Saturday, July 23, 2011


He believes in talent and I do not.

Talent, I tell him, is a myth. I have to believe this because everything I achieve I do so because of hard work. If it is all about talent then I might as well stop now. I will never write something truly beautiful. I will never be the writer I want to be. All my life since I was 12 or so I have wanted nothing but to write something beautiful. Something emotionally moving and perfectly formed. Once or twice I have seen the skeleton of what I could potentially write but the flesh has fallen off it.

Now I read The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and I remember that this is all I have ever wanted to do. To write something that is perfect. Something that is true. If all it takes is talent then I have lost my opportunity. I have chosen the wrong path. i am still clinging to the idea that somehow through sheer tenacity and hard work I will make the shadow of a thing into the thing itself.

I have written two perfectly fine novels and up till now they have languished in the bottom drawer of my editor. In the first one there is that shadowy outline. There is something good in there. I know it, yet this is the less commercial of the two. The other has a stronger plot, a mood and a good hook. There is no reason why they should not be published as I know they are much better than the books that line the shelves at the bookshops. Still they are not Eugenides. If this is true, if the man has written three perfect offerings through sheer talent then I should try to find some other meaning in life. Literature has been my religion. The pursuit of the perfect novel is my holy grail. If this is never to be achieved then I should spend my time trying to come to terms with the fact that I will die with that feeling that I have never succeeded. I think of my grandmother who has all the talent in the world and who has never used it successfully. Surely there has to be a balance between talent and intelligent use of that talent and hard work.

The only person that I have met who works harder than I do is my husband. I think that is the glue that binds us. I admire how he can push himself beyond where I can go. I stop and look at the river for a moment and run myself a bath but he spends every waking second with a whip to his back urging himself on.

Maybe I am just not pushing myself beyond my limits. Maybe that is why I fail? Or maybe my friend is right. It is all about talent. And then - I am sunk.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

Oh my goodness are so not sunk! You 'are' already successful; you are published! That is proof of talent, I reckon & something to cherish and be proud of.
It is wonderful to have talent (which you do) but I don't believe it is only talent that get's people where they want to go.
If that were true then my son would be more successful in his area of talent then he is but for him it is a struggle.
I believe it's a combination of many things that gets a person where they want to be. It's passion (which you clearly have), it's tenacity (which you also clearly have), it's hard work (of which you are no stranger), it's having support & it's believing in your dream & in yourself.