Everything You Need To Know About Writing Successfully 4
The first of Stephen King’s rules is ‘Be Talented’. He is very careful to strictly define what he considers talent is in order that he doesn’t actually have to investigate the nature of talent. Essentially he passes the judgement onto other people. He states that he equates talent with being paid for your creative work. He tells us that talent has nothing to do with being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but being published. Ultimately agents and publishers around the world get do decide what ‘talent’ is based upon what will sell. If the model Jordan ‘writes’ a book (or has one ghost written for her) then publishers will option it and readers will buy it. Is Jordan a talented writer? According to King she is. In this respect King is little interested in literary worth, narrative or linguistic skill. The soap writer is as talented as the Oscar-winning screenplay writer simply because they both got paid. Perhaps the soap opera writer got paid more. It doesn’t make the soap opera writer more talented. Since the soap opera writer is largely given the A to B plotline and established characters then it might be argued that he/she is a great deal less talented.
For King to begin his rules with ‘Be Talented’ and then not qualify what ‘talent’ is or how one might achieve such a state of being suggests that King doesn’t know. It is a cop out. Why should we listen to King at all? This is slippery of him. Anyone who commits their thoughts to writing in a creative way believes in their inherent talent to one extent or another. Truly modest people who believe they have no talent do not go around claiming that they do. King gets to feed writers’ self-belief without actually offering them anything useful. Imagine being told that by anyone else from whom you are taking professional advice. Qu. ‘How do I succeed at this?’ An. ‘Be talented’. Gee, thanks. Insightful.
Ultimately King’s definition is a poor one. There are many examples of writing that were not recognised as talented at the time of their creation but now are both critically lauded and make lots of money. The ‘multitude’ does not get to determine ‘talent’. It determines popularity. The two are different and King was unwise to use the word ‘talented’ in his rules. He did because he knows that most writers do not want to be popular without being talented and so he simply tells writers what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. If King is right then perhaps all writers and aspiring writers should raise their game. Perhaps real talent should be more exclusive. If you want to be talented, or more than talented according to King’s definition, then you need to do more than fulfil basic expectation and collect your pay check. Schopenhauer is probably closer to the truth when he said, ‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits the target no one else can see.’