Love/Hate Relationship with Talent and Skill – Guest Post by T. Trian

Posted: June 13, 2013 in Writing Stuff
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Today, I have the pleasure of bringing you a guest post written by one of my beta readers, T. Trian, part of the writing duo of T.K. Trian. I tried writing a similar post ages ago, but after reading this, it’s kind of embarrassing how little I understood about talent and skill. I’m going to stop myself from rambling, since I really think you should read this right now. I’ll have more to say at the end of the post. 

Love/Hate

Most people can write yet few people are fiction authors. Why is that? Simple: because writing is a skill, just like any other. It’s a craft. Like playing the guitar, making exquisite carpentry, or drawing. Crafts require constant honing or the skill starts to rust. That’s the reason why most people aren’t musicians, painters, or fiction authors. Those who try to make do with only casual practice just won’t make the cut. Some rare, truly talented individuals could, in the days of yore when the Earth was green and dinosaurs ruled, but those days are long gone. Now if you want to ”make it,” even the most talented people have to put in countless, regular hours of practice to get even close to the level nowadays required of professionals.

            What is talent? It’s a word thrown around a lot, especially with compliments. Most people who meddle with the arts, be they talented or not, will hear ”oh, you’re so talented” at one point in their life or another. Usually though, the person making the compliment is mistaking skill for talent.

What is skill, then? It’s the result of hard work that spans a longer period of time. Talent is a person’s natural capacity to learn the basics of some function a tad easier than others. A rhythmically talented person can pick up the basics of drumming easier than one of us normal folks, but that’s it; talent only takes you so far and if talent is all you rely on, pretty soon you’ll see all the humble non-talents flying by, their skills far surpassing that of yours. Should’ve practiced those rudiments with the same diligence you play World of Warcraft or whatever is the new ”it” thing on the net (yeah, I don’t really play video/computer games; I prefer to do stuff like punching and kicking people [in the ring] or shooting for real, it’s a quirk).

            I’ve never been talented at anything. Well, the only real talent I admit is a vivid imagination, but that’s it; I’m not a talented writer, guitarist, songwriter, drummer, or athlete. All that I’ve achieved in those particular areas are due to skills developed through hard work. Blood, sweat, and tears, literally. Not to sound egoistic, but people have called me talented many times in many things. They have all been wrong. And they haven’t been particularly good at the thing they were complimenting on because otherwise they would have just told me to practice more instead of offering their misguided (albeit well-meaning) praises.

            In a way, calling someone talented can even be seen as a kind of an insult stemming from ignorance: it undermines all the hard work the person has put in their craft, whatever it may be. It implies they aren’t where they are because of hard work, but simply because they were born with the skill. I’ve never met anyone who was born a pianist or a boxer. Every single one of the good ones has been skilled, however, dedicated to their craft, their art.

They have often made great sacrifices to become as good as they are, usually at the expense of things dear to them, things like friends, other hobbies, fun nights out with sexy people, even family. I’ve heard of couples breaking up because one of them didn’t abandon their frequently touring band or sports team that took them to competitions all over the world. And then some derp walks up to them and goes ”oh, you’re so talented!” Yeah, thanks.

            But what does this mean when we look at the big picture? I’ll tell you in a moment. First, I just want to take a moment to giggle at every single Great Artist out there who think they’re sooo fucking talented, sooo fucking special, just like their mommy and daddy told them. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not special.

Here’s the thing, the secret they try so hard to forget: anybody can be an artist. Abso-fucking-lutely anybody. Well, anybody with the capacity of normal bodily functions and the will to pour in countless hours of usually boring, frustrating, and aggravating practice. Anybody willing to sacrifice much of the fun they would otherwise have (like spending hours watching TV or puking their guts out in a ditch, i.e. fun).

            You, me, her, everybody and his dog could be a fiction author, but few people are willing to clock enough practice time. I mean, why would they since it’s so fucking hard, annoying, and frustrating? Simple: if you have a dream, you simply can’t live without working your ass off to reach it. If you want to be the world’s fastest swimmer, imagine how many hours you need to spend in the pool or at the gym? Or, by God, stretching *puke*.

It’s the same with fiction writing: you can’t just sit down on your lardy ass, barf out 60k words, and be the next J. K. Rowling. Sorry, dreamer, these days it no longer works like that. Not sure if it ever did, because I’m sure if you asked Mrs. Rowling, she’d probably tell you she worked her ass off to get to where she is now. Just like anybody who’s truly great at what they do. Go back in time and ask J. R. R. Tolkien if he just farted out LOTR or if he dedicated years of hard work and research to create the quintessential gem of fantasy literature.

            I seem to hate the word ”talent,” but perhaps, in the name of semantics, I could at least admit that the drive that makes you want go through hell to become great could be called talent. For instance, some could argue that I don’t have talent for becoming a pianist simply because I have absolutely zero interest in playing that particular instrument. They also could argue that I have talent for writing, playing the guitar, shooting, swimming, and martial arts, because those I do need to practice as often as I humanely can or else I’ll just become anxious, twitchy, annoyed, simply no fun to be around.

It’s almost like a compulsion, and while I don’t admit to being a masochist per se, I have to say that on some level I enjoy even those practice sessions that I hate. A paradox? Not really: I hate the grueling hours I have to practice scales with the guitar to develop my speed and dexterity, but I enjoy knowing that all that annoying stuff will eventually make me a better player. Hell, it even helps me as a songwriter when I can write stuff I otherwise couldn’t because I would’ve been unable to play it. The same goes for every other craft I love. Hate. It’s a love/hate-thing, I guess.

Bottomline: anybody can be an artist, an athlete, the next Donald Trump. All you need is love for something, the passion that fuels the drive to put in insane amounts of hard work until you achieve that dream.

 

Aren’t you glad I told you to read it? Personally, I don’t think I’m a very talented writer. The reason why I can write as well as I can now (that isn’t to say that I’m a particularly good writer) is because of lots of practice, and a few tips by much more experienced writers that decided to throw me a bone. The saying, “Practice makes perfect,” has become cliche, but the only way you can get better is through practice. Unless, of course, you’re the next Mozart. However, if you’re a regular Joe like me, you need all the practice you can get. And if you can spend hours doing the same thing over and over again (definition of insanity), and still love what you’re doing… I consider you talented. 

You can check out T. Trian’s blog at this link, where they’ve written a lot of interesting things. You can also check out their Twitter account at this link. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guest post as much as I have, and if you did, leave a Like and a comment and remember to check out Toni Trian’s blog. 

~Jian

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