You know what raw talent gets you? A first go that's better than most people.
If you are a natural with a golf club or tennis racquet you'll win a lot of amateur games. But you won't be a pro. Not competitively. Not on talent alone. You've got to work at it, just like everyone else. I find it remarkable that, no matter how many times people say this to us in our lives, how many times we repeat it back, it struggles to sink in.
Is it the hope that those who are truly stellar don't have to work as hard as we are? Is it that what we are shooting for is a dream, so the edges are all fuzzy and when you start to talk about it things don't really make sense?
I don't know. What I do know is that the people who don't put their pants on one leg at a time aren't writing best sellers. They're in looney bins. Or jail, for not wearing pants. I've met lots of famous people. Some of them are nice, some are not. Some are very smart, some aren't. But they are all people and I've watched them interact with the world around them and, you know what? They drink coffee from paper cups. I've known this for years. Why haven't I been able to apply it to writing?
I actually stopped writing for years after reading Robert Jordan's "Eye of the World" because his creation was so amazing that I thought it was pointless for me to even try. I ignored the part of the book that said he'd been working on it for 10 years. Not my finest moment.
So what’s different for me now? Is it finishing the first draft of a novel length work? Is it being on the north side of 40? Is it reading about how Steven King nearly starved to death before he broke in?
I don't know. But for some reason, as I read "The Hunger Games" last night, I was in two places at once. Deep in the world of Panem, immersed in the fantastic storytelling, and also in my bed flipping pages and breaking down the narrative -- how the world was built, bit by bit, from the whole of Ms. Collins's vision -- how the characters were so distinct -- how the action ebbed and flowed so that the tension was always building but I was never out of breath. It became very clear to me. This story that gripped me so completely had been nothing more than a rough idea at first. It had been written and then completely changed. Then polished. Somewhere a sub-plot was added. The end was changed again. There were likely several more drafts before it was finished and published. And now, when the author picks it up and skims a few pages she cringes because it's horrid and she'd never write such drivel now.
I can do this. So can you.