My talent for writing has done me very little good in my life.
It’s sad, but it’s true. People have told me that they have gotten a lot of pleasure out of my writing, and that makes me happy to hear, but the fact is that I haven’t gotten much pleasure from it.
When I’m doing it the process feels… necessary. I wouldn’t call it pleasurable, in the sense that playing in the water or eating good food is pleasurable. It’s more like the satisfaction that comes from fixing a broken machine. It feels good to have done it, to have solved a particular sequence of words. But the work… it’s work. It’s often frustrating and always difficult.
The finished product hasn’t brought me much joy, either. And I don’t just mean financially, although it’s true that I haven’t made any real money. I mean interpersonally. People like my work–some of them like it very much. But they don’t particularly like me. How could they? They don’t know me.
My relationships have always been about what I can do for other people, and my life as an author has been no different. I suppose that all artist/audience relationships work like that–the artist gives and the audience takes and there we have an end to it.
I never particularly wanted my facility with words. I am not aware of ever doing much to earn it. I’ve always written and over the years I’ve gotten better at it, true, but if I ever set out to learn how to write well it’s so long ago that I no longer recall the feeling. It’s just something that is a part of me now, like my failing vision and the pain in my joints.
I can think of a dozen talents than I’d rather have than being able to write compellingly. I wish I was a musician. Or a surgeon. Or a salesman–I’d love to have the ability to connect with people.
I’ve had people tell me that they wish they had my talent. I’d give it to them, if I could. I am sure there are a lot of people who would get a lot more out of it than I have. I try to help other writers, offer my advice and critique. But since I don’t know exactly how I do what I do I can’t really tell anyone else how to do it.
The sad fact is that being good at something doesn’t mean that doing it is good for you.