Monday, 22 August 2011

Why Writing Is A Marathon Game, Not A Sprint

When I was a kid, I remember hearing a parable about the Japanese bamboo. Yes, Japanese bamboo:)

Bear with me.

Basically, the story went like this: A woman decided to grow some Japanese bamboo in her garden. She planted the seeds, and started watering the ground. Nothing happened in the first year. Or the second. Ditto the third. By the fourth year she was resigned to failure but stubbornly hopeful. By the fifth year, she was way beyond frustrated, and entering into the giving-up phase dreaded by gardeners everywhere *shudder*.

But - for no reason other than that aforementioned stubborness - she finally thought: 'what the heck, I've been watering those darn seeds this long, why not finish the fifth year on a hopeful note?'

And thus was born the parable to crown all parables. For - at the end of that fifth year - the Japanese bamboo began to grow!

That is an understatement.

It actually shot up towards the sky, in a miniature 'Jack and the Beanstalk'-beanstalk kind of way; that bamboo grew a whopping 80 feet in 6 weeks!

Now, our determined heroine's neighbours were very impressed by this tall bamboo lording it over its shorter relatives on the street with such casual arrogance. They vociferously complimented our heroine on growing such a plant of 80 feet in a mere 6 weeks (secretly, of course, they were hoping she'd give them some tips on how she'd accomplished this miraculous feat).

Our astute heroine corrected their assumptions at once. That Japanese bamboo grew 80 feet, she said kindly, not in 6 weeks but in 5 years and 6 weeks.

Get it?

Lol yeah, it's another of those 'persevere and you shall prevail' stories:)

What can I say? I'm really a big believer in determination winning the day. The tortoise and the hare, anyone? No matter how much talent someone has, someone with less talent who works harder than their talented counterpart will someday - not only draw even with him - but probably surpass him.

Heck, talent itself is probably tied very closely to how much practice a person puts into their field of interest in the first place. Practise makes perfect, after all. Hmmm, I'm full of cliched sayings today, eh? They're true though:)

Writers who see their job as a marathon game instead of a quick sprint will ultimately sustain writing as a bona fide paying career in the long-term.

Not so the sprinters of our writerly world - at some point, they're gonna lose the fight. They won't have the stamina, nor stomach, for a long engagement with that blank sheet of paper - not when the rewards for their hard work don't seem sufficient.

But, you see, some rewards are just a long time in coming. Once they arrive, they more than make up for the investment of time and effort put into reaping those rewards.

My surfing days of late have brought me into contact with lots of information about writing, talent and determination. Much like the 'bamboo tree' parable, what I've read so far fits in perfectly with the concept that investment in practising your craft makes all the difference between realising talent/potential and causing it to stagnate.

For those who'd like to read more on the value of putting in the time to build talent, you might enjoy the following blog posts: Dean Wesley Smith's 'Talent is a Myth', Amlokiblogs' post on the need for 10,000 hours of deliberate practice for one to achieve success, and the many valuable points raised in David Gaughran's post 'Word-of-Mouth In Action', including the need for writers to keep producing work in order to have a lengthy career in the publishing world.

Before I tuck in for the night, I'd like to make one thing clear: I do believe that there is such a thing as talent and that it is an important ingredient for success. But I also believe that someone who's apparently not talented in a certain craft can stimulate or build talent by exercising their interest and drive to acquire the skills needed to exercise that craft.

At the end, more important than talent is the determination to push through whatever challenges are thrown in the way of your dreams and - quite simply - working your butt off to achieve 'em. Hmmmm, now, if only I can follow my own advice...:)

What do you think? Does talent trump hard work? Or vice versa? And would knowing the answer to these questions help any writer (or artist, really) to achieve success in their chosen profession?

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Damyanti said...

"talent itself is probably tied very closely to how much practice a person puts into their field of interest in the first place. Practise makes perfect, after all."

If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't be writing at all. I don't think I have much in the talent department.

eeleenlee said...

That's a great parable. But a writer may be very talented but bone-lazy. Hard work almost always pays off.

Isabella Amaris said...

Damyanti - My gut reaction is to protest that you are wonderfully talented! But I guess that would be to downplay the hard work you're no doubt putting into your writing - which onlookers wouldn't know about. Well, talent or hard work, all I can conclude is that you're a fantastic writer, so something must be working:)

eeleenlee - yes, I think if someone tallied a writer's progress at the end, hard work will definitely prove the winner. That thought gives me so much hope!:) Not only in writing, but in so many other areas of life:)