Ever since BIG MAGIC was published back in September, I've been answering some version of this question nearly every day.
Whenever I talk about how "everyone is invited" into the realm of creative living, inevitably somebody will come back at me with questions, doubts, anxieties, and concerns surrounding the word "talent."
Often they will say, "Surely you're not suggesting that EVERYONE has talent, are you?"
One interviewer said, almost angrily, "But some people are talented and some people are NOT! You can't deny that!"
A reporter in Dublin said, "I hope you're not suggesting that we can all be Mozart!"
(That comment made me laugh out loud, and I immediately responded, "Um, can we please take Mozart off the table? Because if that's the standard that we're comparing ourselves against, then we're all in trouble!")
Here's what I believe about talent: I DON'T CARE.
To me, the question of "talent" (who has it?! who doesn't?!) is the most boring possible aspect of the whole conversation about creativity
The question of talent is boring to me, because we are not in control of how much talent we are given, so there's absolutely nothing we can do about it — so why bother worrying over it?
Also, you and I might disagree about who is talented and who is not, so this notion of "talent" seems like a dangerously unscientific question. (For instance, I happen to think Mr. Kanye West is insanely talented; you may think he's just insane. So we will never get anywhere on THAT conversation...)
See, talent can never be officially measured, and talent can never be universally agreed upon, and — in the end — we will never know how much our talent matters, anyway. I have no idea how much of my writing success is due to "talent" and how much of it is due to the fact that have spent literally the last thirty years working on this craft every single day. All the talent in the world wasn't going to get me anywhere if I spent all day watching reruns of LAW AND ORDER, and eating nachos. (Just saying that makes me want to eat nachos right now, by the way. But I digress.)
Also, talent is not enough. Like most of us, I grew up with many people who always seemed to be so much more "talented" than everyone else. They seemed like golden beings, gifted with every possible advantage in the world. God seemed to love them more than God loved the rest of us. (The word "talent" comes from Latin, and it means "payment" — your salary, your bonus, your gift...how much extra you are given. So, when you see people who appear to be naturally talented, they really DO seem to be more loved by God than us, because they seem to have been paid more. It can feel unfair. You can be like, "Hey, where's MY payment, universe?")
But many of those "talented" people whom I met 20 years ago did absolutely nothing with their talents, and so their fruit died on the vine. Unused talent is a useless gift. Their lives now seem uninspiring. Often, they did not become what we thought they would become. Maybe because they were coasting along on their "talent" — waiting to be handed the world.
And I also knew some people 20 years ago who seemed ...well....like nothing. You would have looked at those people and said, "This guy has absolutely zero to contribute to the world." And some of those people later dazzled and shocked me with what they created and what they became. Because they made something out of themselves — drawing upon something within then, which nobody else could see. And all of THOSE people seemed to spend a lot of time pursuing their curiosity.
See...for me, the far more interesting question is, "What are you doing with your curiosity?" Because we can argue about talent all day, but without a doubt, everyone possesses curiosity. Don't ask yourself "What am I doing with my talent?" or "Do I even have a talent?"...just ask yourself, "What am I doing with my curiosity?"
Do you dare to follow your curiosity? Do you pay attention to it? Do you follow up on it? Do you dare to trust it? Will you take risks, to see where your curiosity leads you? And most importantly — year after year — will you continue to follow your curiosity more strongly than your fear? If you can do that, you WILL live a creative life. The most interesting people I know are fascinating because of how they used their curiosity — regardless of their levels of natural talent.
Forget about talent and follow your curiosity, and life itself will become a very interesting work of art. That's what creative living is all about.
And yes, everyone can do that.
And no, you do not have to be Mozart!
Reposted from Elizabeth Gilbert, December 2015