To The Writers Without Talent

It’s hard to be successful at writing even if you’re a talented writer. It’s much harder when don’t even have talent.

Here’s a passage by Haruki Murakami, one of the most successful Japanese writers of our times for all the talentless writers:

[…] writers who aren’t blessed with much talent — those who barely make the grade — need to build up their strength at their own expense. They have to train themselves to improve their focus, to increase their endurance. To a certain extent they’re forced to make these qualities stand in for talent. And while they’re getting by on these, they may actually discover real, hidden talent within them. They’re sweating, digging out a hole at their feet with a shovel, when they run across a deep, secret water vein. It’s a lucky thing, but what made this good fortune possible was all the training they did that gave them the strength to keep on digging. I imagine that late-blooming writers have all gone through a similar process.

I always find it encouraging when I read things like this. Then there’s the fact that Murakami considers himself a writer without much talent, which then begs the question: 

“If a Murakami considers himself lacking talent, what the fuck am I? I shouldn’t even call myself a writer.”

If you have a similar voice like this in your head—listen, and give it a big hug. 

That hypercritical voice is there for a reason, and it’s doing the best job it can. It wants to protect you from failure and disappointment. 

Let’s face it, as a writer, you’re attempting something crazy, and you need an unreasonable love for the craft, or an inflated sense of optimism, a beautiful foolishness. 

And there’s a part of you that doesn’t want you to be foolish, that wants to protect you from experiencing the pain of failure, that’s afraid you’ll screw up your life, because it cares for you and wants you to be happy.

And the best it can do to protect you is to be hypercritical, and shutting down your foolish attempts at following your bliss. 

I discovered this about myself a while ago after doing a self-awareness exercise from IFS. 

The different stages of my relationship with my inner critic

My relationship to that inner critic has evolved throughout the years. At one point I wasn’t even aware of it, I just felt what it made me feel. At some point I began to become aware of it, and believed every word it said, took its harsh words for truth. Years passed, and I began to view that inner critic as an enemy, someone to dismiss and push aside, to tune out that voice. And right now, my attitude towards it is that of an understanding parent: I see that this part of me cares for me and wants to protect me from harm. And the best it can do is to use this hypercritical tone. I don’t have to agree with what my inner critic tells me, but I can listen, check if there’s a point to what it says or if it’s simply scared, and then express my appreciation. 

This is quite an elaborate inner conversation, but we’re all having these kinds of conversations with us all the time anyways—so why not engage more consciously with them? 

Is this why I write?

For me, as a talentless “writer”, maybe the reason why I have to write is this to truly make peace with that inner critic of mine, to befriend it, to help it transition into a more mature and resourceful role within myself. 

That’s one of the beautiful things of writing, no matter how much talent you have or lack. It’s a never ending journey, and no matter where you are, there’s a lot to look forward to.

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