Sunday, October 4, 2009

Nature Vs. Nurture

Last week I received a magazine in the mail called West. It's a publication about Western Canada, which focuses on little towns and the impact the people who live in them make on the country. I'm proud to say my daughter was on the cover last month, but I digress.

Anyway this month they had an interview with the author Andrew Davidson, the man who wrote The Gargoyle. It has been translated into 27 different languages and is selling well everywhere in the world - except the US, so you might not have heard of it. (Personally I haven't read it)

The Gargoyle is his first book and he received a $2,000.000 advance for it, which is like a record for a Canadian publisher. Andrew Davidson is from a small town in Manitoba, population around 1500. I like this fact because I come from a small town in Western Canada, so it gives me hope.

A little way into the article the by line reads DAVIDSON WASN'T AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS. I liked that to because lately it seems like everyone is. They write their novel in two months, edit it in one, submit to agents and have a book deal all within six months. Davidson worked on his book for seven years.

I should clarify that I don't actually know anyone whose got a book deal that fast and it just appears that way because we don't see all the late nights and long days slaving over the computer.

He first began writing on poetry and stage plays, but "it was all bad, but it didn't matter, and it didn't stop me from writing" I loved that quote.

Later he says "I certainly wasn't born with some skill that came fully formed. Hard work and determination helped me develop the skill of writing. If there was one thing I was born with, it was the desire to write that even I don't fully understand. It just it."

Growing up I thought writing would come naturally for me and when it didn't I became frustrated and stopped doing it. I thought I wasn't smart enough to learn how to do it, that if it wasn't a natural talent then I must not be a writer. I was a little insecure in those days.

I have since changed my mind. No, my writing does not come naturally and I'm also not a size two who can eat whatever they want. I have to work at my writing, like I have to exercise and eat healthy. Yes, there are some people out there who have a natural talent and maybe they are the ones who can write a book and have it sell all within six months.

I have learned a lot over the years and will continue to learn. And although I may not be a naturally gifted writer, like Davidson says, I was born with the desire and for me that is enough.

24 comments:

Lazy Writer said...

Like you, I think I was born with the desire, but I'm not a natural writer. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to work at it. Great post!

JKB said...

Excellent post, Patti! And I've seen those quick sells, too. I just grit my teeth and go back to writing.

Because think: at the end, you've worked and slaved and became a better writer. For some people, they haven't really had to try.

And when push comes to shove, I want to be the one that has worked for it, so I know what struggle is.

Patti said...

Susan and Jen: I'm glad to see I'm not alone in my desire. I just keep thinking that all my hard work will eventually pay off. Cross the fingers.

K. M. Walton said...

Hi Patti, thanks for stopping by my blog! I really like the background of your blog.

I remember when The Gargoyle was released and reading a thorough bashing of the book in Entertainment Weekly. I also remember feeling bad for the guy - like you said, it was his first book. It's nice to know that he is having success out there in the world.

Writing does come naturally to me but I've yet to get the sweet deal. I do approach the revision stage as work, albeit work I love, but work nonetheless. But the initial writing, that is pure love.

Patti said...

KM: It really has to be work you love or else it would be pure torture.

K.M. Weiland said...

I do believe that good writers have a certain about of inborn talent - or at least aptitude. But the vast majority of "oomph" in any successful writing career comes from sheer passion and absolute discipline. No amount of talent is going to get to you to the top if you're not willing to work yourself ragged to become the best you can be.

Patti said...

KM: Good point about harnessing your talent. Even if you're naturally good, you still have to work at it.

Natalie said...

7 years, on ONE book! I salute him. I start to lose focus after about six months.

I love that all writers are so different. Just because someone gets a publishing deal doesn't mean they are a better writer than someone who hasn't. It just means they had that magic combination of luck, salability in the current market, and luck.

I don't know anyone who thinks writing is always easy. It's hard. We've got to keep learning every step of the way. We've got to have the courage to throw out stuff we love. We've got to have a thick, THICK skin when we query or open ourselves up to critique.

Keep on keeping on. It will work out sooner or later :)

Patti said...

Natalie: I love that he wasn't an overnight success and that he had to work hard to get where he is. It's amazing how different we all are.

lotusgirl said...

I think we all have to work hard at any area where we want to succeed. Sure it comes more easily for some than for others, but if we keep at it, it can come to us as well. Persistence is a huge part of the business.

Patti said...

Lois: I think I'll have to add persistence to my ever growing list of words which describe what qualities an author should have.

strugglingwriter said...

"No, my writing does not come naturally" well said. I am banking on this because it certainly has not come easily for me.

Jody Hedlund said...

I personally don't know of anyone who has been an overnight success! Most people I know have been writing and honing the craft for years. I'm sure some people will have greater talent than others (same is true for musicians or athletes). But all of us can find joy in writing with whatever level of gifting we have!

Jenn Johansson said...

Wow, what an inspiring article. Thanks for sharing :)I love it when someone who has worked so hard ends up with such a happy ending.

Patti said...

SW: Join the club.

Jody: It's hard to say someone has hard overnight success since we don't see the late nights and the hard work people put in, sometimes it just seems that way because all we see is the end result.

Jenn: Hopefully we all get our happy ending.

Jessie Oliveros said...

You are right-not all of us have the innate wonder talent, but only just enough talent that with HARD WORK we, too, can be published. Yea!

Patti said...

Patti: I just have to keep remembering that anything worthwhile is hard.

Kasie West said...

I think it's rare that people are "born" with anything but desire. Everything takes work. How does that quote go by the woman commenting to the concert pianist: "I would give my life to play like you." And he responds: "I have given my life to play like this." I'm sure I slaughtered that, but it goes something like that.

One of my favorite movie quotes is in the new Pride and Prejudice where Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth referring to piano playing: "If I had ever learned I would have been a great proficient." I laugh at that line every time. It's so easy to say, if I wanted to do something I'm sure I'd do it well. The hard part is actually learning and putting the effort in that it requires. I think we can all be great at writing with a lot of practice. And I will be the first to say, that the more I write the more naturally it comes. :)

Great post, Patti.

Patti said...

Kasie: Great points and I too think that writing takes hard work even for those who it appears to come naturally to them. Great quotes by the way.

Tamika: said...

I am no natural writer, but God has breed a passion in me that will not die.

Maybe that means I am a natural writer, because He made me one. How about that?!

Blessings to you...

Patti said...

It's good to nurture our God given talents and not hide them in the ground.

lauraabest said...

I very much enjoy reading about writer's success stories. So fascinating. Stories like that gives the rest of us hope.

Patti said...

laura: It definitely gave me hope.

Faith said...

Oh, it's so true... some days I'm frustrated because I think the words should just come so easily, and then I remember that like any craft, we can never know *everything*, and not every aspect can come so easily. But that's a good thing -- if we have to work hard at something, that means we can only get better at it. I like those odds. :)