Art Holcomb on… The Nature of Talent

A guest post by Art Holcomb

Let me tell you a story . . .

I had my first public success as a writer when I was 13. I wrote a play as part of a six grade class competition that — against all conceivable odds — went on to be professionally produced at a theater in San Francisco in 1968.

It ran for 6 weeks.

A play.  Written by a sixth grader.

What a wonderful feeling – perhaps the greatest feeling of my life to date. And I learned an important lesson about myself that day – which was that I could create!

In the years that followed, I came to live for that rush, for the fire I felt.

Sadly, as a result, I became quite prideful, and even a bit stuck up. Because I discovered that I had TALENT! I believed that I could do something that few others could do.

And so it has for many years. I wrote and published and was convinced that I was a star.

But then a day came in college when I called upon that talent to get me through… and it failed me.   I came up empty – literally – and thought I was done for sure.

I felt like that, lost in an ever-increasing dry spell . . .

. . . that lasted for 11 years.

After trying everything I could to create again, I reached out to someone who was to be my first writing mentor – famed science fiction writer David Gerrold.

I was so desperate that I drove over 120 miles once a week just to attend a class with David.

The weeks that followed were like torture – watching other students thrive while I still struggled to even one well-written sentence together.

At some point, David took me aside and we talked frankly about what was going on. As a result, he soon had me start doing the work: setting deadlines, shouldering my way through my daily pages and disciplining myself to produce work on a regular schedule.

Eventually, my productivity and quality came back and I got back in touch with my abilities once I realized that creativity works best in harness and under the thumb of a good work ethic.

I realized that I was able to change my life – once I stopped believing that my talent controlled my destiny.

And I learned the real truth about that TALENT:

What was once a source of great joy and power had, in fact, done exactly what the universe intended for it to do – give me just a glimpse of what it was like to be a producing artist – to be the writer I could become.

Because talent only gives you the taste of that fire, the rarest preview of all the things that could be.  It tells the lucky recipient of a future lying just beyond the horizon.

But the truth is – that future lies ahead for anyone willing to fight for it.  Because talent never lasts.

It was a long hard battle for me to reach that sense of fire and joy once more.  To be able to PRODUCE and to CREATE.

I never took it for granted again.

I never again mistook my skill for my talent.

I am here today to do perhaps what no one else has ever done for you.  To tell you what I know to be absolutely true.

That, for each person willing to do the work, there is a fire that can live forever inside of you. A fire to create, which warms the soul and ignites the imagination.  My life would be hollow without it and I am grateful every day that I get to write and create and weave stories that can move friends and strangers alike.

So — enjoy your talent — but always see it for what it is: just a taste of the fire. And know that you cannot depend upon it forever.

Know that a lifetime of joy from writing comes from a lifetime of struggle and dedication, and that – if you do the work every day – the universe will reveal itself to you as you reveal yourself to it.

So – keep writing. Keep going deep into yourself.  Demand more from yourself at every turn.

Because what is waiting for you just beyond that horizon – will amaze you.

(Larry’s comment: Amen.)

ART HOLCOMB is an accomplished writer, Hollywood script/story advisor and well-known writing teacher, as well as a frequent contributor to Check out his website HERE.


Art was recently interviewed by Creative Screenwriting Magazine, where he is a frequent contributor.  It’s a great look at the man and his contribution to the writing conversation, which includes a long-running contribution to this website and to it’s creator… check it out HERE.


Storyfix was recently named by Angela Han’s website, Global English Editing (, to their list of “The 120 Most Helpful Websites for Writers in 2016,” placed at #2 in the “Helpful Tips on Writing” category (out of 19 named, and ahead of some of the monster sites you’re familiar with).  Click HERE to check it out.

They also have a helpful roster of the “55 Most Helpful Apps for Writers.”


If you haven’t done it yet, check out my upcoming Mega/Master 4 day writing workshop, co-presenting with Jennifer Blanchard in Portland, OR, April 3 -7.  Go HERE for more information, or click on the ad in the left column. There’s still room, and we’ll even feed you.  But fair warning: be prepared to go deep, where your darkest fears and wildest writing dreams dance to music you may not yet understand… but after this, you will.



Filed under Guest Bloggers

10 Responses to Art Holcomb on… The Nature of Talent

  1. Larry snagged my comment already: amen to that.

    Different field, same experience.

    Hard work and good planning outperform “talent” in the long run. And some short runs.

  2. Amen is right. Love this!!! What a great way to start today’s journey. Thanks, Art. Hi, Larry. Hope you both have an awesome day!

  3. John V


  4. Martha Miller

    Thanks, Art and Larry. I needed that!

  5. Wonderful words, both true and inspiring. Great combo!

  6. Excellent piece. Having talent is wonderful, but it’s the hard work and persistence that will see a project through to the end.

  7. MikeR

    I know also that it’s very easy to suppose that, “if I were ‘really good’ at this, words would just pour out of me and every one of those words would be publishable.” Uh uh. Doesn’t work that way. Never will. Creativity is a process, not a miracle.

    When you buy and read a novel, remember that what you’re reading is the finished product … after the writer and many other professionals have labored over it. You don’t see ANY of the decisions the writer made but discarded. You don’t see any of the edits. You only see, of course, just what you expected to see: a finished product, not any of the process that produced it. If the producers did their job well, none of their hard work will draw any attention to itself. (They prefer it that way.)

    So, just remember to cut yourself a little slack as you keep working, and never permanently throw-away anything that you produce. You are, after all, teaching yourself a new skill. You’re learning how to make choices – and, what choices need be made. Don’t wait for an epiphany or celestial confirmation of the validity of what you are doing. Plan wisely, learn from everyone (especially @Larry), and don’t stop.

  8. Trena

    i know i have EVERYTHING a reader would want, i would never tell my story to a columnist. beautifully sequenced. sweet story..passionate real and relates,,no writers jargon

  9. I really like your blog write-up which is obviously informative & fantastic…. Keep sharing more… Thanks a lot!!!

  10. You’re 100% right. I liken this to soccer (football on this side of the world). My son’t team has a number of players with exceptional talent. But there are also players with less talent and a lot more drive to succeed. They show up early for training, spend the off season getting fitter and typically last longer (career-wise) than those who just rely on talent.

    I’m like that with writing. I don’t have a huge amount of talent (/some/, I hope), but the hours I put in “breaking” a story eclipse the hours I spend actually writing and editing.

    Success favours the persistent.