How would you respond to this email?
“I know that publishing has changed drastically, but I don’t want to self-publish, and I don’t want my first book to be an e-book. I want to hold a published (by a traditional publisher) book in my hands. I’m willing to work hard—very hard—to improve my craft, and I’m willing to market, but I only have so much talent. Do I even have a chance of landing a traditional publisher?”
Songwriter Irving Berlin knew that while talent may first separate you from others, the advantage it gives doesn’t last long. “Talent is only a starting point,” Berlin said. “You’ve got to keep working that talent.”
Berlin sounds as if he’s saying that we all start with some talent–but there’s something we’re supposed to do with it. Your bit of writing talent is more than a given attribute, like your height or bone structure. It’s something to work with.
Okay, but do what with it?
John Maxwell, motivational speaker, often talks about finding your “strength zone,” or the areas you excel. He says the majority of people don’t do that. Instead, they waste time focusing on strengthening their weaknesses instead.
For example, I can write short nonfiction very quickly, and little rewriting is needed. On the other hand, I can’t write a poem to save my life. It would be silly for me to spend a large amount of time trying to write verse novels. Instead it makes more publishing sense to get even better at what I already do well.
Increase Our Talent? Really?
Most of us believe that we are born with a certain amount and type of creative talent that is fairly fixed. We know we can practice our writing skills and improve, but talent seems as constant as having blue eyes or big feet.
Is that true? Are you stuck with a certain amount of talent, and you just have to make do with it? Or are there ways to maximize whatever God-given talent you might happen to have? Maxwell (whom I follow on Twitter) says there are thirteen ways you can make the most of your talents. For writers–for anyone–that’s good news! Choose one of these ways today, and use it to help your talent grow.
- Belief lifts your talent.
- Passion energizes your talent.
- Initiative activates your talent.
- Focus directs your talent.
- Preparation positions your talent.
- Practice sharpens your talent.
- Perseverance sustains your talent.
- Courage tests your talent.
- Teachability expands your talent.
- Character protects your talent.
- Relationships influence your talent.
- Responsibility strengthens your talent.
- Teamwork multiplies your talent.
Get Started Today!
Many writers compare themselves to others and feel as if they were on the short end of the stick when talent was distributed. Even so, there are things you can do to help it grow. In changing publishing times, this is good to know.
Which one of the ways above can you choose to implement today? And then another way tomorrow? I challenge you to take each attribute and focus on one per week–and watch your talent grow in the coming months.