16 June, 2015

Talent Is a Poor Word for Passion, reprise... sort of.

A conversation with a student of mine made me think of an old post, from back when my blog was almost exclusively about creative writing advice.

As a teacher, I've met many brilliant kids, some of whom have been interested in writing, and some of whom haven't. One thing they make glaringly apparent is that it's enthusiasm that makes success. My job is to inspire people to use their minds. Excitement is what makes them want to absorb the information and practise.

The next step, after enthusiasm, is raw determination. Sometimes they don't feel like working, but if I can inspire the desire to push through, by offering a sense of how great it might feel in the end, the student will continue to practise even on those inevitable days when it's hard and/or boring.

I began teaching with an awareness of this because of my own experience. When I was a teenager, I was Holden Caulfield, almost exactly. Even some of the events in Catcher in the Rye happened to me in pretty much the same way. I learned the very, very hard way that life doesn't happen for you, and that no amount of ability will get you anywhere in life.

Just one of many similarities to Holden Caulfield: I wasn't stupid, but I got terrible grades. The better teachers would notice this disparity and tell me I had talent. Not to disparage their efforts--indeed without knowing that some adults believed in me I don't know if I'd have made it through highschool--but it never solved the problem. It's like telling a kid they could be a basketball star because they're tall. If they never pick up a basketball, indeed if they don't even like basketball, being tall won't mean they join the NBA.

My old "Talent Is a Poor Word for Passion" post was long, and I feel compelled to reiterate the points, but instead of posting it again, thus making this post so long no one would ever read it, I'll just link to it.

My purpose at the time was to convince, rather than inspire. Talent is a cultural conception. Any social scientist worth the air in their lungs believes that. Romanticism didn't believe it, but we're a good couple of centuries away from that notion. Being a cultural conception does not make a thing have no truth or validity. But it does make it impossible for the thing to be a defining force over someone's life, because we have the power to break free from, or at least help shape, our constructions. And I hope I go some way to prove the fallacy of relying on talent, and I hope people who need to hear it find the idea inspiring.


My picture for Pinterest this time only sort of relates, but I just couldn't resist.

1 comment:

Dr. kold_kadavr_flatliner, MD, the sub/dude said...

God blessa youse -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL