I think writing is like cooking. Following the steps, and conventional wisdom, along with a lot of hard work will get you something that is eventually edible. To be truly delectable, however, your work will need an infusion of talent. I believe talent exists to differing levels in everyone. Some of us have to work harder to exercise our talent because we weren’t given a generous helping. Others have loads of talent and squander it because they don’t realize it’s a gift others don’t have. To produce meaningful art you will require some degree of talent and how much talent you have initially can speed your mastery of your art form.
I don’t know if I have talent. I think it’s something that other people see in you, but you can’t see yourself. I do think that talent is enormously important when it comes to producing art. While hard work, dedication, perseverance and study are all required for mastery, to truly excel you have to start with that spark. It’s not something that can be acquired. You either have it or you don’t.
I also think that success and popularity are not hallmarks of talent. They are something entirely different. Popularity, while able to tickle the ego, does not equate mastery. Popularity is only an indicator of the current whim of the masses.