Revealing the Popular Misconception known as ‘Talent.’
I sit at the table, sketching. My fingers smudge the graphite, turning the simple sketch into an actually somewhat acceptable drawing. Someone comes up behind me, looking over my shoulder at the picture.
“Wow.” They say, admiring the horse I’ve drawn, awe and longing filling their voice. “You’re so talented.”
I force myself to keep from facepalming and smile placidly.
They nod, continuing on down the table, and I sigh. Gritting my teeth in frustration, I grip my pencil, now wishing I’d thought to take the time to give them a lecture on my so-called ‘talent.’
So, since I didn’t get my chance then, I’m going to take it now, and explain to you all the misconception of talent.
As an young author, musician, and artist, I often get complimented on my ‘talent,’ even though I know I’m not that talented. This frustrates me a lot. Any time someone comments on my ‘amazing abilities’ I want to tell them “I’m not talented. I just practice. A lot. Day after day.”
Normally, I don’t take the time to give them that lecture. So right now, I’m going to explain to you my thesis, the evidence, and my conclusion (and any other part of an essay, if I’ve forgotten some).
First off, I just want to say that practice can make a huge difference in, well, pretty much everything you do. It’s the difference between playing a song ‘okay’ or playing it beautifully. Between a quick sketch and a detailed picture. Between a lame story full of plot holes and spelling mistakes and a beautiful novel. This is just common sense, at least, it should be.
Now, practice isn’t the only thing that makes a difference in your work. Without proper study, tools, or information, whatever you try to do won’t turn out very well, either. But practice is still one of the biggest factors in how your work turns out. Nor is that to say that there aren’t talented people out there. There indeed are incredibly gifted, skilled people. People with a perfect ear for pitch. People with exact hand-eye coordination. There are people like that everywhere, some incredibly famous, others not so much.
Unfortunately, ‘talent’ has become an excuse all over the world. We often don’t want to admit that we’re lazy and noncommittal, so whenever we see someone who’s better at something, we say that they’re talented. And, yes, they may be. Other times, however, they’ve put weeks, months, even years of practice into their ‘talent.’ So saying that they’re ‘talented’ is really an injustice, ignoring the hours they spent at work.
Yet so often we lean towards this excuse, preferring to casually pass of their hard work as ‘talent’ instead of admitting that they are persevering, self controlled, and practiced. If you need more proof, just take my art as an example.
I’m an okay artist. I can draw things pretty well, with enough practice. In fact, I used to be amazing at drawing horses. I could get all the muscles just right, and the shading was beautiful. Then I switched to mostly drawing humans. I barely ever drew horses. And a few days ago, when I once more sat down to draw a horse, do you know what happened? It looked like a 5 year old had drawn it. You can see the too pictures up above, with the one I drew last year first, and the one I drew a few days ago beside it.
This only helps to prove my point. I’m not an incredibly talented artist, I just practice drawing a lot. And when I stop practicing, my skill deteriorates. It was the same with violin. I used to practice for thirty minutes a day, and my playing was alright. But now, as I practice for an hour a day, my playing has improved.
Skills are like muscles. The more you work them, the more you practice, the stronger they grow. And if you don’t work them, they don’t get stronger.
So if you have goals to be an amazing actor, or a great violinist, or an incredible artist, or ___ (fill in the blank), you can do that. You’ll need lots of determination, no small amount of persistence, and plenty of time, but with practice, you can succeed.
It isn’t only the naturally gifted adults who make the headlines and do great things. People, even teens or kids, who practice hard, study diligently, and don’t give up are just as likely to become famous.