I'm Not Talented

I'm not lucky.  I'm not gifted.  I am SKILLED.

Seth Godin's blog post today:

"Actually, it goes the other way

Wouldn't it be great to be gifted? In fact...
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You're not born this way, you get this way."


(Me again)

People so often tell me, "You're so talented."  "You have a gift."  "You're lucky to be so good at this."  "I wish I could [insert jealous quality] like you can...."

Let me tell you something.  I live by this belief:

Anyone can attribute any quality or ability if diligently sought after.

I have been drawing since I could hold a pencil.  I have spent hours of my childhood drawing images from The National Geographic, puppy books, animal calendars, photos of people, drawing and copying Disney movie covers.  I worked hard mastering how to draw Ariel, Simba, Bambi, and the 101 Dalmations.  I use to search the house for something interesting to draw, and I remember one drawing I was particularly proud of was a Pepsi bottle, complete with all the right edges and shines on the plastic.  I've drawn my hand a hundred times and went through a phase of drawing faces from photos around my house, focusing on lips and then noses.  I do not have a "gift."  I am not "talented."  I have a SKILL, which I have persistently worked hard at for years and years.

You can be good at anything you diligently seek after.  

Art isn't my life or the only thing I've worked hard at.  My roommates have a running joke that goes "Ginny can do and is good at EVERYTHING."  It's not true of course, (don't ask me about politics... it's WAY over my head, and please don't watch me try to ski) but it seems that way to them sometimes.  I can sing and harmonize, I'm generally pretty athletic, play the piano, I can make terrific animal noises, I can dance, I can sew, and I usually can solve their technical problems on a computer.

Well, let me tell you something...  I've spent hours and hours singing in my car, up and down the scales, trying to build vibrato, and an equal amount of hours on the piano picking out harmonies and learning to hear and sing the tenor or bass part an octave higher, or make up my own part that isn't written.  I've taken dance classes and practiced those songs and steps over and over in my bedroom.  I probably spent more hours shooting basketball hoops in my driveway and fine-tuning my ability to kick a soccer ball straight up high (so it wouldn't land in the neighbors' yards) growing up than I spent with a pencil and paper.  Please don't assume that because someone else can do something well, that they are just "talented."  And PLEASE don't assume that you can't do something creative and meaningful, because you didn't get "lucky."  You have just as much power to create and do something as fabulous as anyone.  I promise.

I've worked hard for what I can do, and I'm not finished with my skills.  I want to sing better, speak better, assert myself more, learn new skills, and finish new accomplishments.  One day I'll be able to play the guitar, I'll have written and published a middle-grade novel, I'll have spoken publicly about overcoming people pleasing diseases and finding self-empowerment using my children's books as my door opener, I'll have recorded a CD of songs written by me, I'll be able to calmly speak my mind about life and issues without second-guessing or caring what people will think of me, and best of all... I'll start a family.  I'll teach my children that they can do anything they diligently seek after, and I will sit back to watch as they create their own magic and watch them influence the world.

Galations 6:7  "....whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

So.  Let's go make art!


  1. I totally agree. Talent is hard work! When I got my book published I was asked by a close family member, "How does one become a published author overnight!" Well needless to say, I didn't answer because that person had no idea how hard I had worked to get my book published. I don't have the "gift" of writing... I trained myself long and hard! And am still in training every single day.

    1. Thanks Allyn. It feels SO satisfying and good inside to develop an ability after lots of hard work, and see actual fruits come from it. Right? :)

  2. "Talent is a bunch o' junk" ~ Greg Manchess

    Great post, Virginia

  3. Gin, you're amazing. This post is super inspiring to me, and comforting. Love you.

    1. Thanks Michaelann! And um... you're equally amazing I hope you know. You have lots of talents you little hard worker! Love you too.

  4. I don't know, I have to think that diligence you have makes you pretty gifted in that department. But I guess, as you say, "you can be good at anything you diligently seek after." I would love to have your degree of perseverance. I find I don't give nearly enough effort pursuing the things I'm interested in, usually doing just enough to say, "Okay, I know the basics, time to move on."

    If anything, this post is just humbling, and I enjoy it. Kudos!

    1. Haha, thanks Brandon. I don't really have a choice in the art department being an illustration major in college.... I get to make art ALL the time and trust me, sometimes I'm REALLY tired of making art. ;) Besides that, I had a looot of alone time growing up and that gave me a lot of time to develop lots of skills. Which today I suppose I am grateful for. :) Thanks for commenting!! Seriously though, if you're willing to do the work, you can do anything.

  5. Hmmmm...not entirely sure of this one. I certainly agree that determination and discipline are essential to getting really good at something.

    But our different personalities and ways of processing information and interacting with our environment do, I believe, lend themselves better to some things than others, meaning that we'll have the ability to go further in those things than in others.

    There are also limitations that need to be recognised and accepted, as part of a plan to go as far as we can in a given area. Some are personal, and some have to do with the fact that we only have so much time and energy to invest in the things we choose to do. This is not talking ourselves out of something, it's making ourselves work out what it is we want and how we are going to get it. And yes, perhaps also deciding whether we can also live with Plan B if Plan A does not work out.

    For instance, I have had to accept that I will only ever be a moderately good singer, despite decades of work in that area, but am glad that this at least has allowed me to sing in some good choirs and with some genuinely excellent singers. I have also decided to change careers but have spent 25 years investing in my first career, which will force me to think hard about what I really want to do in my second career. At the moment I can see that trying to become a really good painter will detract to much from my writing (or that I will have to abandon my family) but that I need to at least be able to wield a pencil, pen and brush effectively if I want to produce moving and effective children's books. So I'm aiming for competence there, no brilliance.

    As Dick Frizzell, a NZ artist once said about portrait painting (not his forte): "I can do it, but life's too short".

    To me that's not defeatism, but rather recognising the need to choose our own path.

  6. Dear Ginny,

    I agree with Roelant that different individuals have different talents. We can't all be great artists and great dancers and great singers and great musicians, etc. Ginny, you are right that hard work is also important to any creative effort. Thomas Alva Edison said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." But each of us gets "inspired" in different ways. For example, I'm not capable of drawing on the level of your wonderful work for your book about conformity, You Should, You Should. And I can't compose music. But I'm good at writing and singing.

    Best wishes for 2013!

    Janet Heller, Ph.D.
    Author of the award-winning book for kids about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Sylvan Dell, hardback--2006, paperback--2007, e-book, audio, and Spanish edition--2008, 3rd paperback edition and iPad app--2012)
    Website is http://www.redroom.com/author/janet-ruth-heller

    1. I love that quote from Thomas Alva Edison. Thanks for your comments!

  7. I believe that you are born with a basic talent or desire to draw or create... what you do with that is what makes you a skilled professional artist. I too started drawing everything from a very young age, practicing, duplicating... I used to draw all of my friends, the flowers on my sheets, etc. I do think there are more talented or gifted artist than others, but it is the nature vs nurture debate. If everyone started at the same level, took the same classes, and spent the same amount of time drawing they would not all be "very talented, gifted artist"... some would be great, some bad, and some mediocre.

    Just my thoughts... I take it as a compliment, I know how hard I have worked. I wanted to be an illustrator of children's books since I was 5, worked hard, went to a private art school, have a degree in illustration, and have loved doing it every minute of my life. It is, was, and will always be my passion. I have kept up with the changes in technology, too.
    I have over a dozen books published as the illustrator, and one that I wrote, illustrated, and published myself. I also
    enjoy doing all ages of children's educational illustration.



I would love to hear from you!