I have a student in my just-finished Narrative Writing class with what I consider a once-in-a-decade talent. She wrote three short stories, each one better than the last. The last forced me to pull her aside and tell her, “You’ve got to get this published.” She didn’t respond. When I graded her final exam yesterday, she made the comment that she had no burden to write, and would probably not pursue it on a long-term basis. That comment made me both envious of her innate talent, and sad for what I saw was an obvious waste of that talent.
Today, while watching the latest football news before the NFL Draft tonight, I saw an ad for GNC stores. They were talking about the voice inside of ourselves that convinces us that it’s OK to eat that donut hole, to skip our workout, to be average. “Average isn’t ok,” they go on to say. “Average is average.”
And if I am honest with myself, “average” is the dirty word that I have tried to avoid my whole life. I was not born with innate writing talent, like that of my student and others I have met. What I was born with was something more valuable: tenacity. My father told me once that he had never met a more patient child in his whole life. And I have capitalized on that trait to accomplish what I viewed as important.
Not everyone is tenacious, however. Writing, as I reminded my Narrative Writing students last week, is one of those jobs where no one will care if you write or don’t write. You have to have good reasons for pursuing it, with the least of these becoming rich. So what drives you? Only you can answer that question. But it has to be important to you, important enough to move beyond a lifestyle that 99 percent of the country accepts. It’s a labor of love–or possibly desperation.
Do you want to be average? If you don’t, what are you willing to do about it?