I saw one of my fellow students from my MA yesterday. I could remember her writing vividly, even though it was more than ten years ago. It was confident, imaginative, polished. I was all too aware how far behind my work was compared to hers when we had to read out in class. I was also aware that my talent, such as it was, was pretty meagre next 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.
Two writers with immense talent. And yet, and yet....
And yet I am published, and they aren't. I remember my fellow MA student when we graduated, how she announced that she'd finish her novel if an agent or publisher was interested, but wouldn't waste her time otherwise. I don't know what happened, but she told me yesterday she never bothered finishing the novel.
I remember the other 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. She was desperately disappointed not to be published, but couldn't see that her attitude was holding her back.
I remember them, and realise that sheer natural talent on its own isn't enough to make a writer. Of course some talent is needed, and that's something you can't teach. But to be published 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, speaking as a person with a small amount of natural talent, because those are things we can all learn to do.