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:~: Friday, October 27, 2006 :~:

Having What It Takes

We all know it's about more than talent.

It's about hard work, determination, and motivation.

And it really doesn't even matter what "it" is -- a sport, an education, writing, life.

You can be the most talented person in the world, and if you don't develop that talent through practice, you might as well not have it.

I've been thinking about this article a lot this week. I originally pulled it to use with my High School Transitions kids, as I'm desperately trying to find ways to foster intrinsic motivation in them. In my head, it linked up to a review I read of Stephen King's latest work, a departure from his normal genre into more mainstream (and some say, romantic) literature. The reviewer made the comment that this offering from King showed what he'd been reaching for, something just out of his "formidable reach." The article talks about that, how it's not just practice that makes us better, makes us great, but practice that involves reaching beyond where we are now. This ties into something Joan always says (and I'm loosely paraphrasing), that if you're constantly writing but not learning from your mistakes, not growing and finding ways to get better, you're better off not writing. I think that's why she's so immersed in revising Safe In Enemy Arms -- she's learning. She's reaching, despite the frustration.

The article also talks about the amount of "reaching" practice it takes for someone to achieve greatness -- ten years. That resonated with me, not because I'm in my tenth year of writing, but because I'm in my tenth year of teaching . . . and this is the year that I'm finally feeling everything I've learned in those ten years falling into place. In terms of writing, I have tons of reaching practice yet to do -- and I haven't put in much time there the last year or so. I've been more focused on reaching practice in two other key areas: teaching and parenting. Many Fridays, I feel like the world's biggest fraud, blogging here about writing, because I'm not putting the time and practice into it that the way Joan and Elisabeth and so many of my writing friends are. I'm not sure when I'll be putting that kind of practice into it again. I know I need the practice -- one of the reasons I haven't written is that in the back of my mind is this little niggling voice, not of doubt, but of certainty, whispering that there's more to found, more to be done, just more to my writing that I should be getting out of it, that I'm not.

Right now I can't satisfy that little voice. There are louder voices clamoring for me to devote my time and talents to those other key areas. I don't have what it takes to do all three well right now, and two of them are too important to let down. However, I can't completely let go of the writing, of the dreams, and I'm still listening to that little voice, trying to pin down exactly what defines that more in my writing.

And you know what? Being here, thinking about writing, writing about writing, keeps those dreams and that little voice alive.

So if you have time this weekend, take a look at "What It Takes to Be Great" and share your thoughts with us.


Blogger Joan Swan said...

Wow, Lin, that is some article! I'm going to add that link to my articles on my website.

It basically sums up my philosophy on...well, just about everything I do.

Many of my friends say that I have a creative "gift", that they could never do what I do (be it glasswork, jewelry work, art, writing, graphic design, interior design...whatever). I tell them, anyone can do what I do -- I've LEARNED what I know. A light bulb didn't pop out of thin air and illuminate over my head. I'm not more creative than the next person, it's just that I've spent years and years at cultivating that creativity. It only flows easier for me because of that.

I've always believed anyone can be anything they want to be if they put in the time and effort required to be that "anything".

A long time ago I learned somewhere that if you read an hour a night on a particular subject, after one year you will be an expert on that subject.

I guess I figure if I work at something long and hard and deep enough, I'll succeed.

This article echoes the root of my beliefs.

Thanks for sharing -- I'll be passing it on to a number of friends.

7:04 PM  

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