Talent and learning

galeni and I have been discussing the question of how much of doing something is about innate talent, and how much is learned. This is a fascinating question to me, and one I’ve been pondering for some years.

As I was saying in galeni‘s journal, I’ve always loved to sing, and I was always really, really bad at it, and I always hated the fact–hated that I felt I had to keep from singing because I knew I wasn’t any good.

I’d always assumed one needed some innate talent to even think about singing. It took me a long time to realize that there was no reason why, if this was something I enjoyed, I couldn’t make an effort to learn how to do it.

I was pretty much terrified as I headed off to my first lesson. I’d never been as bad at writing as I was at singing. And I discovered that yes, it would take work; but yes, I could learn to sing signicantly better if I really wanted to. I doubt I’ll ever be performing anyway; I doubt I’ll ever want to. This is avocation, not vocation. But it’s fun.

Writing is fun, too, but in a different way. Because with my writing, I started with just enough innate ability to know that if I worked hard, I had a chance of becoming truly good at it. Writing has been very intense, for me; and it’s been intense for so many years that I began needing other things–other arts–that I could be less intense about. That I could do my best at, but while knowing that my best didn’t have to be perfect, or saleable, or acceptable to anyone but me.

I know a musician who told me once he enjoys playing piano because that isn’t his career instrument–he’ll never have an audition on piano, he’ll never have anything riding on how well he performs on piano; he can just play.

More and more, I can understand that.

What do all of you require in order to be comfortable pursuing something? Do you need some talent to get started? (Do you need talent to have the desire to get started?) If you don’t need talent to get started, what do you need to decide to pursue a given thing?

Do you even think most things can be learned, without that starting talent?

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