Even the horrified expressions on my friend's faces--the result of me trying to carry a tune--didn't stop my damaged inner diva, oh no. I was tenacious. I wasn't born to be an opera star but that tune, the words stuck in a mental loop, all worth risking ego-mortification because I wanted to know, I needed to figure this out. I'd been searching for ages, and last week, thanks to my dear brilliant colleague Mo, I found out the number I've been warbling was actually Macavity the Mystery Cat from the musical Cats.
Enigma solved! Eardrums saved!
Naturally, I've listened to the Broadway ballad a few times now and am slowing writing the lyrics to Tenacity. Because it matters more than talent. Truly.
The problem with believing in natural talent is that it lets the rest of us of the hook.
Yes, I'm better suited to being a writer than a musician, but if I had really, really, really wanted to be a songstress I would have signed up for voice lessons, pursued rigorous vocal training and poured all my attention in that direction—soaking up everything from Benedectine Monks singing Gregorian chants to Italian rock music. A language, by the way, I would argue doesn't lend itself to rockability but then I only ever heard one pop album growing up, so I'm judging unfairly.
This is what happened: I showed early promise in creative writing that was encouraged by two teachers in middle school, (and discouraged by many instructors after). Fortunately for me, those first two women didn't emphasize an easy genius but they noticed how interested I was in learning vocabulary, crafting sentences, embellishing paragraphs, and soaking up stories. In elementary school, I'd asked to borrow various primary texts so I could keep reading at home. By grade seven, the only time I felt comfortable was when my pen was moving across a page. The adage, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears," applies to that betwixt and be-tween period in my life when I needed support and had slim talent.
Added to this is my awareness of being one exceptionally lucky duck. For millennia, my female ancestors wouldn't have had the time to think about the whole talent versus tenacity debate. Generations of women before me were denied an education, the only route to uncovering craft and capability. Determination simply meant staying alive.
As a devotee of all undertakings writing-wise, steadfastness is the goal. We can walk together through adversity with compassion, wisdom and moxie—by which I mean tenacity.