My writing tips organized by topic.
Read about me
Don't have time to read? Listen on Youtube.
Read what others have said about me and my blog.
Connect with me on social media.

Monday, July 3, 2017

On Talent and Success




Over the last few months, I've been noticing something.

I've been seeing writers who are less talented than others find more success.

At the same time, I've become more aware of talented writers, smart writers, or passionate writers who sort of drift away.

Since I left high school, I've come in contact with a lot of people who dream of being writers. And over the years, I've seen many educated and intense aspiring authors . . . just stop pursuing. Sometimes these are people who have all the right personal qualities to succeed. They are sharp, driven, dedicated, passionate, and they have critical thinking skills. Sure, they may need more practice, but that comes with time. Perhaps, though, it is because they are so intense and critical, they stop believing they can succeed. They don't think they can actually "make it."


A few weeks ago, I was talking with a family member about the fact that we as human beings often (and sometimes unknowingly) limit ourselves and what we can accomplish. Mentally, almost silently, we think, I can't do this, and in just believing that, we cut short our abilities. The mental energy we spend thinking about what we can't do takes away from the mental energy we could use simply pursuing what we want or need to do.

What's strange is that over time, I've seen people who appear to lack a skill or quality find more professional success than their peers. They might win an award. Get a steady readership. Make more professional sales than people of higher writing abilities. I don't think this is because the world has gone all topsy-turvy. I think it's because these people don't limit themselves as much, in that way. Maybe they are blind to their weaknesses, or maybe they aren't. Whatever the case, they don't let those weaknesses hold them back. They don't let fear of not being good enough hold them back.

Lately I've been thinking about people I've met, in college, in day-to-day life, wherever, and how some could be doing what they dreamed of doing, if they simply pursued it a bit more carefreely as some of the people I meet at writing conferences do. But they never gave themselves permission.

Of course, life happens, and priorities can happen. Everyone writes differently and every writing career is different. I'm not saying we need to run out of our houses and throw crappy first drafts out everywhere. I'm just saying give yourself the permission to jump in. For some, that might mean allowing yourself to begin taking writing seriously--to take yourself serious as a writer. For others it might mean finally submitting a story somewhere. For another, it might mean allowing yourself to self-publish. For someone else it might mean allowing yourself to write and enjoy writing.

On occasions, I have talked to instructors that say the most talented people are the ones who are hardest on themselves. And it makes sense. They have a strong eye for criticism. They expect a lot out of their work. They demand a lot of themselves. And they don't settle. In contrast, the students who are less talented may be the ones who think they deserve the highest marks in the class. This seems backwards, but it's often true. This second group ends up pursuing all kinds of avenues, because they believe they deserve it, or simply because they give themselves permission to. They are more likely to find success than the talented person who never submitted, published, or shared anything.

Years ago, a family member and I used to repeat this observation to each other. "Why is so-and-so a bad-a**? Because he thinks he's a bad-a**." (And in my family, we really just say "bad-a" haha (Yes, I live it Utah)). The idea is that everyone who seems to act like they are awesome and cool are simply that way because they believe they are.

In some sense, that same principle can be applied to other areas. Why is that person a writer? Because she thinks she's a writer. Why is that person successful? Because he think he's successful. There are limits to how far this principle can extend, of course, and there are exceptions, but in some ways, following it is like starting on training wheels. It slashes down limits you've put on yourself. You are what you are because you believe you are.

Now success might not mean the same thing to everyone. Success to one person might be selling a lot of copies of her book. Success to another person might be being able to write full-time, regardless of exposure. It might be becoming the best current writer in that genre, even if the genre has a small readership, like weird west fiction.

Ideally, we become the best of both groups of students mentioned earlier. People in the first group may need to let themselves take a chance to pursue. People in the second group may need to sharpen their critical eye and dedication, because while they may already have found success, that success will have a ceiling based on their talent.

Whatever kind of writer you hope to be, whether it's a bestselling, award-winning writer, or fierce fanfiction writer, decide today to give yourself permission to pursue success.

0 comments:

Post a Comment

I love comments :)