Why “Talent” Doesn’t Equal “Ticket”

“Do” is the operative word.

When I started teaching, I had one of my 10th graders drop out of school within the first 2 weeks. His classmates told me that he had planned to drop out anyway. The day he left, he happened to leave halfway through my class because that was when his ride showed up. I’ll never forget the glory of ‘freedom’ in his eyes as he walked backward out of the door. He waved to the class with an expression that said, “Look at me! I’m onto bigger and better things!”

Right.

If he had any kind of talent for anything, except interrupting my class, I never got to see it. I hope he had some talent. But I fear that kid simply became a statistic that day. The thing is, talent isn’t always the ticket to success.

One of the comments that Kristen Lamb, author of Rise of the Machines-Human Authors in a Digital World, frequently makes on her blog is when she started writing, she “mistakenly believed that making As in English naturally qualified [her] to be a best-selling author.” I learned my lesson earlier than that.

I’ve always been a ‘book girl.’ I already knew how to read before I was in preschool, and created my own stories in the first grade. When I got to high school, my freshman English teacher was worthless. The saddest part about that was she taught the honors classes. You could write a paper for her, give it a good opening and closing, but fill the middle with gibberish and still get an A. Seriously. Someone did that. As a result, I became a lazy English student that year.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. My sophomore English teacher was very militant. At first I wasn’t worried because English was my talent. It was my ticket to an easy A. I wasn’t supposed to work so hard at it. Ha. It took me earning a D to finally get my butt in gear.

Even if something comes naturally doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. I very much hope my drop out student managed to get his butt in gear. But I fear that too many young people see the flawless performances of singers like Kelly Clarkson or actors like Will Smith and think that they don’t have to work at what they do. Even superstar talent needs to put in a lot of effort. An NFL quarterback doesn’t just play one game a week and spend the rest of his time on the couch. If that’s all it took, anyone with talent to throw a football would play.

I’m still working on honing my skills as an author. Just because I have a published book doesn’t mean I’m above reading a craft book (or two, or three, or more) to get better. I’m working hard to make The Stone of Kings better than Harp Lessons. I’ll continue working to make my next book better than The Stone of Kings. If I don’t grow, I won’t succeed.

How do you work your talent? Are you growing? Did you start failing at one point and realize that you had to put in more effort?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Why “Talent” Doesn’t Equal “Ticket”

  1. A friend asked me when I got my first contract if I would take a creative writing class through the local college. I toyed with the idea. I knew I had a lot to learn still. Then the editing process started, and I told my friend, “No way!” I learn so much during the editing of each manuscript. Those things I learned with the first, I applied to the second. Those things I learned with the second, I applied to the third. And so on. As I do that, each manuscript improves, allowing the editors to focus on other areas that are problematic for me. I’ve read books that editors have recommended, and I read my reviews — even the horribly painful ones — to see where I can find consensus about what readers do and don’t like. I love what I do, and I want to be able to do it for a long time. My goal with each book is that it be better than the one before it. That’s it. That encompasses a LOT, sure, but that’s what it boils down to. Make each one better. If I can keep doing that, then I can keep writing. 😉

    • There’s a lot to be said for experience, Heather 😀 Even with a degree in English Lit and teaching experience, I couldn’t believe the amount of info I learned after editing my first book. I haven’t even submitted my next one yet, and I’m still learning even more. I think you and I are on the right track, making each book better than the last. 😀

  2. You’re absolutely correct that talent isn’t the only ingredient to success. Most of my best work — throughout high school and into college — happened when a teacher kicked my butt and called me on my laziness. Nowadays, it’s up to us too keep our butts in gear. I still read up my craft for both my creative writing and my copywriting. And I’m always pushing myself to try new things, even though they sometimes scare me. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something different. Small changes and improvements here and there add up over time.

    Nice post. 🙂

  3. Thanks Erica! 😀 You make a great point that we don’t have to be a smash hit right away. Bit by bit is just as good as long as we keep working at it! 😀

  4. I dropped out in grade 10 as well. Mainly because I knew I wouldn’t find what I needed where I was. But effort always needs to be put into anything you do. I’ve been working on my book for years now and recently had to kick myself into rewriting it to make it work. Learning never stops, no matter where you are! 🙂

    • Good for you Lea! While I always feel it’s sad that students drop-out, sometimes I can understand why depending on the situation especially if it’s a bad school. The fact that you are pushing yourself speaks volumes and I wish you the best! 😀

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