talent: can it be learned? writing notes

Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home: Life on the Page
by Lynn Freed

The author, Freed, hails from South Africa – and according to this memoir cum resume, that’s where she places all of her novels. Before my professor recommended the memoir, I had never heard of Freed. Also, according to this book Freed has lived her life on her own terms – which we hear over and over. She relied and continues to rely largely on her innate "talent" as a writer to get by after she divorced her husband. Lucky for her, since she tells the reader over and over how hard it is to read all of the poor writing found in the MFA courses she teaches to make ends meet. She also tell us she has problems not being brutally honest – yet she can’t bare to tell these mediocre writers the truth: they have no future.

Is that true? Is there really no future for the average or even poor writer? Brent and I recently came upon some dastardly lawyer-ing. A large part of being a good lawyer is anticipating the worst case scenario. This poor work made me realize there are lots of professionals out there who make a living not being the best. Freed puts so much emphasis on being the best writer. I would love to do some statistically analysis of her former students and see how they are all doing. Were they really that bad?

Freed does make some great points about writing though—one of which being that the writer must stay away from the cliché of making all parts of a book fall into a "good" or "bad" basket. In fact, because I remembered this idea from her book, I just edited myself and instead of telling you that I thought she should have cut all of the family crap from her book, I realized that some of it was quite interesting, and therefore, resides in the gray of life.

Seeking out the gray is akin got seeking trugh in your writing – another theme of the book. Writing the truth is hard. When I try I sometimes get worried that I will hurt people’s feelings – or worse yet my truth – which has a tendency to modify a bit to sometimes enhance the truth- might be completely different from someone else’s truth. But what can you do? Press on as Linda would have said to me.

The final tidbit that struck me was her guidance to "Ask your self what obsesses you and write about that."

Annoyingly, one long-term obsession of mine –gigantic waves—just got its book, so I would add to the tip: NOW. Go write about your obsession now.


Erin said...

Sorry...I commented without even answering your question.

So in answer to your question:

I don't like the word "talent." It kind of offends me...like the word "prodigy." I don't really understand what they mean. I mean, sure, with some people it's clear that they have talent. Einstein had talent. But most of us aren't Einstein. So what difference does it make? If you enjoy it, do it, and chances are, the more time you spend doing it, the more you'll rise above the average. That's enough for me.

harkinna said...

@erin: where was the other comment? did you delete it?