Sunday, 29 November 2009

Naturally Talented?

I saw one of my fellow students from my MA yesterday. At first I didn't recognise her - it's been ten years and we weren't particularly close. But I could remember her writing, how confident it was, how polished. I could remember how impressed I was when she shared her work in class, how much I envied her talent, and how far behind I knew my work was compared to hers.

I had similar feelings with the first creative writing class I went to. One student shone, her work far better than any one else's. I struggled with the exercises, especially free writing - there's something about being told to write now this minute that freezes my brain - but this student was brilliant. The words flowed, her imagination apparently boundless, flair and intelligence combined into delightful prose.

And yet, and yet. And yet I am published, and they aren't. I remember my fellow MA student, how she announced that she'd finish her novel if an agent or publisher was interested, but wouldn't waste her time otherwise. I remember the student I was so overawed by, and know that she - despite interested enquiries from agents and publishers - refused point blank to even consider changing a single word of her novel.

I remember them, and realise that sheer natural talent on its own isn't enough to make a writer. A whole raft of abilities are needed and close to the top of the list are the ability to finish work, and the ability to work with others. Which I find pretty comforting, to be honest, because those are things we can learn to do.

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