What is Talent?
During the pandemic and our work-from-home activities, my company has been holding book clubs monthly. They aren't fiction, of course, but business books. (I straddle this line, as a writer and an MBA.) This week our discussion of the book club book (Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth) brought to mind something that I think about a lot as a writer, and, tangentially, as a businessperson: the idea of the magic bullet. The talented genius. The wunderkind. It has many names.
The book quoted Nietzsche as saying, “With everything perfect we do not ask how it came to be.” Instead, “we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic.”
As a writer, the odds are very slim that you'll get published. The odds are slim that you'll finish a book, that you'll get an agent, that that agent will sell your book, that your book will get read by anyone. So when I, a successful novelist, go to writers conferences, people often ask for the secret to my success. There MUST be a secret, of course. No one just gets a book deal without knowing the secret code. Up up down down B A select start.
Author Neil Gaiman phrased it this way: “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard.”
I have a friend, Brandon Sanderson, who is among the top three bestselling fantasy writers in the world right now. He's considered by everyone to be a genius, because he burst onto the writing scene seemingly out of nowhere and made a huge splash. But his secret? When his first book sold, he was writing his thirteenth manuscript. (And he writes fantasy, so his books are thick.) He was dedicated, he put in years and years of work, and then—boom—he came from “out of nowhere.”
I don't think there's any difference between my experiences as a writer and another person's experience as an account manager or a salesperson or a CRO specialist or the president of the company. It's easy to look at a successful person and assume that, as Nietzsche said, they "came out of the ground by magic." But the truth is that all of us, in whatever role, are sitting at a keyboard putting one word in front of another until it's done.
It's that easy and that hard.