Guest Post: Talent is Worthless if You Lack Motivation

by Jeremiah Tolbert


I’ve spent much of my life jeal­ous of those around me who were nat­u­rally tal­ented at things. I’ve always wished I had some­thing resem­bling tal­ent in visual arts; I have never been able to draw, and it’s a tal­ent I greatly admire. And while I’ve had some minor suc­cess as a writer (in that I’ve pub­lished a few sto­ries), I don’t believe it comes from nat­ural tal­ent but rather per­se­ver­ance and repeated trial and error.

I always assumed that suc­cess in cre­ative endeav­ors would come more eas­ily if I had this thing called tal­ent. Only as I grow older and I have met more tal­ented peo­ple, I real­ize it’s not as big a part of the equa­tion as I once thought. The most impor­tant thing by far is motivation.

The way I see it, there are three fac­tors in cre­ative pur­suit; you’ve got what­ever skill you bring to the table, you’ve got your aspi­ra­tional goals, and you’ve got your moti­va­tion. Talent might advance you some on the skill track, and goals and dreams are easy; every­body has them.

Skills can be learned. Talent’s a head start, but it’s not every­thing. And basi­cally, it’s worth­less if you lack the drive and moti­va­tion to achieve that goal.

I see it a lot; peo­ple who have skill and goals, but they’re always mak­ing excuses for why they aren’t advanc­ing on them. Not enough time being the biggest one, but as Jay Lake always said, roughly para­phras­ing, if you have time to watch TV, you have time to make something.

It boils down most of the time to the fact that you’re just not moti­vated enough on the pur­suit of your goal. Which isn’t to say that real bar­ri­ers to suc­cess don’t exist; of course they do. But with­out drive, or ambi­tion, or some moti­vat­ing need, you’re going to find a rea­son not to cre­ate. I don’t care how tal­ented you are if you can’t be arsed to work.

Let’s face it; not mak­ing things is a lot eas­ier than mak­ing things. Get your ass moti­vated and work. Or don’t; the world doesn’t really care one way or another. It’s gotta come from you, in the end, or what’s the point?


Jeremiah Tolbert is a writer, photographer, and web designer living in Northeast Kansas.  His fiction has appeared in magazines including LightspeedFantasy, and Interzone, and in anthologies including Way of the Wizard. For additional information, visit his blog, where this post first appeared.