Sunday, April 10, 2011

...About Talent

OK. I'm sure you've heard it: "You are so talented. I would never be able to do that."

If someone says that to me, I am always humble and thank them for saying such an apparently nice thing, but I never get to reveal what I truly think of "talent."

Allow me to do that here...talent is BS.  I do not have ANY "inherent" talent to write songs or to play guitar or to sing. I do, however, have a high frustration tolerance when it comes to those things...and that's actually how I would define "talent" --the capacity to work through the frustrations associated with learning how to do something....that's all.  The person that pays the complement definitely has the ABILITY to be as good as ANYONE on the guitar, as good as ANYONE at singing, as good as ANYONE at writing songs....

Obviously, I am a HUGE believer in human potential.  EVERYONE has the ability to do ANYTHING. I think it's a matter of what you focus on and what your frustration tolerance is.  Think about it: a lot of people like the IDEA of playing the guitar, but few have the patience to do the work to become great.  Most people try guitar for a while, even learn a few songs, but as soon as they encounter something that tests their ability to WORK THROUGH DIFFICULTY, they bail. Sometimes they move to a different instrument, sometimes they abandon music altogether. Sometimes they find something that turns them on so much, they are able to work through the unique obstacles associated with that new interest: software engineering, finance, guitar building.

I had that happen with calculus. I met with something that was difficult and my patience was at an end...and I had no capacity to push through the discomfort of the difficulty. So I bailed. I had had enough. I chose to seek other ways to test my patience.

Maybe "talent" is just personal taste.  Can  you develop "talent" that you currently have no capacity for? I think you can.

Let's say I think it would be useful and gratifying to learn calculus so that I can better my life and the life of my family. I can use the mental picture of what being good at calculus is to me to fuel my study and give me the strength to push past all the difficult roadblocks I will encounter on my path to calculus greatness. As long as I can keep my goal in mind, I can train myself to take on and work through more and more frustration.

In your songwriting, what are you aiming for? I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to be able to write. I am always measuring myself against my heroes. Constantly working my way up the Olympus that is the Guy Clark/Townes Van Zandt/Steve Earle/James McMurtry/Lyle Lovett standard. That's the other thing: I know it's pretty much impossible to reach anything approaching the accomplishments of my heroes...but the pleasure is not to be found in the achieving, but in the TRYING.

This week:

The Silmarillion
Recorded a cover of a John Hartford tune
Remixed two of my tunes
Received Jason Blume's Critique on Jodi's song that we recorded last week.
I didn't go to the songwriter's night this week.
Got some good ideas for future songs, wrote them down in my hook book
Hoyt Axton
Buck Owens
The Band
Early Bob Dylan

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