Last night Jason and I were talking about talent. Specifically, my gifts and talents. I was pondering the things I’m good at and the things I enjoy doing, and how I could get paid (and I mean get PAID) to do one or more of those things.
“I’m really good at projecting my voice. That’s one of my talents,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, you were a DJ.”
“Well, that was in college, and it’s not what I’m talking about. I mean I’m really loud. I can make myself heard over large distances.”
After a moment of silence, thinking about the opportunities in the world for a loud talker, we agreed it probably wasn’t going to be a lucrative field. The problem is, most of the things I am good at are not rife with opportunity. Sure, I can read and comprehend a book with the best of them (and to toot my own horn, I read more books in a month than most people read in a year). That being said, I’m not interested in teaching anyone about the value of literature, or how to interpret it. And I don’t really want to hear your opinion unless you’re a trusted book friend or I haven’t read the book yet and I’m trying to get a handle on it.
I’m also good at eating, but that’s purely for my own enjoyment. I don’t want to dunk anything in water or have a career that requires regular doses of Maalox. Nor do I want to critique what I’ve eaten, because I’ve found unless the experience was off-the-charts incredible or equally miserable, I’m usually not inspired to put pen to paper.
That brings me to a tangent: people think that because you’re a writer, professional or otherwise, that you can (and want) to write about anything. That just isn’t true. There are all sorts of layers to writing, all sorts of styles, and while some people are prolific in many ways, others, like me, have more specific interests and abilities.
My other pet peeve about writing is the idea that anyone can do it. Now, I’m not under the impression that this blog is a hotbed of Pulitizer-quality prose, and I’m not dismissing the idea that people should express themselves in any way they see fit. I will note, however, that as someone who works in communications for a living, the majority of people who think they can put a few paragraphs together to explain a fundraiser or adeptly describe a product should be shot. They can’t do it. Corporate and professional writing takes practice and finesse and editing, and different types of writing require specific talents. My friend Lindsay is an extraordinary technical writer, capable of clearly explaining things in minute detail. I cannot do that. However, I can write copy that will make you want, even NEED, to buy something. That is one of my gifts, and not everyone has it. And it’s interesting to me how personally people take it when they’re told their writing isn’t up to snuff, because I would never walk into the ISD department and say I felt like creating my own system patch, so just let me do it because I know how to work a computer. I don’t go into the cafeteria at work to make my own breakfast because I know how to make it at home. Yet because some woman writes her family’s Christmas newsletter she thinks she’s more than able to write compelling copy. End of rant.
It’s hard for me to imagine having a job that I both loved and was good at, where all of the pieces click together. Honestly, for me to reach that nirvana I’m pretty sure I’ll have to be my own boss. Which is scary, but I suppose in a good way.
Until then, I’m going to hold out hope that someone wants to pay me tons of cash to find and post hilarious pictures on the internet. There’s gotta be money it that, right?