Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Talent vs Hard Work

It's been a while since I last posted so apologies for that. I've been hard at work on the last book in my Tube Riders series and I've not had much time for anything else (except work and feeding the cat).

This morning, over breakfast, I was reading a bit of The Angel's Game by Carlos Luiz Zafon (an excellent writer), and I came to an interesting passage which I think pretty much summed up value (or lack of it) of talent on its own.

In the book, you have the main character, a writer, David Martin, explaining a few things to Isabella, a teenager, whom supposedly has talent and wants to be his assistant in exchange for him mentoring her as a writer. Just after David has finished reading twenty pages of her manuscript, Isabella is keen to know if she has talent. This is what David says to her:

"I think you are talented and passionate, Isabella. More than you think and less than you expect. But there are a lot of people with talent and passion, and many of them never get anywhere. This is only the first step in achieving anything in life. Natural talent is like an athlete's strength. You can be born with more or less ability, but nobody can become an athlete because he or she was born tall, or strong, or fast. What makes the athlete, or the artist, is the work, the vocation and the technique. The intelligence you are born with is just ammunition. To achieve with it you need to need to transform your mind into a high-precision weapon."

What he is saying is that it doesn't matter how talented you are, if you don't put in the hard work you won't get anywhere with it. Just like every other writer, I often come into contact with people who tell me they can write, some who even look down their nose at me for writing my supposedly simple genre fiction (most of whom have never actually read any of it, I might add). The fact is, though, is that I'm writing, publishing and selling, and they're not. The world is ram-packed with so-called writers lauding their apparent talent, but talent is only a tiny part of being successful. The way to become a successful writer (or artist, or sportsman, or pretty much anything else) is simple:

Bust your balls.

That's it. Work your ass off and you'll get there. We all have different definitions of success. For some it might be finishing a single story. For others it might be selling a single story to some unknown ezine or small press. For others it'll be selling it to a professional magazine or to a major traditional publisher. Others consider success to be self-publishing a novel making hundreds of dollars on Amazon. For me, being a full time writer is my baseline for success. I have a decent enough job which pays my rent and allows me a couple of vacations a year, but to be a full time writer I would need to be earning a minimum of $2000 a month, a sum I've still not made in total in 18 months (although I'm close ;-) ). Earning that sum per month would allow me to survive full time and allow me to feel fully justified in telling all the doubters to shove their heads up their doubting asses. However, I know writers who make that sum PER DAY and don't feel like they've achieved any real level of success. It's all down to you.

What is certain though, is that you won't achieve anything with just talent. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don't get your ass on a seat and churn out some words day after day AFTER DAY, and then spend day after day after day trying to sell and promote those words, your chance of success is the same as finding a diamond in a garbage dump.

That is all. Work hard and don't give up.

Back to the WIP ...

Chris Ward
15th August 2013


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