I have a lot of experience with talent. I don’t consider myself particularly talented but I have crossed paths with many people who have it in spades. I have known accomplished musicians, skilled teachers, gifted artists. One of my favourite people in the world is a Doctor of Sociology. Every time we meet –which is a rare and wonderful occurrence- I am overwhelmed by her talent for observing the truth about people, about society, about human beings. Even in the quietest, most insignificant moments, she is watching and learning.
In the creative world, you hear a lot of talk about people being gifted, being blessed with a talent for something, be it acting or writing or playing an instrument. I have no problem with talent in principle. You can't deny that some people manage to pull things off with a certain flair the rest of us just don't have. What bothers me is the implication that only people who are astronomically gifted can make a success of themselves. Let's get one thing straight; if Meryl Streep was lazy, she would not be the cinematic force that she is. If J K Rowling couldn't be bothered to put her backside in a chair and type for hours on end, the world wouldn't have Harry Potter. I'm not denying either of them are talented-clearly they are both extraordinary women. My belief is that talent is a wonderful foundation but without drive, without passion, without enthusiasm, willingness to learn, the desire to take on every fear one by one and conquer them all, that's all it would be. Success is something you have to earn and though the most talented people in the world might make their success look effortless, clearly there's a lot of hard work involved.
That's not to say that if you don't have a natural talent for something, you can't ever make a success of it, either. I’m a natural loner. I'm much more comfortable by myself and I always have been. I don’t love social situations where I'm among a lot of people that I don't know, but put me in that situation and you will see something special. Never mind that my heart is hammering and my palms are sweating and the voice in my head is screaming at me to find a bottle of rum and a dark corner. I learned how to sparkle. I may not have conquered the fear entirely but I manage to come across like a well adjusted, balanced adult. It's exhausting but it gets a little easier every time. So, just because something doesn't come naturally to you, just because you have to work a bit harder and spend a little more time over something that somebody else, it doesn't make you a failure. Talent is a whim of the fates; some people have it in abundance, some aren't so lucky. But everybody burns for something and there is no reason you can't become skilled at the thing that you love. For me, it's writing. When I started, the stories I produced were terrible. Even now, I come up with terrible ideas, my prose is clunky, the characters don't ring true. I've devoted a lot of time to research and reading and learning everything I can. I'm not brilliant. Perhaps I never will be, but I can see potential in each new idea and every piece is infinitely stronger than the last.
If I could leave you with anything at the end of this post, it would be hope. To that end, I offer up this quote from the wonderful Terry Pratchett:-
Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove.
Until next time…