Posted in Be a smart writer, For young writers

Where does talent come from? Why isn’t it a prerequisite for success?

Do you give talent too much importance? Do you spend a lot of time pondering whether you are talented or not? Does the idea of not having talent make you anxious? If you discovered you truly lacked talent, would you quit writing? Or would you stick to it no matter what?

A lot of people use the lack of talent as an excuse. For example, “I would like to write a book but I am not talented enough.” With such an attitude, they will never accomplish their goal.

When we think ‘talent’, we imagine an advantage we are born with. While it’s true that some people have a genetic predisposition towards something, let me ask you a question: how many people you know had done genotype testing to have their talents confirmed? Personally, I don’t know anyone, and as for the greatest writers who died already – it’s impossible to find out.

“You have talent” has become analogous with “You have mastered this skill”. And here is a sad situation that happens in a lots of schools:

The best student in the class is said to be smart and talented, while the runner-up always hears they have to “do better”. In this situation the best student might either become lazy and rely on their talents too much (which will make them disappointed in the future); or, they will grow up having an extreme pressure to always be the first. As for the runner up, they will feel constantly unappreciated and either throw the towel or fall in the trap of workaholism.

We are all born equal. Do you think an infant knows that they have talents? No. If you have an infant genetically predisposed to become a pianist, but you can’t afford a piano, instead you show them your beloved guitar – what do you think the child will choose in the future? Probably the guitar, because it will be closer to their heart. Yes, the genes do affect us, however this is just one side of the story.

I was always very curious in what makes one type of people better than the other. I wanted to know why some people win races and the other never make it. And here is the theory about what makes the talented people talented (apart from the genes, which we can’t even confirm they have):

Genuine interest in something + Love towards this thing + Doing this thing a lot + Striving to improve + Not giving up after mistakes / failures = Fast improvement + visible mastered skills (“talent”)

If there is somebody who writes better than you, it’s not because of their genes. How do I know this? If you make an adult trained writer sit next to a child that was confirmed to be genetically talented in writing, but received no education on how to write – who do you think will do better?

Let me tell you a story from my life: when I was 13, I had an internet friend, let’s call her Jane. We were a similar age, but she was so much more “talented”in writing. She had an amazing style, used a variety of words, and I truly savored everything she wrote, even if I wasn’t that much interested in the topic. I was convinced that Jane would become a bestselling writer when we both grew up, and I would always live in her shadow. But here is what actually happened: as Jane and I were growing up, she became interested in other things (mainly TV shows and her studies). She wrote less and less, and in the end, she completely abandoned writing. I was truly heartbroken, when I learned about it. I continued alone on my path. I published my first book, then wrote two more. Me, the girl who was always less talented than Jane.

Which leads us to the conclusion: whether you have talent or not, it doesn’t matter. Why, because being talented is NOT a prerequisite for success.

The prerequisites for success are:

  • passion
  • knowing your goal
  • working consistently on that goal (I can’t stress enough, how important is self discipline)
  • willing to learn from mistakes
  • improving yourself each day
  • continuing to do work towards the goal even if you keep failing
  • believing in yourself and whatever you want to give to the world
  • constantly seeking for and catching new opportunities
  • willing to reach out to the right people
  • being flexible and going with the flow

When people work silently for years at improving their craft and suddenly become an overnight success, they hear (at last!) that they are talented. But talent is not a superpower, it’s the end result, the by-product of all the hard work that they do.

Another story from my life: as a polyglot I’ve heard a thousand times that I am talented at learning languages. I haven’t done genotype testing and I don’t know if I am talented at languages. What I know is, I spent incredible amounts of time on learning each language for years (English – 18 years, Italian – 16 years, German – 11 years, Chinese – 5 years, Korean – 3 years). I often learned 2-3 languages simultaneously because I had to, and I didn’t complain, I just spend as much time as focused as I could. Obviously, when I encounter a language which isn’t connected to any other languages I know, e.g. Hindi or Arabic, I will be as clueless as everyone else in the beginner group. And any student who will be more passionate and disciplined, and learned Hindi or Arabic before, will be “more talented” than me.

Hard work always beats talent. If you haven’t watched this video yet, now it’s the best time to do it:

Seeing others being more talented than you is not a valid reason to give up on your own journey!!! When you see another person doing so much better than you, don’t be jealous/envious! Instead, tell yourself: if they did it, I can do it, too! Heck, I can do even better! When you see others having something that you desperately want, this is a sign that the thing you want so much is seeking you also; because it has already appeared in your reality. Do not suppress your dreams, instead, go and chase them! You don’t want to have the midlife crisis when everyone around you is collecting their harvests and you, well, have nothing to collect.

Stay inspired.

Posted in All Articles, Be a smart writer

7 martial arts lessons for writers

Photo by Jason Briscoe, Unsplash.com

I trained martial arts when I was in high school. Even though I didn’t realize it back then, the lessons I’ve learned in the dojo had a huge impact on my mindset as writer.

  1. Learn to show up after you lost – Each time you open an empty page during writer’s block. Each time you send a book to the publishers after having been rejected. Each time you start a marketing strategy even though the last one didn’t go too well. It’s like showing up in the dojo after the last training that hurt you and bruised your ego. The ones that show up in the dojo week after week are the ones who have most chances of getting the next belt. The only one who cares that you failed is… you! This is why you need to overcome yourself and show up. Those who try, succeed.
  2. You’ve been punched? Punch back harder! – So, you’ve been punched. By your father who tells you to give up writing. By your teachers who says that you writing is chaotic. By the readers, who completely ignored your first book. By the bloggers, who reviewed it poorly. By your ex bestie, who writes you even more poor reviews. You’ve been punched, in your stomach, in your heart, in your head. In your freaking face! And it hurts so much. And you want to cry. But do you know what you need to do? Show up and punch back harder. Show them what you’ve got. Publish an even better book. Get even more positive reviews. Take selfies with faithful fans! Show that you are not giving up!
  3. A Black belt (bestseller / bestwritten) is possible, just improbable – I have read somewhere on the internet that the probability a new karate adept earns a black belt is quite small. Did you realize that a lot of times when we want to say “improbable” we say “impossible”? Your big dream (landing on the bestseller / bestwritten list) is like a black belt. Improbable, but perfectly possible! If nobody has told it to you yet, I will: you can do it! You can make it to the top. Do you know how many disabled people with black belts are there? Many. What counts is your spirit. Cultivate invincibility. Black belts are not for the weak. So don’t be weak. You decide your writing routine and you stick to it. You choose your literary agents and run after them. You show up with a new book and you post the news everywhere. Keep fighting! And get prepared for a long journey  – some authors succeed with their debut, others are yet to make their name. As Drew Houston said, “you only have to be right once”.
  4. Fair play is very important – don’t cheat, don’t play dirty. Don’t plagiarize, don’t use shady methods to gain popularity fast, don’t undermine other authors. This only shows that you are desperate to win, can’t accept defeat and have a very low self-esteem. Stick to real values, which are fair play, true effort, sacrifice and patience. It will pay off. And you will be proud that you played by the rules.
  5. Respect your opponents  – during the breaks between the fights, we helped each other practice, talked from the heart, laughed and overall had great time! This is how your relationship with other authors are supposed to look like. Talk about your stories, read and review them, share valuable resources. There is place for everyone in the book business. If you write a great book in the category A and your friend writes a great book in the same category… Your reader will buy both books! The success of our friends is our success: they will inspire us, show us the path and promote us. The world is so big, and I assure you that your “five minutes” will come and nobody can take them away from you.
  6. Strive to be better than who you were yesterday, not to be better than everyone. If you are obsessed about being better than everyone else, then you probably have a real inferiority complex that needs adressing. The healthiest approach to the fights is to try to overcome yourself and your weakness. Stop self-hating. Stop hiding in front of a computer screen. Show up with your imperfect work.
  7. It’s a continuous learning – and it’s not a shame to not know something. You are here to learn… Wouldn’t it be horrible if you reached one point from which you can’t improve anymore? Imagine that for a moment. You’ve reached the top of your possibilities. You can’t do better. Dreadful! So, embrace the fact that you don’t know everything and be grateful for all the knowledge that you are yet to learn! Be willing to take new lessons and improve yourself. Enjoy the journey, so that you can savor the rest at your destination.
Posted in For young writers

10 tips to maximize chances for finishing your novel

Each writer starts their novel with the intention to finish it. But then, you suddenly get stuck at page 15. Or 25, or 35. You know what to write. But you don’t know how. How is this situation too familiar? Here is a list of 10 tips to maximize chances for finishing your novels (when you are already isolated in a beautiful mountain cottage):

OVERPREPARE:

  1. Character sheets – the backbone of the story are your characters, not the plan. Why, because it’s the characters that cause and participate in all of the events you’ve planned. If you haven’t planned your character and started writing, step back and complete a few character sheets. Spend some time with each of the character. You must know what’s going in their mind, how they are going to react in the situations you’ve planned for them, what is their inner drive?
  2. Detailed plan – Writing without a plan is for laymen. Planning not only helps you avoid plot holes, but also add professionalism: this is the place where you insert all the special effects: nostalgic references to what happened before, complex symbolism, etc… Hint: I use Excel for planning.
  3. Description banks – Knowing where the events happen isn’t enough. If your characters are walking in the park, choose the park, research it, jot down names of trees, etc. Do it with every place that you are planning to describe in your novel. It’s not hard and you will thank yourself later. Writing will be flowing once you know exactly what you should put into it.
  4. Dialogue banks – How many times have you written in your plan: “they talked about something?”. The purpose of dialogue is to provide extra information about characters or proceed with the plot. It is also a space filler, but even during space filling you need something to fill the space in. What could your characters talk about? Write all the ideas. Hint: This is the place to think about quirks in the speech of your characters. I often write ready sentences in the dialogue banks or even parts of dialogue that I incorporate later.

LET YOUR WRITING ROUTINE MOTIVATE YOU:

  1. Write from beginning to the end. Let’s be honest: if you write all the most entertaining parts first, chances that you will return to the most boring parts later are skim. This is why I suggest writing from beginning to the end. In this way there is always some scene that you are looking forward to writing.
  2. Use chapters. Cutting your novel in small chunks will make it easier to write. Every time you end a chapter you will get the sense of a small victory and feel motivated to continue.
  3. Update word goal frequently. I recommend to use a goal tracker. A free one is available on NaNoWriMo. Seeing how much you’ve written and how much is left also shows you that you are moving towards your goal.

GROW ADDITIONAL MOTIVATION SOURCES: 

  1. Prepare your soundtrack. Gather all the songs that remind you of the novel that you are currently writing. Write while listening, or if it distracts you, listen and visualize being inside your novel. This will create a mental link between the songs and your novel. When you are out of motivation, simply listen to your playlist. The inspiration will strike!
  2. Visual boards. When you are out of inspiration, you can describe the images that you have put on your visual boards. Best places to create visual boards online are Pinterest and Tumblr.
  3. Read alike. When you are writing romance, you should read romance. Not thrillers. Reading thrillers will distract you and make you want to write a thriller. Try to intake entertainment similar to the theme of your novel. If you are writing elf fantasy, read elf fantasy, etc.

I hope this helps!

Stay inspired.