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You’ve got talent

Albert Einstein talent quote

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein

My grandma once told me that she had no talent. I was only sixteen, but even then I knew enough to be sad that she believed it. I also thought she was wrong.

Okay, sure, she couldn’t play piano, or paint, or sing. But why do we only think of art—or so-called “hard” subjects like math and science—when we think of creativity, talent, and genius?

Pretty much since I started thinking about it—probably around the time my grandma made her confession—I’ve believed that everyone is a genius at something. Whether or not our culture values that talent—or even recognizes it as such—is another matter.

Maybe my grandmother’s stunning ability was patience. Or solving puzzles. Or the fortitude to persevere through hard times.

Because what is genius really, but the creative application of ideas and knowledge? Hence, creativity.

I used to think being creative only applied to artistic ability. While the word creativity does have an artistic connotation, it’s application is not strictly limited to those pursuits. But for a long time, I thought I wasn’t creative. It wasn’t until my thirties(!) that I decided my creativity was of a different sort: solving problems and improving efficiency.

Of course now I use it as a writer. Writing challenges me every day. That’s one reason I love it so much. I use—or try to use—creativity to solve plot problems, develop scenes and characters and setting, and do it in a way that no one else does. But can you imagine any area of life where creativity is not helpful?

Parenting, convincing your boss to choose your idea or give you a raise, managing your finances, maintaining a good relationship with your partner, running a business, navigating the obstacles life throws in your path.

In the end, maybe it doesn’t matter if you have creativity, talent, or genius in an area. All you can do is your best. But if you love something, do it. The accolades may or may not follow, but at least you’ll be having fun.

And the ability to enjoy yourself even when you’re not a genius at something is probably a form of genius in itself.

Space and Time (Bonus Friday post)

You can also catch this post over at Romance Magicians

What do Einstein and writing guru Dwight V. Swain have in common? The theory of relativity. Einstein once famously said, “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity.”

Dwight V. Swain, in his epic tome on writing, TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER, said, “In writing, you translate tension into space: The more tense the situation as your focal character experiences it, the more words you give it.”

I don’t know why, but that one short passage in Swain’s book stopped me short with its brilliance.

Have you ever heard Captain Sullenberger talk about his experience landing flight on the Hudson River? When he listens to the flight recorder playback, the whole event takes place in mere minutes. And yet while he was going through it, time seemed to slow down. The volume of information and emotions he processed in that short period of time made it seem many times longer than the reality.

So if we follow Swain’s advice, we can give our readers an easy clue about how momentous an event is by how much space (i.e. relative time) we allot to it in our story.

To some degree, I’m sure we all do this instinctively. But I’m wondering if maybe some of my scenes that fell a little flat did so because I didn’t give them their due. Maybe I let too much of the experience happen “off screen”, thus shortchanging the reader and my story.

Next time I can’t figure out why an important scene isn’t working, I’ll check to see if I gave it enough space and time.