Not long ago, I asked a friend if she was interested in writing a book. I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo and hoping she might join in the fun. She loves to read, she’s articulate and smart, and I was pretty sure she would be interested in writing.
I asked her if she had ever done any creative writing. She said once, long ago, but she was very bad at it.
She gave up because she didn’t have any talent.
Her misunderstanding made me sad.
As a beginner, she couldn’t expect to write a brilliant story right away. If she wanted to be a good writer, she needed more practice. What looks like talent from the outside is really lots of skill built through experience. Just like a new runner does not start by running a marathon in their first week, novel writers train up, writing lots and lots of pages before they write a book worth reading.
People often say “I’m not talented enough to do that” when they see a beautiful painting, hear a musical performance, or read a great story. We must remember that what is masterfully done is the result of hours and hours of practice. The artist must develop their skill set before they can expect to get the results that are so admired. They must make lots of art, good, bad, and mediocre, before they can achieve great.
Which brings us to the other comment often made when someone admires a really complex or large piece of creative work: “I don’t have the patience to do that.”
I thought a lot about patience as I was putting beads on Tiny’s Elizabeth I costume. It took me hours to do, but believe me, I am not a patient woman. I don’t want things now, I want them yesterday. Much of the time I was stitching beads onto fabric, I was looking forward to being done. It was certainly not patience that got helped me finish that project. It was determination.
Skill and determination, not talent and patience.
However, there is one place where having some patience is handy: while you are learning your craft. Practice takes time.
You are going to write bad stories, hit the wrong notes, and draw crooked houses while you are learning how to write, play, and draw. Lots and lots and lots of mistakes will be made. There will be successes, too, but it may be a long time before you are able to perform at the level you dream of. This is when patience comes in handy.
If you’re not all that patient, my advice is: use it. Your impatience can drive you to work harder. The more you practice, the quicker you will get better.
So no more excuses. Get to work.