Talent vs Passion and Practice

I recently got in an arguement with one of my friends while we were discussing art and literature. My stance was that raw talent will beat out passion and practice any day. I think that a person can learn how to draw or write the basic elements of a story but what they learn will not help them create anything of substance. I think, in the world of art, you either have it or you don’t. What do you think?

I think you’re wrong (sorry, you asked! :p). Talent, Passion and Practice all matter, and there are examples where a given artist was strong in 1 - 2 but weak on the third and did just fine.

Cezanne was known for not being a particularly talented artist compared to his peers, but instead for his passionate commitment to his theories about painting and his practice.

I also seem to remember that Jackson Pollack wasn’t considered a great talent, but perservered through practice and passion.

Look at most punk rock artists - can’t play to save their lives. But their passion and focus on their genre resulted in important art.

There are also situations where someone with natural talent lacked the passion and willingness to practice and would up less important than their passionate peers. Not an art example, but Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings is a classic example of this - incredibly talented as a wide receiver, but his attitude sucks.

If you don’t have the passion, you won’t have the drive to keep working to fulfill your vision. A cousin of mine is a natural artist, in that he can draw a portrait in pencil that’s as accurate as a photograph. (I know, I know, but work with me a moment here).

When he’s done, he throws the piece away. To him, it’s something to bid his time. A doodle. He has no passion for what he does, no interest in developing this talent any further.

Take hard work. “Calvin and Hobbes” is generally recognized as one of the greatest comic strips of all time. Yet it didn’t come about fully formed. Watterson tried out several strips before C&H was accepted, and if you read them, you’ll see how he worked to develop his ideas. How the characters’ looks changed. How he decided to dispense with the standard Sunday format and stretch himself.

Some of this was done with quite a lot of opposition. Newspaper editors hated his demand that they devote a certain amount of space to his Sunday strip (some liked it, I admit, but there was resistance). His syndicate HATED that they couldn’t merchandise the heck out of C&H, and he fought hard with them and dug in his heels and kept saying no. Because he believed in that.

That’s hard work and passion.

Raw talent is just that. Raw. Unformed and unshaped. It may be brilliant, but it’d better be on the first crack, else it’ll suck just as hard as any wannabe writer who thinks he’s the next Grisham. It takes practice to be good. It takes practice to realize what is good and what isn’t, and how to whip the work into shape so that it is good.

Fred Astaire didn’t dance that wonderfully right out of the box. He practiced. He rehearsed. He thought hard about what he did and learned how to do what he saw in his mind until his feet bled.

If it looks easy, it’s because it isn’t.

Look at Pete Rose. I doubt anyone expected him, early in his career, to do what he did. But he had the passion and the drive, and he didn’t care what people thought.

Michael Jordan, too. Think about it. After a couple World Championships, you’d think he’d slack off a bit. Especially when you’re on a ten-day road trip and you’re playing the L.A. Clippers. Easy win, right. Why put yourself out?

He didn’t. NBA fans may correct me if I’m wrong, but I doubt if he’s known for mailing in a performance. He always played hard, and he played hard for the fans that saw him in L.A. that would see him in the playoffs.

A person of moderate talent but with a lot of passion will go farther, faster than a really talented person with a moderate amount of drive.

I’ll let a picture speak a dozen words for me.

Talent is nice. It makes everything easier for you. Of course, it doesn’t mean you will accomplish squat. It means that you have the potential to do great things. Doing really great things generally takes a bit of work, and a fair bit of time, as well. Doing that without passion is pretty hard, especially since you don’t get much back from art until you have finished doing what you are doing.

Trying hard and wanting hard aren’t enough for some levels of endeavor. If you can’t carry a tune, you can’t be an opera singer. You might consider rap. You don’t see many five foot eleven inch mediocre guys playing pro basketball. If you are not gifted physically, you have to kick ass, every minute, all day, every day. Art is no different.

Without heart, technique is a poor substitute in a violinist. Metrically perfect play is not where greatness lies. Passion is the source of great communication. Even mute passion can communicate. But dry and formulaic performance is just not communicative, without heart.

Without talent, you can still acquire skill. It’s harder, though. Without passion, one can still become more personal. It is not as deep, though. Without work, some can still produce great works. Don’t count on it, though.


I don’t get what rap has to do with it. Just as a rapper may not be a good opera singer, nor will an opera singer be a great rapper. They are both seperate artforms that take some talent. However, in both areas, drive and passion are what make the greats.

Drive and passion are definitely more important. Without them, all the talent in the world won’t help.

An example was a sister of someone in my writing group. She had decided to try her hand at writing, so wrote something and sent it to The New Yorker. She got a personal rejection. So she gave up.

No one could convince her that the fact she got a personal rejection – from one of the toughest markets out there – meant she had great prospects. She counted it as a failure and quit.

A friend of mine named Dan Chambliss who’s a sociologist wrote an article called “The Mundanity of Excellence” to show that persistence is more important than talent, whatever that may be. It’s now considered a pretty standard reference in sociology. You can find in an 1988 issue of Sociological Theory.

Blinky: Please don’t cross-post. Pick ONE forum and put your question there.

As this is more of a poll than an arts discussion, I’ll close this thread and leave the one in IMHO open.