 25 years of experience. While I don’t agree that one can become a successful writer without the spark of talent, I do think many writers I meet are trained, methodical and meticulous, rather than gifted. And let me start with a personal story …

“Kill me now, I’m giving up on writing!” That was my reaction when, while in college in New York, I read a piece assigned for English 103 – Journalism Writing. The professor handed us Gay Talese’s revolutionary profile “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”, written for Esquire magazine in 1966. I read to the third paragraph, where Talese said “Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel — only worse,” and I had tears running down my face. I saw my future as a writer seriously shattered. I already had 15-years in journalism under my belt, yet I felt it all wiped out by that wonderful story. I thought I could never, ever paint a picture like that with my words and I’d better switch to accounting, so I could make a living for the rest of my life.

Seven years to that day I am still writing. You see, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is one of the greatest profiles ever written by a journalist. Gay Talese wrote for the New York Times, Esquire and many other world-famous publications. He was a “once in a generation” writer. Now, the world is full of self-trained writers, living with the instant gratification of posting a blog a day, instead of polishing Pulitzer prize, life-changing articles. Blogging implemented the phenomenon of citizen-journalist, and quite a few bloggers make good money with their writing, even teaching how to blog.

So, what do we need in order to be successful if the talent is not mandatory?

In his book, “On Writing Well (over a million copies sold), writing coach, journalist and author William Zinsser highlights the successful habits of a writer: practice every day, solve problems with your writing, have unity in your overall article, use good grammar, adopt one tone, keep your writing simple. Assuming that you’re writing non-fiction, have a structure with a well-established lead and ending, give special attention to your first and last sentence and avoid clogging your articles. “Clutter is the disease of American writing”, says Zinsser, who is now in his 90s and has been an author and teacher for 70 years now. His book is a reference in any respectable newspaper and university, and it helps tremendously to take one’s writing to a whole different level.

From experience, I could add a crucial thing: have a good editor. Either a peer, a coworker, significant other or someone who can check your grammar, fight with you over sentences and, most of all, help you conquer the world.

 

10 comments

  1. I just looked up “Frank Sinatra has a Cold!” Here is the link:
    http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1003-OCT_SINATRA_rev_
    What you say rings so true, Simona. It made me think of discount stores that sell cheaper goods of lower quality that appeal to the masses. I recently encountered a well-respected business woman who is expanding her business. I took a look at her website and it was loaded with grammatical and spelling errors. Why are so many people clueless about this?
    Lisa Voncino recently posted..Twitter ChatsMy Profile

    • Lisa, this week I am going through a lot of newsletters and Facebook Pages to get rid of these poorly written subscriptions. I just can’t see so much useless content anymore. The articles published here, on Social Solutions Collective, get written, rewritten, edited, read by my editor, then corrected by Mallie. Good writing is a process, not splashing something on the Internet. And – I’m glad that you found Talese’s article. It is a gem.

  2. I would be a little offended, too! Good writing IS a skill. I think most people can improve upon their writing skills if they work at it…and let’s face it, reading a poorly-written blog is painful.

  3. I love to write and can create a blog post in 15 minutes if I am inspired and in the mood. Do I post it immediately? Nopes. I take the family pet child for a walk, I do the dishes and then return to read and edit, asking myself, would I read this if someone else had written it? If the draft post passes this litmus test, then I go back and check grammar and the works. Then and only then do I press the Publish button. The way I see it, Simona, nothing but my best is to be presented to the visitor who comes to read my blog. Hey, I want them to come back the following week.!
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted..Sorry for the Interruption, but are You your own secret Time Bandit?My Profile

  4. Simona, I really connected with this piece. Sometimes I wonder if I have enough talent to write – but keep at it because, hey it’s just me and someone’s gotta do it! ;-) You are a great writer and this is a great piece. As for having a good editor, I need that too! :-p

    • Thank you, Brooke! A good editor is essential. I am very fortunate to have my husband pointing to me all the mistakes I still make in English. I can’t compare to a native speaker, but I work harder to improve every day.

  5. This is a really great article Simona! Like Brooke, I second guess my ability to write too but I am finding that the more I write and read, the better my articles get. Practice makes perfect or at least it helps me get better as long as I keep learning from others. Btw, I enjoy reading your articles!
    Shannon Baker recently posted..Be Professional on LinkedInMy Profile

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