I learned this tip while still a teenager. I studied ballet from one of the country’s (perhaps the world’s) best technicians. She was so good that professional dancers of all kinds who were in Chicago for a gig took whatever classes she could fit them into for the duration of their stay. They weren’t good enough to be in the advanced classes, so they always ended up in the intermediate classes, the ones I was in.
We students couldn’t help noticing that, almost without exception, they were really bad dancers, much worse than us, and we weren’t even advanced students. They were so bad that eventually we asked our teacher how they could call themselves professionals when they were terrible. We expected her to shake her head and say that it was ndeed hard to understand. Wrong!!! Instead, she verbally tore into us until we were cowering and chastened and wished we’d never said anything.
They could call themselves professionals, she said, because that’s just what they were. Professionals. And we weren’t. They might not have much inborn talent but they used what talent they had in such a way as to create something that people who worked hard for their money would willingly spend some of it to enjoy whatever those professionals had to offer. And, between peformances, they worked on their craft and honed it. Whether they were in the mood or not. Whether they felt good or not. Whether they were busy with other things or not. Because that’s what professionals do.
She cowed us so thoroughly that I never forgot her words.
When I decided to become a professional writer, I knew I had some small amount of talent but it was her words that gave me the courage to quit my day job and go for it. Because, thanks to that lecture, I knew that inborn ability is only one component of a successful creative career. And not the most important one.
I knew that if I took what talent I had and worked at writing as hard as I’d work at any job or profession, I could make it as a writer. And so can you.