Tenacity Trumps Talent

I was reading a wonderful blog post the other day, “41 Things I’ve Learned By 40” –– I would advise you all to read it. The author lists some terrific lessons that we can all benefit from.

At one point in his list, he says “tenacity trumps intelligence.” I agree, and if he would not mind, I would like to add one more: tenacity trumps talent.

Allow me to explain:

I have a dear friend who is an excellent writer. She writes, primarily, for herself. She is very talented but the world will never see her talent. It makes me sad to even write this. Why won’t the world see it? You see, my friend uses every excuse in the book not to send her work to an editor or an agent. I have heard all these over the decades I have known her:

1. It is not ready yet.
2. I am not good enough.
3. They will hate it.
4. It is Sunday and I want to wait till Monday (the Monday that never comes).
5. No one understands my style of writing.
6. I just don’t have the strength to finish this.
7. My muse is not cooperating.
8. The manuscript sucks.
9. The story makes no sense.

And plenty more. I know them all by heart. I am not trying to say that her fears are not real. They are. To her, they are truly scary and are holding her back from what could be a Pulitzer. She really is that good. All of us have our own crosses to bear, and this is hers. I have tried to reason with her, to get mad at her, to yell, to be kind, to say that I will secretly mail her manuscript out to someone – but she won’t listen. And I am sad to say that several years ago, she stopped writing. Totally stopped. Fear won over talent.

Now let’s compare her with a blogger friend of mine. She and I are similar. We have some talent, a lot of passion and by golly we are persistent little things. When she started, she did not have a word to her name. No bylines. Nothing. But she did not use any of the excuses above. Instead, she quietly started a blog and began posting her thoughts and recipes. It grew. She sent the link to editors to make them notice her work. They gave her work. Her workload – and paycheck – grew. She has achieved something that people a TON more talented than her have not: she has been able to put herself out there and make her dream a reality.

There is one critical difference between Friend 1 (the novelist who will not publish) and Friend 2 (the food blogger who is making a name for herself):

Friend 2 chose herself.
Friend 1 is still waiting to be the chosen one.

This is critical. As writers, we are always waiting for some editor to pick us, to answer our pitches and to say that we are okay. But I take a lesson from Friend 2 who is doing it so well: put myself out there. You should as well. Express your opinion. Pick yourself. Show the world that what you have to say has value.

And once you put yourself out there, do it again, and again and again. You will fail sometimes, and some days there will be success. The days I fail teach me a lot more than the days on which I succeed. I remember, a few months ago, I sent an essay to an editor who turned it down. No reason given. It was a dream market and a dream editor. I was heartbroken. I was telling a friend what happened and she said, casually, “Since when do you wait for someone to give you permission?” Truer words have never been spoken! I posted the essay on my site – “Who is at your door?” – and it is one of the most read posts on my site.

There are very few chosen ones.

The rest of us have to make our own luck. And I remember a chef telling me once, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

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