Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Against talent

The big lie of shows like The Voice and American Idol (though I love them) is that good singers aren't a dime a damn dozen. What's rare is finding someone who can sing and write songs. That's why most of the people who win these shows never "make it" as recording artists. If some studio is going to have to groom you and find songs for you and market you etc. etc. they might as well start with some other singer, probably one who's younger and thinner.

I think "creative writing" is the same. You don't become a fan of someone just because they can write good sentences. Being a poet and being surrounded by poets (and I assume the same is true of fiction writers) is often boring and exhausting because everyone around you is a "good writer," and we're constantly forced to, pardon the expression, suck each other's dicks of talent, even though most of the time (self inclusive) we don't have all that much to say.

Now excuse me while I go watch The Voice. Team Xtina!

12 comments:

  1. I don't believe in such a thing as "talent," in the sense of innate or inborn ability or affinity. My feeling is that any level of accomplishment in creative work is the result of three things:

    * The opportunity to do creative work (which can be affected by a lot of things like poverty or affluence, the sort of society and culture one lives in, the period of history in which one lives, etc.)

    * The desire to do creative work (which usually connects in various ways with opportunity, above)

    * Working at it.

    I agree that simply being able to write good sentences isn't enough. The poetry that speaks to me the most deeply is poetry that conveys something of the sense and conditions of compelling necessity from which the poet wrote it. If I don't feel that sense of necessity in a poem -- if it's only proficient writing, without any evident reason for the poet having written it -- then it usually doesn't reach me much.

    I've rarely if ever found it boring or exhausting to be surrounded by poets, on the occasions when that's happened. The only exceptions (and they're really few) might be a couple of times over the years when most of the poets in the room were ones who routinely received university tenure and foundation grants. That's when I look for the nearest escape hatch.

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    1. I agree. I think in the end hard work and/or connections go much, much further in most creative practices than "talent." But you're always bumping into people who feel entitled to success because they're "talented."

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    2. I probably shouldn't have said "often boring and exhausting" -- it's more of an occasional thing, but then maybe I'm just used to it.

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  2. Agreed. (I will say that the first winner of the Voice was a good songwriter, and then they refused to let her write any songs for the album that followed. Even that Call Me Maybe woman writes most of her own material.)

    I wouldn't mind being surrounded by poets/writers, provided they were my friends. I can't imagine talking about your work, but I guess that's what happens. Which would be painful.

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    1. The first winner of The Voice was a man. Do you mean the second runner-up, Dia? Did she record an album already?

      In general I love knowing lots of writers. They're awesome people! But going to lots of readings and talking about poetry and how great everyone is can get to be a drag. It's not like I don't genuinely think most of these people are good writers doing interesting work, it's just hard to get excited when there's so much of it all the time. I like when I can get together with writers and talk about shit than has nothing to do with writing.

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  3. Oh! Yeah, Dia. They rushed out some album and it didn't sell, of course. Yes I'm bitter.

    And that's what I meant - writers are interesting, but I'd love to just TALK about anything else. It's like the stories about how comedians hang out and only talk about comedy the entire time.

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    1. Oh man, lameness. I loved Dia. Her Kanye cover was amazing! The live version is actually better than the "studio" version.

      The guy who won the second season was UTTERLY forgettable.

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  4. Anyone who says, 'suck each other's dicks of talent' is clearly a talented writer. I'm going to steal that phrase and use it in a sentence tomorrow.

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    1. As I wrote that, I seriously thought (really!), "Hm, should I write that? Whatever, I bet Josephine will like it." :D

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    2. Blood circulation in your dick of talent declines...

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  5. urgency is essential. that is all.
    (oops. I lied. it also helps keep talent from flaccidifying.) that is all.

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