Charles Pillsbury III

Geek. Dad. Writer?

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Jerk of all trades, master of none

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… anyone can tell you, “talent” is like having a nice ass or a rich father; it helps open doors, but the actual work on the other side of the door is all on you.

[From Attention & Ambiguity: The Non-Paradox of Creative Work | 43 Folders]

One of my favorite books in recent years was “An Abundance of Katherines” (John Green), the protagonist of which is Colin, a former child prodigy. While it would be more than exaggeration to imply I was a child prodigy in my time, I was a fairly bright kid, and Green points out something in this book I’ve been pondering for a while now: being a child prodigy is really just a head start in the “race” of life, eventually others catch up and pass you. School wasn’t effortless for me, but it came easier for me than others, though dropping out of college with less than a year under my belt means most of that head start was wasted in terms of career.

As Merlin points out above, “talent” (much like prodigy) will only get you so far, at some point you’ve got to do the bloody work. In recent years I’ve realized that in most arenas I have a rather minimal level of what you would call “talent.” My only real talent is an ability to pick up a marginally better than basic level of understanding of many subjects. What I’ve yet to find is anything (from photography to construction to baking to programming to writing) in which my level of talent is high enough to truly excel. I’m not Ansel Adams or Charles Pillsbury (oh wait, I am that one, but not THAT Charles Pillsbury, let’s go with Wolfgang Puck instead), or Linus Torvalds, or Frank Herbert (or Orson Scott Card, or Steven King, or any number of others), those are people with enormous talent for what they do.

Which brings me to the work. Mur Lafferty has said that she realizes there are probably many more talented writers than she is, but if they don’t do the work then she’ll be the one getting published (or something like that, it’s not a direct quote, work with me here). I fear I’m too prone to ADD and flit from skillset to skillset without dedicating myself to the time and energy needed to overcome my lack of genius level talent in something and push into another level.
I don’t know what, if anything, this realization and pondering are going to do for me. I enjoy my job, but I don’t really love it. The things I really enjoy doing (writing and baking) are things I know I can either not make a living at (and feed the kids), or I’m not sure I’d still love them as much if I was doing them all day every day. Now if I could just pay the bills from a job involving reading websites and dumping piles of useless (and occasionally useful) information into my head. Sadly, the most likely scenario is that the thing I’m best at, is being marginally better than mediocre.
What things are you a prodigy at? Have you found your passion?

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October 12th, 2008 at 11:06 pm

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One Response to 'Jerk of all trades, master of none'

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  1. Oh my gosh, I could have written this post. I keep thinking if I could get a job with some decent health insurance, I could get some Adderall and maybe get on track. But maybe I’m just using my ADD as an excuse to not do the work of writing and attempting to get published.

    Superfantastic

    23 Oct 08 at 2:21 pm

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