Is it possible to become a great writer without having any talent whatsoever? Is it possible to have so much talent that learning to write is unnecessary?

These are good questions, and I’ve seen them answered hundreds of times, falling on both sides of the debate, on hundreds of different blogs. There’s no real way of saying which is correct, but recently I think I may have found the answer.

Now and then I go with my mother-in-law to get a pedicure, laugh, talk, and in general get away from the guys. (We love them, but their men. You know?)

The time before last was for my wedding, and the woman who did my nails just splatted on the paint any which way, leaving gaps here and overpainting there. She gave me a pedicure, did everything she was supposed to, but without any heart whatsoever. I made her go back and fix ever single detail she got wrong, and we both parted ways silently fuming. I don’t apologize. It was for my wedding, and I shelled out $20 so I wouldn’t have those gaps.

With some reservation, we went back a couple months later to the same shop, different pedicure lady. Same pedicure. Same service. Should have looked the same, right? She did my nails, than went back and stared at each individual toe, and fixed everything herself. I didn’t say anything. She added a little bit of color there, rubbed a bit of paint off there, did some complimentary designs on my big toes, and left my feet looking fabulous. She seemed surprised when I gave her a big tip, asked for her name, what days she was off, and promised to request her next time.

What does all that have to do with talent vs. skill?

The true answer came to me as I was admiring my feet. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s talent or skill. If you love what you do, you’re going to be good at it. If you don’t have the talent, you make up for it with skill. If you have the talent, but not the skill, you read books to force the skill.

Passion is what makes good fiction, or good anything really. Even if it’s just a really good pedicure.