I expect you’ve heard of the expression “talent will out”. It’s linked most strongly with the acting profession. It’s the sort of encouraging guff you say to someone who is struggling but truly deserves to make it. It basically means – if they carry on acting – their talent is so great it will at some point be spotted, appreciated and rewarded. You can just as easily apply that expression to any of the Arts, including freelance writing.
How beautifully naïve.
I’m not sure why some people make it and others don’t. I’m pretty certain there’s no formula to it. I think timing is probably the most important element; getting your work in front of the right person at the right time. Catching the crest of a new genre, or swelling a wave all of your own making and riding it all the way in.
The problem is you can’t engineer such a phenomenon. You can only do what you do. There are plenty who look back from their positions of success and claim they always knew where they would end up, but you only have to watch any talent show on TV to know that everyone always knows they are destined to make it because “it means the world” to them and they are too naïve to realize they’re not the only one who’d love to make millions doing what they enjoy rather than earn a pittance suffering on a check-out at Wal-Mart.
I think I’ve known this for a very long time, but chose to dismiss it lest it destroy the belief I needed to pursue my chosen careers.
I think it was back in school when I first understood the strange mismatch between talent and reward. I had a friend called Mike who was the class swot, but, unlike most class swots, he was a popular individual and a cool dude. He would always get upwards of 18 out of 20 in his History essays, whereas I would usually come in around the 14-15 mark.
Keen to understand the secret of his success, I often asked to examine his essays and compare them to my own. Most of the time, I had the exact same facts and answers in there, but I’d just expressed them in a different way. When I challenged the teacher on this, he said the same. Sure, Mike did have a better way with words than I did, but I could never see how it justified such a difference in marks. It became clear to me that the teacher(s) had adopted a mind-set that this kid was brilliant, and would therefore mark him up.
So, one time, I borrowed his finished essay before he handed it in, and copied it out verbatim. Mike was good enough to agree that – if the teacher noticed – we would say it was an experiment.
The teacher didn’t notice. As I recall, Mike received 19 and I got 16 – for the identical essay. Identical, but for the name at the top of the paper
Sometimes, as a freelance writer, creating the right aura around your content is more important than what’s in your content. How many times have you read a successful novel and been flabbergasted by its ineptitude? How many times have you watched an overpaid Hollywood actor and just not “got” what the fuss is all about? Of course, personal preferences come into it, but it’s often more definable than that; often what you’re reading or watching is just not that talented.
As a freelance writer, there is both hope and despair to take from this. It all depends on your outlook on life.