Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is talent. Specifically, writing talent (obvs). A lot of this comes down to my specific version of impostor syndrome, which says, “Yeah, you’re good, but you’re not good enough.” Impostor syndrome is a real asshole, huh? Still this belief that I have talent, just not enough of it persists. So when I find myself pondering this awful conundrum, there are two quotes by Stephen King I like to think about. To me, they handily sum up the “good” and the “good enough”.
Quote 1: “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” – Stephen King
King’s formula for talent is pretty simple. If someone is willing to pay you for something you wrote, you probably have talent. I’ll add on to this and say, if multiple someones are willing to pay you to write things, you probably have enough talent to piece together something resembling a career in writing. This covers the good part. People who get paid to write, even a little, are probably good at it. (Of course, money is not the only measure of talent, but it’s an easy one to identify.) Still, having talent is not what I worry about. The second quote covers that.
Quote Two: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” – Stephen King
There it is. The good enough part. When I say good enough, what I mean is good enough to land that dream agent, publish my novels, be recognized as a writer of note. You know, the big dreams, and, dare I say it, the improbable ones. I think what King is saying here is that talent is the baseline, the starting point for most of us. It’s not what makes us successful (whatever your definition of success might be). No, what we need to do is focus on that second part. The hard work part. Why? Because it’s the only part of the process we control. You can’t control whether an agent or publisher is gonna like your story or book or whatever. You can’t control if readers are going to love your work, hate it, or simply ignore it. What you can control is putting words on the page, making those word the best you can possibly make them, and then putting those words in front of as many agents, and editors, and readers as possible as many times as it takes. If you do that, and you have that little bit of talent, I like your chances.
Okay, let’s get to work. 🙂