Thursday, December 04, 2008

Genius v grinds

One of my problem with the movie Amadeus is the notion of the grind v the absolute effortlessness of Mozart. It belittles Mozart. Mozart may have had the ability but that ability was honed and polished by his father. From about the age of five, all Mozart did was play music. He grew up in a household where music was played and encouraged and that helped him.
The music flowed from his fingertips because he practised. He practised and played music because it pleased his father and because he had an aptitude for it. If Saliari had practised as much as Mozart and had grown up in the same environment, it is more than probable that he would have achieved the same level... In other words, Mozart worked hard, harder than most people realise and he did not just pick up a violin one day and compose music.
I can remember reading the autobiography of John Denver where he attributed his success at music to the hard work he put it. He spent hour upon hour during high school playing his guitar. He then toured and toured. This is not unique. Time after time when you really look at someone who has been a great success, you see that they may have had the predisposition towards something, but they were also willing to put the hard hours in.
Malcom Gladwell has recently written a book called Outliers: Is there such a thing as pure genius? You can read an extract of it here. But basically, he concludes that once you have the desire much of success stems from determination, dedication and discipline.
Twyla Tharp in her book, The Creative Habit also touches on this. The prima ballerinas always are the ones who are the first to the barre and who constantly practice and practice. They do not take their success for granted. It is a question of clock face polishing and striving to improve.
So what about romance writers? If you speak to any successful romance writer, they will tell you how hard it is. All the romance writers I know write because they love writing and reading. They have put the hard hours in. Some of it includes reading the genre and understanding the demands of the genre.
It is what gets me so cross about programmes about writing. Or having a go at writing a M&B. Do those presenters realise how long and hard the top talent have worked at it? Or how hard they do work at it? One of the reasons for M&B's success is that they have very hard working authors who are working to tell stories to the best of their ability. It is all about putting the hours in and honing your writing.
Over the long term, there are diminishingly few grinds.

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