Talent or Tenacity? Which is Most Important For a Writer?

Moby DickI’m sitting in Barnes & Noble staring at a mural of famous writers painted overhead on the wall adjacent to me. Herman Melville, Kipling, Faulkner, Hemingway, Dickens, Wilde, Poe, Eliot. It got me thinking. Which of these masters was the single most talented writer?

As I scan the mural, I realize that many did not know each other. On the other hand, some were fierce competitors, Faulkner and Hemingway, for example. Yet, all faced what we face; the everyday challenge of the blank page. And, at some point in their careers, all must have concluded there was a less painful way to earn a living.

As I scan their faces now and ponder their contributions to American literature, another question tugs at me. The question is not who was the most talented, but more importantly, who was the most tenacious?

The Christmas CarolAs I consider The Christmas Carol, Moby Dick, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Telltale Heart and other timeless stories written by these men, I wonder who faced the most adversity. Who encountered the most rejection? Imagine if The Christmas Carol was never published because Dickens succumbed to rejection. Imagine if Hemingway never finished The Sun Also Rises, or The Old Man and the Sea because he was not in the mood to write and his writing discipline failed him.

As I study the faces in the mural I realize that these men, and today’s great writers, are much like us. They were rejected. They were distracted. They felt like giving up. But they pressed on so today, generations later, we can not only read their great work, we can be inspired by it.

Who was the single most talented writer among them? Well, a surface conclusion might be that the most talented was simply the most accomplished. But consider this: What if the most accomplished among them was, in fact, the least talented but the most tenacious? That possibility alone is enough to keep me writing.

How about you?

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Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 10:34 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The bigger question: will my great grandchildren see Magruder on the mural of their Barnes and Noble?

    • We can only hope, Dave. Thanks for your comment.


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