So You Think You Can [enter talent here]?

(photo from matternow.com)

Today is a writing day… when isn’t it? Or rather, when shouldn’t it be?

Since quitting the day job I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands and I’ve used a large sum of it watching TV. This would seem like a ridiculous waste of time (and oh, it has been) but I have to say that I’ve learnt a lot, mainly, to my surprise, how many reality shows there are out there.  From the classic singing and weight loss shows to American colonies and treasure hunters, from unclaimed baggage auctions to unclaimed storage unit auctions, from animal anything and everythings to down right absolutely nothings (Kardashians)… As I’m sure you know, this is not even scraping the surface.(photo from matternow.com)

When did people stop having to be actually talented in some way to appear on the telly? Was it when, in an attempt to prove how good they were, they showed the world how bad, bad, bad they were and when ratings soared, stations started shoving ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ down our throats, feeding us people whose only talent is being really bad?  So inevitably kids now think that to ‘make it’, you don’t have to strive to be brilliant anymore but rather, aim for ‘good enough’ or ‘bad enough’ and you could be on TV. Perfect duck-face and you’ve made it!

I’m the kind of person who is ‘good’ at anything I put my mind to.  Before you think that I’m on some narcissistic Kanye West trip, please refer to the scale below and allow me to clarify.

Talent Scale

1 – Must you?             6 – Good

2 – Terrible                  7 – Very Good

3 – Bad                       8 – Impressive

4 – Not Bad                 9 – Excellent

5 – Mediocre              10 – Fucking Wow

From singing (no broken windows) to badminton (I can beat my dad), from snowboarding (managed to stop falling on my arse multiple times a minute) to baking (30-minute-brownies: 30 minutes cooking time, 30 minutes disappearing time) and cooking (thank eff for cookbooks and the ability to read).  I can drive (and park) and ride a motorcycle (a moped is still classed as a motorcycle) and do an array of other things…. good!

Now with all of these things that I’m ‘good’ at, if you put me in the ring with professionals at any of these activities, I would be laughed out of the arena/auditorium/mountain/kitchen etc.  I’d certainly never go on TV to showcase my ‘talent’ in any one of these activities, mainly because I still have nearly all of my marbles.

From my dancing skills to how I scrub up for a night out, from how I hold my alcohol to my swimming abilities, from drawing a picture to throwing a party, it’s all ‘good’.

I’m on level 101 on Candy Crush BUT (hold the applause) I can count the amount of times I was in the high score top 5 on one hand (I think I had the highest score from all my friends once and that was a total bloomin’ fluke if ever I saw one). I manage to get by, get on and get quite far by not being astounding but by just being ‘good’ or ‘good enough’ at most things.

I don’t mind being ‘good’ at these things because as far as aspirations go, I have never aspired to be a professional (being the operative word) chef, dancer, artist, badminton player, snowboarder, candy-crusher etc., etc. I’m actually a big fan of ‘good’.  I would rather ‘good’ than anything less, put it that way and if I’m going to do something, anything, I’d rather do it well or not do it at all. (Who just cough-said “OCD”?)

But where I do not want to be mediocre or even ‘good’ is writing.  I do not want to be just a ‘good’ writer.  Of course the dream would be to be ‘fucking wow’ but there are only so many Hemingways out there.

And this is right about the point where I throw a tantrum (I’m ‘excellent’ at these).  I don’t want to be an average writer, I want to be a brilliant writer and the difference is that I really try to be.  I don’t try to make the most excellent cake ever, I just want it to be yummy and edible.  I don’t try to be the best dancer, I just try to have as much fun as possible without making a complete fool of myself.  I don’t try to be the best snowboarder, I just try to keep up with my friends and not break any of my bones.  The common thread in all these is that they’re mostly about pleasing myself. Generally speaking I’m not a big people pleaser and I’m particularly not that interested in pleasing strangers… but this is not the case with writing.

I know a lot of writers say that we write for ourselves and that is in a large part true because most of our writing doesn’t get seen by the general public and is banished to a folder on our desktop called ‘Writing – Other’. (There are of course ‘writers’ who publicize these works just like those people who audition for Pop Voice Idol Factor and have the judges reaching for their buckets, then look on in shock when their talent is not appreciated.)

In all honesty, what we really want is for people to be tantalizingly drawn in and pleased by our writing, be it people we know or complete strangers.  We want people to like what we write, to love it, enjoy it and want more and more.  That is being a writer.  Not only ones use of prose or language or having a catchy storyline or cliffhangers but people, any people, just wanting to read whatever we write (I’ve said many times I would read John Grisham’s shopping list or airplane dietary requirements).

Whatever level of writer I am, I certainly am not working towards just being ‘good’ enough to be published. I am aiming for ‘Fucking Wow’ but I’d settle for excellent. Whether I will ever get there remains to be seen but it’s something I strive for and dream about and that’s what makes everyday a writing day.

Now, too much modesty is banal so without blowing my own trumpet, there are some things I’m ‘Fucking Wow’ at and one is swearing and another is sleeping.  I can sleep for fucking England.

(photo credit: matternow.com)

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