You’ve Gotta Work At It

I work at a business college of sorts when I’m not gallivanting off to take people on vacations, so I’m around a lot of 20-somethings. And these 20-somethings are the might-still-be-18 or just-turned-20-somethings. Young is my point. Sometimes they seem really young.

But as I writer I think it’s supremely important to eavesdrop on as many conversations as you can, more especially when they occur in your vicinity and you didn’t even have to seek them out. This particular conversation wasn’t hard to eavesdrop on, not only because it was happening behind me prior to the beginning of a forum, but also because they were loud talkers.

It was a girl and a guy. The girl spoke of her high school years, which happened waaaaaay back in 2013. She was the star athlete of her tennis team. She had actually transferred to that high school, but because she played tennis so well, they put her on the team and she was the top player.

She mentioned how her school probably, like, totally sucked. Like, they just wanted her because she knew how to play and that made her look good in comparison.

I truly believe she believes she wasn’t that good at tennis in a general sense, but she was probably hamming it up a bit to feign modesty for the guy she was trying to impress.

But it was something she said that really struck me that almost made me turn around and correct her, but a) then they’d know how much I’d been eavesdropping and b) I doubt they would have cared what I had to say anyway.

She said something like:

I’m honestly not that talented. I just worked hard. I practiced like 4 hours a day and practiced really hard and that’s why I was any good at playing. But I wasn’t born with talent like some people.

I won’t do the all caps on you, so just imagine this next bit is me yelling passionately, but I wanted to say to her: talent is nothing without effort. Do you really believe someone like Serena Williams got to where she was today because she picked up a racquet and discovered she was suddenly a pro tennis player. She may have had a natural ability to learn quicker than most, but I can guarantee you she was out there busting her butt, probably harder than anyone before her to get where she is today. True talent comes from hard work. You’ll never be very good at anything if you don’t put in gut-wrenching effort!!!

I know this is an attitude prevalent among our society. That anything you have to make effort doing means you lack that talent. I know for a fact there are many aspiring writers out there who believe they just write and liquid gold pumps out of their keyboards onto the screen. We probably all still have that attitude a little bit when we scoff at editing our work. Even though I know editing has made my writing a bajillion times better than before, both then and now and in the future, sometimes I still just want to be lazy.

But even to get as far as I am today, I had to work hard at it. And the thing is, if you put in efforts to magnify whatever talent you have, you increase the amount of it.

So my dear 2013 high school graduate, the fact is you are talented at tennis precisely because you worked at it.

You’ve gotta work at it. You’ve gotta work at anything you want to be the best at. Many articles say it takes about 10,000 hours to master something, which means unless you’ve already spent 8 hours a day for 5 years of productively doing something, you can’t call yourself a master.

Sure, there are people who haven’t put in this time who get far or in a writing case, get published. But if they truly want to master their craft (and they should) the improvements should continue on. My own personal goal is to always do better than my last project, which is honestly why Book 2 is killing me. But I’ll get there, because I’m working hard.

Hard work is the answer. Hard work gets us there. Hard works makes our talent shine.

Have you noticed an attitude of ‘born gifted’ around you? What would you have said to Miss Tennis Player? Have you noticed your own talents improve because of the hard work you put in? Anything else you would add?

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17 thoughts on “You’ve Gotta Work At It

  1. Agree with all that you say Jae. I would just add that some progress towards excellence faster than other through availing of opportunities denied to others. For example a child 11 months older than others in his/her class might be bigger and stronger, therefore be better at certain sports, therefore gets picked for an accelerated coaching program, and so on.

    • I agree. Bill Gates had access to the latest computer technology. Mozart had parents who gave him access to musical instruments. We’ve got to seize what opportunities are available (or make them available) as a part of becoming ‘masters’ of our crafts.

  2. I like the thought of liquid gold pouring out of us πŸ˜‰ If only! I overhear a lot of the same – some people just don’t get that hard work is involved. It’s a shame because a lot of the time they take the ‘easy’ route, thinking that is the answer.

    • I love too when you’ve finished a book and people are like, so when is that going to be published? Because writing a book automatically means agents jump out of the wood works to find you and publishers immediately want to hand you millions just ‘cuz. πŸ˜‰

      • Then there are those who curl their nose up when you tell them you opted to self-publish, because of course that means nobody wants you! We have so many things to contend with, we have to be slightly eccentric just to get us through πŸ˜‰

        • I think it’s because Joe Shmoe who doesn’t know crap about writing “self-published” too (meaning he uploaded his pile of garbage to Amazon and presto, ‘published.’) I know enough successful self-pub authors I can usually tell by the person’s behavior whether they are legit or not.

          I do admire you self-pubbers though. Still too scary of an idea for me. πŸ˜‰

        • That’s true. When I first looked into self-publishing, I was a little surprised by the lack of regulation. But then, I work in a profession where anybody can call themselves an interpreter – so I should be used to it πŸ˜‰

  3. The ‘like’ made me cringe. Also the liquid gold part because Velveeta uses that as its catchphrase now and it always looks nasty to me.

    Anyway, I know a few people who do the ‘I’m a natural talent’ and I’ll admit to being guilty of this from time to time. My creativity is a natural gift, but it’d be all over the place or wasted if I didn’t work on ‘training’ it. Anyone can come up with a story about dragons, but you need to work to make it something worth reading. I guess I would say I have the imagination, but I’m always working on the other aspects of my trade. Still there are those who do something and claim it’s simply a natural, untrained talent even though I’ve seen them practice. I tend to keep my mouth shut and plaster on a smile.

    I’d probably just laugh about Ms. Tennis Star because it sounds like it was such a weird conversation entirely. If she asked, I’d probably say there’s always some level of practice and training that a person needs to achieve a certain level of skill. Then I’d walk away before she could get angry about me eavesdropping.

    • I think it was Robert McKee who made the comparison of our imaginations being a big steam engine train, but would tracks and fuel it avails us nothing. The hard work drives the engine that gets us places.

      Something Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli guy) said that always stuck with me, when asked about how he comes up with such fantastic stories, said: Thinking, thinking, thinking a lot. If you know of an easier way, please tell me.

      😦 I just wish we could rid ourselves of the societal belief that people are just born geniuses. Sure, they may have a better knack than the average person, but if they don’t bother with developing that talent, geniuses they never become.

      • Good comparison. Without the tracks and fuel, a good imagination doesn’t have much use. Not even a reliable party trick.

        I think part of the problem is that people think having a high IQ is all you need. They fail to see this intelligent adults beyond the numbers and notice that it simply made the work easier to handle. A smart person still needs to work hard even though it might not be as hard as others. This mentality kind of ignores those with high IQ’s that never reach their potential and let it waste away for one reason or another.

        I do have to say that I’ve met a few indie authors over the last two years that need to live by that Miyazaki quote. At the very least they need to think.

  4. I agree with everything you said. I just would add some people make it look easy therefore others assume it was easy. And as I say that, I think of Martha Stewart. There’s a prime example. She had to learn how to do stuff and that means putting time in just like anyone else. But, she definitely has a natural talent because there wouldn’t be such a large gap between her end products and the “fails” others produce.

    • I think that’s the true sign of an artisan, is they make it look really easy. The easier it looks, the more practice they’ve likely put in. I’m guessing too at some point, the artisans take for granted how good they’ve become. I don’t know how many times my Kung Fu master has said, oh, it’s easy, just do it like this. And it does *look* easy. Then we try it and… (-_-)

  5. Great article!

    I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I’m still not very good. But I can read my past work and visually graph my improvement. Terrifying and cool at the same time. Perseverance DOES pay off. Eventually…. XD

    If I’d been the one talking to her, I’d have said “Talent is just like being handed a ticket to a concert; it’s still up to you to figure out how to get to the auditorium. It doesn’t matter how good a seat you were given, if you don’t bother to go find it.”

    Thanks for the read.

  6. “But as I writer I think it’s supremely important to eavesdrop on as many conversations as you can, more especially when they occur in your vicinity and you didn’t even have to seek them out.”

    Ha! Agreed! I’m glad to see your new posts, Jae. Good luck with everything!

    • Isn’t eavesdropping the best? I actually met a couple of NaNo writers at a restaurant randomly from eavesdropping. πŸ˜›

      Thanks! It’s good to be back. Hopefully I can keep this up. I do love the WP community. πŸ˜€

  7. And sometimes people think you’re just lucky when really you’ve worked hard, jumped at opportunities and proven your skills. Funny at my day job I have no problem working my butt off but I dont seem to take the same approach to writing. This was a great read, a great reminder and kind of like a kick in the pants that I needed!

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