When I was in elementary school (many many years ago), I was assigned to a choir for a school play. When the teacher told me to just mouth the words, I discovered that singing was not my gift. That was confirmed once again in the ninth grade when I tried out for the school glee club.
Even though I learned early in life that I had little talent for singing, it took me years to truly appreciate my own gifts. If you’ve been wondering if you’ll ever be good at something you desperately want to do, you’ll enjoy this post.
There is a big difference between talent and gifts.
Personally I don’t believe in such a thing as talent. Some of us are better at certain things than others. I know. . . I know. . . I referred to my lack of musical talent in the previous paragraph. I should have said I don’t have a gift for singing. . . but it can be learned. I would never have a great voice but I could learn the scales, pitch, and all the other technical skills that go into the ability to sing a song that is in tune. But it would take lots and lots of practice and I just don’t have that much interest or desire.
Many are born with gifts. Einstein had the gift for numbers. Mozart had a gift for music. Bill Gates has a gift for business. There are lots of people born with special gifts who never use them. But that is not talent. Talent comes with a passion to learn a skill and lots and lots of practice.
I’ve been told that I’m a good writer. I’ve always loved reading and even tried my hand at creative writing in high school and college. But I wasn’t particularly good. I didn’t know the techniques and could have never sold anything I wrote.
When my kids were in elementary school and we moved to a town that was two hours from nowhere along a narrow winding road (I’ll have to tell you the joys of living in Happy Camp sometime) for my husband’s job with the Forest Service, there was nothing to do. After cleaning our tiny two-bedroom house and getting the girls off to school, I was booooored to death. So bored that I even learned how to fish for steelhead with another Forest Service wife. I signed up for a class with the local Indian tribe to learn how to make baskets. After going out with them and collecting the reeds (along with a dose of poison oak), they said I couldn’t take the class because I wasn’t Indian.
So I had to find something else to do. We did have a tiny library and I discovered some books about writing. The dream and desire was born. I read the books and began writing. But I still had much to learn and lots of practice to do.
When we moved to Flagstaff a few years later, I was fortunate enough to discover a creative writing class taught by Ted Schwartz (author of The Hillside Strangler among other best sellers), and he helped hone my skills. Even then, I still had a long way to go.
Ron and I started publishing Arizona Singles (that developed into a statewide newspaper but that’s another story) and I got more practice. I even wrote a few articles for some local magazines but even I knew I wasn’t particularly good.
The discovery of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference was a turning point. I learned from the greatest in all kinds of genres and received critiques (and a lot of them hurt) from published authors and agents who knew their business. I attended for a number of years and improved each year. I actually started selling to major magazines.
Ted Schwartz had introduced me to romance writing and I realized that even though it’s easier to sell non-fiction, fiction is so much more fun to write. Romance Writers of America’s conventions were another wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and improve what was becoming a gift. Runaway Secrets was the result.
I began with no talent –not even a gift. But years of learning the techniques and practicing the skill resulted in the development of what has been referred to as talent.
The same is true of anything that you really want to do.
I wanted to start a gift basket business. Didn’t know how to tie a decent bow and my first baskets were pathetic to say the least. But years of learning through classes and reading plus lots and lots of practice resulted in winning 2nd place as Designer of the Year and Best Corporate Gift Basket.
Even business skills can be learned. You may be lucky coming out of the chute, as I was, and be profitable your first year. But if you’re not, you shouldn’t give up. Educate yourself and learn what you need to know and then practice, practice, practice.
I’ve combined my learned and practiced writing skills, business skills, and gift basket design skills into a whole different business with Gift Retailers Connection online magazine. And I’m learning as I go along. Each issue is more and more practice and perhaps someday I’ll look back and say “maybe I’ve developed a gift or talent for that.”