Wednesday, March 16, 2011


In one of my classes we had an interesting discussion about talent. What exactly is talent? One definition might be a special natural ability or aptitude. Some of my fellow students seemed eager to indicate they had a talent for writing. I'm not sure how I feel about the concept of talent. Isn't it just a way for folks to feel special? It seems like it might also be unproductive. What if 'the muse' isn't available on demand? The discussion reminded me of a couple of articles I read recently.

In How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The inverse power of praise by Po Bronson in "New York Magazine" the author says's been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students ... severely underestimate their own abilities. ...They underrate the importance of effort.... and ...a growing body of research...strongly suggests...Giving kids the label of "smart" does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it. And a little later ...those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. It's a fascinating article; I recommend it.

The other article is The Trouble with Bright Girls by Heidi Grant Halvorson on The Huffington Post. Halvorson says More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice. And The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder. We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. This one is fascinating, too, and also recommended.

These articles both seem to show that being labelled as smart--or talented--may not be a good thing.

How about you? Did your parents or teachers tell you you had a 'talent' for writing?
Do you think you're talented?


  1. I've always enjoyed writing, going back to my high school days. But I hadn't been told I had a talent for it. What I've found as I move along the writing journey is that it does require much dedication and effort. And a passion for the process, which pretty much drives the work. I'm not sure talent, alone, will get us where we want to be.

  2. There is definitely a debate over the influence talent has on ability. I believe that natural talent can play a role. However I believe that exposure to literacy, especially during childhood has the largest impact. I've been told I write well therefore it gave me the confidence to hone on my talent and work hard. Nice article!

  3. Thanks for the comment, D. Heath! :)
    I agree about the literacy exposure.