Thursday, August 22, 2013

Talent or Hard Work?

A while back I was talking to my sister, Joanna. We were having dinner, a break from college stress for her and a break from a busy day for me. My sister and I have the arts in common, among other things, although our art forms of choice are different since I write and Joanna is a mime and actor. You can see some of her pieces on YouTube here and here. It's wonderful because we will both start talking about the creative process and the emotions we want to instill in a piece and whatever frustrations we may have over not having the story go the way we want.

So as we were talking she said, "I really don't like it when people tell me I'm so talented, because it ignores all the hard work I've done." And her comment struck me. Was she talented or did she just work hard over many years? Which led me to wonder where talent ends and hard work begins. Are people talented or do they just work harder than others and become better that way?

In my sister's case I believe there is a bit of both. She is talented, but she has been practicing and working on perfecting her movement style and body control for 14 years. Nine years ago we both wanted to get more involved in our art forms and so we both started practicing everyday. She created four or five new pieces to perform and I wrote a book and two short stories. We studied and compared notes and went back to the grindstone of work. I knew how hard she worked, because it was as hard as I did, actually harder. She went to college specifically for mime and practiced for hours and hours every day until she graduated.

Joanna came back from college and performed locally and I'd heard people gush over how talented she is. But when they say she is talented, it is as if they dismiss the years and years of hard work she put into perfecting her art. When other kids her age were playing video games and shopping at the mall, she was stretching and playing with invisible balls. When other college students were studying math, science or nursing and becoming proficient in those areas, she was doing the same only with dance. She didn't wake up one morning with all the grace and style she has now. She worked hard for it and her performance is a direct result of how hard she has worked, not how much talent she has.

A person can be able to pick up an action or activity quickly. Yet is this talent or just a quickness of mind? The only way that person will become truly gifted is through hard work: Practice, day in and day out over years, repeating it until the times it is right outnumber the times it is wrong. There is an element to which any person can become decent at any activity through practice. For instance, I believe anyone can write. Writing is a craft that can be learned. Words can be chosen, plots accomplished step by step, characters can be molded. All of these things are possible to learn and become good at through practice. Still even when a person knows all these things it does not make them brilliant or great. And perhaps this is when talent picks up to separate those who can from those who can amaze. However, the point is that those who can amaze have spent a long time practicing to get there. So are they really talented or did they just work harder than everyone else?

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