I was on faculty, but in truth, I felt like a student -- I learned so much from my fellow faculty and from the students whose manuscripts I was lucky enough to critique.
At the Pacific Northwest Children's Book Conference, the ratio of student to faculty is about 5-1, and we all spend a lot of time snug up against one another, not just in workshops and lectures, but at meals, too. And it was at one of those meals that I heard Bonny Becker (author of the witty picture book A Visitor for Bear) say a very wise thing. A student had mentioned something about a writer having natural talent. Bonny said:
"Talent, and the belief in it, is a trap. Being instantly good at something can make you believe you either have it or you don't. If you buy into that, when things get rough it means you lost it. You don't have it, or enough of it, after all." And there's nowhere to go after that, is there?
Bonny's thoughts go along with one of my favorite Malcolm Gladwell quotes, from an interview he gave about his book Outliers:
"Talent is the desire to practice, right? It is that you love something so much that you are willing to sacrifice and commit to that -- whatever it is -- task, game, sport, etc."
I used both these quotes in my talk about revision.
Some people love revision. Some hate it.
But I think all of us agree that revision is where the book happens. Story might show up in a draft, but a book is made in revision.
That's where I am now, doing a serious revision (so much so it is almost a new rough draft) of a long-suffering manuscript. It has been so good for me to be reminded this lesson about talent -- especially since writing this book has brought me back to my ten-eleven-twelve year-old self, a time when I was being told I was a "talented" writer. (I'll bet you were told the same.)
Hard work trumps talent.
How long it has taken me to learn this.
How long it will take me to learn it again and again.
Back to work . . .