This is an honest digression, a heartfelt insight into a little something called my brain : )
I've written a few things, but I hesitate to call myself a writer. How can you tell if you're a writer? This article in The Village Voice will tell you how to find that out (there is some strong language, actually one strong word used many times).
And Colleen Lindsay, a literary agent sums the article up very nicely, here.
Many people who teach writing or give seminars or lead critique circles will say over and over again that writing should never be discouraged. A critique should never be so blunt as to include the words, "You have no talent. Give it up."
But I secretly don't agree with that. The Village Voice article explains very nicely why. If people whose business it is to know such things are kind enough to tell you that you should probably pursue other talents, it's probably best to listen and free yourself to find whatever your real talent is.
I haven't exactly found mine yet. My writing isn't terrible, but in all honesty, I know that it lacks something. Just like I know that the batch of fudge I made last week lacked something. It was okay, but it didn't possess that oomph that leaves you still salivating after you've swallowed and makes you sneak back into the kitchen to cut just one more little nibble off of that velvety slab of lusciousness.
Okay, so maybe my talent is candymaking, because I can actually tell when it hasn't come out right. And I can tell when it has and it's oh-so-drool-inducing-good. And because, although I can't say that my writing is the best in the whole world (not even close), I can say, with almost utter certainty, that if you search the world over, you will never find a caramel that can top mine.
And maybe that's a good analogy to use. Suppose you knew someone whose cooking was hard to stomach. Now suppose they confided in you that they wanted to open a restaurant and they wanted your opinion of their cooking - was it good enough to become a successs in the restaurant business?
Would you suggest that they learn the basics? Attend a cooking school? Tell them not to quit their day job?
Or would you encourage them and then watch as they poured all of their time and perhaps their life savings into a restaurant? Which would fail. Because your friend can't cook. And you knew it.
It would be nice if someone would tell me outright not to quit my day job when it comes to my writing if it's really not all that great. It would actually be freeing. Of course it would hurt, but I learned way back in elementary school how to deal with disappointment. I'd get over it. And then move on to better things.