People often ask me how did I get to where I am now with my career? “I want to do what you do, but I don’t have your talent.”
I smile and nod politely because I’m honestly not sure how to answer without sounding stuck-up or putting the other person down further. People talk about natural talent like there’s a secret measure. You’ve either got enough of it or you don’t, those are the cards you’re dealt. Suck it up. If you can’t be a pro then don’t bother.
But, here’s what I’d like to say:
You can do what I do. Commit to reading several books a year and blogs every day on how to write better, attend 1-2 writer’s conferences in Canada and the USA every year, join a writers club, take online classes, submit your work to contests and for critiques to find out what you got wrong, submit story ideas to editors weekly who may turn you down or ask you for a rewrite, blog 1-3 times a week for almost three years — and commit to writing at least 20 hours a week every week for four years.
But that’s not what they want to hear. See, writing is one of the few arts that you can learn how to do well. Natural talent or affinity is helpful, no question, but it’s not essential.
Anyone who makes a living from their art has had to work hard for their success. It didn’t fall in their laps. But those on the outside like to stand in awe and make excuses to let themselves off the hook. I could never do that – I wasn’t born with that talent.
But what about those people who have natural talent, but never do anything with it? They’re afraid. They’re busy. They’re waiting for the perfect circumstances to arrive. They don’t want to work for success.
“If I’m too scared to use my powers, then I don’t deserve them.” ~Hiro Nakamuro Heroes Sn 1
If we looked at natural talents like super powers, we’d be less likely to dismiss them — less likely to hide them, because super powers are meant to help others. It would mean everyone has the chance to be a hero to someone. Some people are meant to bless hundreds or thousands of people with their gifts, their super powers/natural talents, some are meant to bless those closest to them. Doesn’t lessen the value of the gift to the receiver.
Reminds me of a line from the movie While You Were Sleeping. Lucy is trying to get Peter to see himself as she sees him — as a hero.
Lucy (to Peter): You give up your seat every day on the train.
Peter nods: Well… But that’s not heroic.
Lucy: It is to the person who sits in it.
I have the opportunity to talk to some pretty amazing people who have done some pretty amazing things. Over and over again, I hear them say the same things:
My father loved music, always had music in the house, loved to play.
My uncle was a great artist. He used to let me sit and watch him paint.
I had a teacher who encouraged me to pursue my dream.
Their loved ones never saw commercial or financial success because of the art they loved, but they passed on the love of it, and they encouraged the one who did become successful. Maybe your natural talent for music or art or writing is meant to bless your family, the residents of the local nursing home, or the kids at church. The eternal reward for using your talent is no less whether your audience is just one or a million.
I think we need to redefine success. If you’re using the natural talent you have, and you work at improving or growing that talent, then you’re a successful artist. We measure the success of art in terms of financial gains, accolades and awards. What if we measured it in terms of influence and blessing? Would you hide your talent if you thought of it as a super power meant to help others?
What’s your natural talent/super power? How do you grow that talent? Do you use it to bless others?