Myth: Artists Are Born

Prodigy Baby

Photo Credit: AndywithCamera (Creative Commons)

You might occasionally hear people make the declaration, “I’ve always been a good writer (or athlete or painter or singer), maybe I can just do that for a living.”

Have fun with that.

I thought the same thing, until I started realizing that I was not, in fact, a born writer. The unfortunate reality is that because of some misconception, when we fail at something new, we immediately think that we weren’t born for success in a particular area of work.

We see so-called prodigies and think that in order to make a career through art (or anything for that matter), we must posses a similar mystical gene of brilliance in order to become successful at all. This cannot be further from the truth.

Potential is born. Prowess is created.

Everyone has potential when they are born, but for whatever reason comes the idea that if you don’t immediately show that potential you will never evolve into anything worthwhile.

In every field of work you will find people who have fought adversity, been told they could not achieve something and most certainly were not born into greatness. However, they fought past the social stigma and worked diligently to show that being born a legend is not only overrated, but not possible. It’s the work that creates exceptional beings and these people can prove it:

  • He was too short and skinny to play basketball – Tell Muggsy Bogues that greatness is born.
  • Was told he couldn’t sing or act – Tell Fred Astaire that he didn’t have to prove himself.
  • Told their style of music wasn’t “in” at the time – Tell The Beatles that they didn’t have to break barriers.
  • Was criticized by teachers for poor violin playing – Tell Beethoven that he was a born composer.
  • Didn’t achieve success until later in life – Tell greatness is born to Winston Churchill, Morgan Freeman or James Carville.
  • Couldn’t read until he was 7 and was actually thought to be mentally retarded – Tell Albert Einstein that greatness is born.
  • He received 30 rejection letters for his thriller Carrie – Tell Stephen King that greatness is born.
  • He received 600 rejections before first being published – Tell Jack London that greatness is born.

The word prodigy simply means a highly talented child or youth. Prodigy doesn’t mean someone who just grew up and people started giving them awards. Prodigies work hard, day and night to make sure that their dream is eventually fulfilled.

Everyone has a prodigy in them. Those who see the results are the ones who refuse to give up.

Regardless of your age, physical stature, educational background or current creative ability I encourage you to press through the adversity that comes with becoming successful. Peel back the layers to reveal the potential that is provided to all of us in order to accomplish spectacular things.

Artists, business people, doctors, lawyers and architects are all in the same boat. You are provided the basic tools to accomplish a task, then everything else is up to you. Practice, training and building relationships is required to nurture your craft and build on the potential that you have been provided.

Let me know in the comments what makes you feel that you are not born to accomplish something, or what you have done to realize your own potential and find the prodigy inside you.

See ya next time…

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

Comments

  1. This is a great reminder (and the thing about Stephen King? Very encouraging. I adore his work; can you imagine if he’d given up after 29 rejections?).

    I do worry about the scope of skills necessary to be a successful writer these days. Even if you have the writing skill and some amazing stories, not all of us are brilliant at marketing, or at putting our work out there, or working with computers, or networking, or… I know, these things can be learned. Those are the things I worry about, though. :)

    • All valid concerns and hopefully with a little training and practice you can address these. Considering I’m getting a lot of feedback regarding similar issues I think I’m going to release a video series on marketing for writers. Which I’m thinking would include how to’s for websites, social media, hosting, networking and email marketing. Thanks for the input!

  2. I am often worried that I don’t have skills/qualities necessary to make it out there on my own as an entrepreneur or a freelancer. Though I have seen many of my friends starting their own ventures, I still can’t imagine myself in this role. I am working hard every day to make this vision a little less scary and hope that one day the jump will happen and I will suddenly wake up on the other side of this dilemma wondering why it took me so long :)

    • By the way, for those who also struggle with freelancing issue lynda.com just released a “Freelancing Fundamentals” course. They also have various web development courses that can be helpful. And a new “Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story” :) Worth to check out their 30-day trial offer

    • Hi Ula,

      It’s going to be a little intimidating in the world of entrepreneurship, but luckily we live in an age where you don’t need to know everything about everything (ie. no need to know how to code a website with WordPress and a theme.) Like I stated in a previous comment I’m going to be putting together a web series on marketing and technology for writers, so hopefully that can help you out.

      Thanks for the input and good luck with everything!

      • That’s awesome Joe. I am looking forward to reading it. I am actually enjoying the website development part a lot and am getting ready to move into doing that professionally.

  3. Very interesting facts. I was never strong in English or much of a reader during my school years. But the moment I fell in love with writing, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to stop until I became published and made a career out of it. Like you say, the tools are out there. It’s up to me to make it happen. The only way I’m going to fail is if I give up. We all have the potential inside of us. It’s out duty to live up to it. Very inspirational post!

  4. Starting my blog has helped me realize the “prodigy” in me. Every new blog comment, like, and follower encourages me to keep on keeping on. :) The network out there of fellow aspiring, struggling, and published writers is one of the greatest support systems ever.

    Also, sometimes you need a little kick in the pants to force you to come to the realization that you can succeed. For me, that kick in the pants is my husband :). He is forever my greatest source of encouragement. Again, great post :)

    • So true, Jennifer, about the support system. People are amazingly encouraging and sometimes I find it helps to step back and view my writing through other’s eyes. It helps me get away from the ‘curse of familiarity’ where everything I write sounds blah because it’s just me.

      • I’m going to have to agree with both of you here. Every time I write a sentence it looks like crap to me, but once I get some third party feedback and support from people in the blogging community and at home it helps you press on and have more appreciation for your work.

        Thanks Jennifer squared. :)

    • I have one of those husbands too, Jennifer Wagner :) It’s a great source of support (and reckoning when I’m wallowing in the doldrums).

      Jennifer Zeiger you make a point about garnering the support of other writers. I really need to hear this but am often reticent to act reaching out due to still present-though-dwindling fear of rejection and justifying the time spent building a strong writing community base instead of writing. It’s such a tricky balance!

      Joe, I feel the SAME way ! Your visit to my blog was uplifting…and I’m happy to have found yours :) Feels like you’ve got a good community vibe going here!

  5. Interesting post- I think we are born with propensities and that these are usually based on aptitude. Exactly how much is desire to do something and how much is that a particular thing is “easy” to do I’ll leave to the developmental scientists but in the end we either get good at the things we like to do or like to do the things we are good at, probably a bit of both.

    This is all fine and dandy for getting good at basic things (like building with legos!) but for complex things like writing, to paraphrase Tolstoy, a good writer must be proficient at all the elements of writing (and excel at least a few) and a bad writer just needs to suck any one or two out of a large range things.

    Writing like professional sports, musicians, engineers, doctors, etc., requires that we leverage our talents/interests to develop a range of competencies that nothing but a once in a generation prodigy would have out of the gate.

    Put another way, most writiers are probably good at some parts of the craft when they start out but almost all have to work on all those other bits and pieces before they can succeed. Raw talent will get you started, blood, sweat and tears will get you over the finish line.

    • Well put Marc and thanks for the feedback. I agree, I think we all start with different skills and for some more work is required from the get go, but like you said it really comes down to the blood, sweat and tears.

  6. Wow! This was so helpful, especially because I’ve spent all day being sad about the report card I’ve been given today. I don’t really want to be told that I can’t get into the university of my choice, or the course of my choice! If need be, I will be taking night school and summer school to prepare my self for next year, the last year of high school, because really, I want to get to New York with my dream wall street marketing job so badly, that I’m ready to prove myself for it! Thanks so much for the boost of confidence!

  7. Thank you for this. I’ve been writing poetry since I was a kid but I was too damn scared of what others will think about them. It was only last year that I practically pushed myself to share my works with the world and surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad. I may not be as great as other writers but I sure appreciate the time that people took to read my work, like them, and share their own points of view. At the end of the day, I learned that what I’ve created can be appreciated not just by me but by others too. Learning that you’ve touched someone’s heart with your words is a big confidence boost. And this is one of the reasons why I’m going to keep writing and release the prodigy in me. 😀

    • Hi Elaine,

      It’s a great feeling when people read and appreciate your work. It helps build your own self appreciation. Well put and thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hey Joe,
    Thanks for dropping by “Honey.” Not sure if I have a prodigy in me, but am having a blast trying to put a smile on a reader’s face. Will come back and check out your book.

  9. Very much agree with your basic premise. Inspiring examples.
    I love the line Potential is born. Prowess is created.

  10. Welcome to WWWW, where we used to be younger, thinner and richer…as you’ll see on our About page. We still seek the prodigy within and retirement is our way in.

  11. This piece is a great piece! It is easy to buy into the fact that if you are not naturally near-perfect at something you are not meant to do it. If it is difficult, move on. The truth you share is that it takes developing skills and passions without giving up to achieve success. Dream big and go for it!

  12. I wanted to come here first to say thank you for the like and follow. I also agree with this post. While talent may come naturally to some, I was one of the people who picked up on writing when I was a kid. It wasn’t a “natural” talent to me (my earliest writings make the present writer and editor in me want to cry), but something I’ve worked on relentlessly for the past 10+ years. Any amount of talent we have may start as natural flair, but the work we put into it separates us from others who have a passing fancy.

    Very nice post! I’m following your blog as well – you’re very insightful 😀

  13. “Practice, training and building relationships is required to nurture your craft…” — a must indeed!

  14. I often hear similar things for leadership, both military and business. It is great to hear it being reinforced for creative skill sets too.

  15. Natalie Chatalie says:

    Hiya – thanks very much for the follow. Good looking site you have here. I shall enjoy having a bit of a look around :)

  16. Discipline and mastery bring a person into full potential. Was it Einstein who said “Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” or something to that effect? Good, thought provoking post.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog Joe, so great that you’re following me! I hope you get a lot out of my writing!

  17. True, indeed. Potential, honed. Then, having worked hard to produce something which one believes is good, whether in words or music or both, to the extent where one is happy with the achievement, one needs to ignore those who would detract.

  18. I do believe I have a knack for storytelling – hence the fiction writer in me. BUT while I also write for newspapers, I have never been a great speller and without all those wonderful copy editors I wouldn’t have a day job :)

  19. Réal Laplaine says:

    You speak sooth. This kind of perspective engenders self-confidence, courage and the leap of faith to trust oneself and not depend on others for a vote of confidence in order to live one’s life as one would dream.

  20. It’s funny to read this, I’ve always been fascinated with prodigies, and remember at the age or 11 or 12 thinking if I didn’t have a story finished, let alone published by the age of 20, I was a failure. How awful is that? Nobody told me that, it’s just something I put on myself. I’m now 40 and still learning more about writing everyday. I’m actually doing some of it too. I like the idea that everyone has a prodigy inside them. I can handle that.

  21. Excellent read..kudos!

  22. Great questions! Each elicited a near identical response for me. Like the myth says – you’re either born a prodigy…or not. I labored under this misconception for a LONG time, thinking if I was really meant to be a writer, it would be easy. WRONG!

    Similarly, to accomplish anything, I’ve had to set a goal, define it and post it all over the house, and WORK HARD at achieving it – celebrating the striving every uncertain step of the way.

  23. A very insightful and uplifting post, Joe.

    I see that you’ve begun following my blog and that you liked my most recently posted chapter. Much respect and appreciation, friend.

    Cheers from a fellow mid-westerner!

    Dylan

  24. I really like your blog, its awesome. But this was particularly inspiring because I actually gave up writing sometime ago. But now that I’ve started again I feel wonderful. ^.^
    Also, I can’t find any follow or like button… Did you disable them or am I just stupid?

  25. Absolutely love your blog. I was inspired :)

  26. Absolutely love your blog. I was inspired today. Keep up the good work! Well written.

  27. Hi Joe, I love your site and have visited nearly every post since I discovered you. I keep reading about writing a book, and how blogging is essential to building an audience, but I think I am in a different boat. I only want to write a book to support my blogging habit. I worry that what I produce into a book will be half hearted, because there are so few things I want to spend 300 pages on. I prefer writing about things 1500 words or less at a time. Is there any hope for me to be a full time writer? :)
    Keep up the good work, you have an impressive site over here.
    Christina

  28. Hi Joe, Nice post and thought-provoking. There is also the idea that you must practice 10,000 hours to become truly proficient and know your craft. And that it is done best when ‘in the flow’. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Malcolm Gladwell both have interesting books on this topic. (I had to go pull down my book by the former to be sure I spelled his named correctly!) —Jadi

  29. Great post. I had a violin teacher who said that talent was only 10% of the equation. The other 90% is hard hard work and humility. She is a great teacher. The only thing talent does is make our hard work more fruitful. Grit is a far more powerful trait.

  30. Great post. I really enjoyed reading this! Very inspiring.

  31. Excellent post! I’m only now getting serious about writing my fist book and you don’t know how much reading this helped me. I mean, after re-reading my first stories I can assure you I’m not by any definition of the word a prodigy but after six years of writing and erasing and writing again I think I got a lot better, and your post reminded me that maybe if this first try doesn’t work -something that has kept me awake quite a few nights- I can always try again and again until I get it right :)
    Thank you.
    Carla

  32. Hey! This is a great post. Thanks for stopping by mine as well, I look forward to reading more of your work.

    Best,
    Meri

  33. Luncheon Literary Society says:

    Enjoyed this enlightening and entertaining post as well as the reader comments it generated, and thanks for stopping by our site.

  34. ahha a good one :)

  35. Oradjeha Tanshi says:

    Thanks for the refreshing insight!!! :-)

  36. Thanks for the great post. Very motivating. I often felt I was born to be a writer, then I saw how so many people write better than I do. I am far far from being a “natural” but, I will continue to work on the craft.