Passion or Talent?

Often I hear people thinking they are giving a compliment by saying “Oh, you are so talented.  I could never….I have no….”.   The tone of voice does not match the so called nice words.  It comes out sounding dismissing.  Like maybe you are a freak of nature, or you dug your art up from the dirt, or it makes you different in other ways, or maybe you sold your soul to the devil.  Most artists I know in any field are not very strong in their belief that their creation will hold up in any other eyes.  They continue to write, paint, craft, sing, play music, carve, cook, because they have to.  Because they need to.  Not because they want to crow about it every morning like my dang rooster, but because they want to make one more beautiful thing.

In a Sun Magazine interview with Barbara Kingsolver, she says :

“If you hate what you’re doing, then go do something else…..It’s important to find your passion.  I don’t believe in talent.  I don’t even like that word talent.  When people say, “Oh, you’re so talented,” I think, You have no idea.  I work hard……I don’t say that, though, because it wouldn’t be gracious……….if you feel passionate enough about something to keep doing it through the failure, through the bad days, then you’ll get somewhere.  That’s true of writing or painting or accounting…….”

She does go on to say that not all passions can be tolerated, you need principles and restraint as well, so don’t eat all the desserts or commit crimes of passion.

Whenever I find that my thoughts or experiences are punctuated so clearly, I know I need to dig deeper, research, and/or disect.  There seems to be some truth I need to explore.  This also seems the next question after humble or not?

Why do I feel bad when I hear those words?  Is it because I feel unworthy? Timid? Different (OMG)?  Through the years, I have always had a reaction to such “words of praise”;  thank goodness my reactions have changed.  I no longer let anyone’s words stop me from pursuing my endeavors.  Criticism of my crafts I try hard to only take what I can use and deflect the rest.  It is hard work to create.  It is harder work to keep on creating.  It is worth it in the end.

To those craftspeople who hear the words, “I just saw the exact same thing in Walmart for wayyyyyyy cheaper”, do not cringe, do not hide, do not scream and tear your hair out.  Your piece of art does not belong in that home.

To the writer’s who hear, “You are doing nothing but wasting time”,  it is your time to do the most important thing to you.

To the dancer or musician that is misunderstood, don’t stop, either they will move on or not, you are still following your dream.

To those who comment on another’s creation, think about you say and how you say it.  Take heed.  You can destroy someone’s momentum in an instant, some small beginning soul may not try again for years and years.  Or you, too, can create or at least add to someone’s creative process by putting kind words together with kind voices.  If that is too much trouble, then just try some restraint – “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.”

On the other hand, constructive guidance and instruction  from someone who understands the fragility of an artist, I think, is always welcome.  We need to plant seeds.  We need to nurture.  We need to celebrate.

Don’t be afraid, and don’t let feedback stop you in your tracks.  If it does, make haste to get through it, or go around it, and continue on.  Find your passion.  Then work hard.  The talent doesn’t really matter in the end.


Just like Speckles sitting on her huge pile of eggs, you never know what will happen in the end, but nothing stops her from sitting there day and night, eating and drinking only enough to keep her alive, until she makes something happen.




5 thoughts on “Passion or Talent?”

  1. You brought up things I’ve never realized, and I sure hope I haven’t been one of those insincere “complimenters”. I do tend to “gush” on a few art/craft blogs and it is because I am struck in my very soul by the feelings those pieces of art give me. It still doesn’t mean I can’t be mindful of insincerity, especially not insinuating that talent comes easy or I could do it “if only” I had the talent. I think it’s like anything else – if we were to research the craft or art form, we’d realize pretty quickly that education, training and mental and physical stamina are the bywords – not talent.

    I liken this to an incident a number of years ago when an overweight relative lamented to my husband and me that she wished it was as easy for her to be thin as it obviously was for Hub and me. We didn’t say anything to her but later looked at each other and went, “Easy?!?!”

    We had been getting up at 4:30am for 10 years to have time to workout before our (usually) 12-hour days at the office. We each had incurred numerous sports injuries and related surgeries. Sure we did it because we were passionate about staying fit, but there was nothing EASY about it!

    1. Absolutely not! You are not one of them! Your encouragement has been so sincere and always when I need it the most! And you are so right, it is about everything in life, you have to be passionate about what you want to have the stamina to withstand the crazy roller coaster ride to where you want to be. And if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. You go girl! I am with you at some time almost every day.

      1. You are so sweet. I feel your presence 🙂 and I envision you picking veggies, weeding, gathering eggs, weaving. It soothes me to think of farm days gone by at cousins’ farms.

  2. It’s so true how supposedly “positive” feedback can sometimes sound so insincere. Those over the top “oh you’re SO talented” generic comments can, as you say, make me think that they feel sorry for me because they think that what I wrote / am doing is just so crap. It’s hard to know whether there is criticisms in those comments or if we’re projecting our own insecurities onto them.

    And I love that comment from Barbara Kingsolver – gives me hope that with enough work I might have talent one day! 😉

    1. I agree. It gave me a little more momentum to get out of the questioning mode and just do it. As long as I remember I am doing something because I love doing it and not worry about what happens next then life is good.

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