On Dedication And Talent

Yesterday an old friend texted me with some existential questions. Not an old friend like she’s old, but a person that I use to know (cue music). She burned some bridges with the friend group I’m a part of and never really reached back out to that group. She’d reached out to me here and there, but never in person–just via Instagram and text. She was wondering what I was doing, what some other old friends were doing with their lives. She was obviously trying to decide what her next step is. I don’t know what that next step is for her. I’ve always been a self possessed individual. It’s easy for me to know where to step next. I mean, it was in 8th grade when my English teacher told me I should be a writer. It seemed like a bit of a joke at the time–the dyslexic kid becomes a writer–but now it doesn’t sound like a joke at all. It totally makes sense. I love the things that are the most difficult for me to pick up.

So to be a writer, to learn what I needed, there were certain classes I could take that would give me added knowledge in the area. I don’t mean to say every writer should enroll in an MFA, in fact some definitely should not. But it’s been good for me. The education isn’t really about the diploma, though the diploma is nice, but about the lessons I’ve learned through the program.

This friend I have (not me at all, I promise) really doesn’t know hat she wants to do. There’s just so many choices. This seems like a symptom of our modern life. Everything seems just at our fingertips, so it’s difficult to decide on what to dedicate your time to. I’ve seen it so many times before as I’ve grown up. The thing is, you can’t be good at everything. I would even argue that you can’t be good at anything at all, just a little more refined in your technique than others.

Especially in a world that validates the waste of time in so many ways with TV and Sports and technology that then is shared with others, it’s difficult to stay focused. Why put myself through such an uncomfortable situation as revising an essay when I could go to the beach and lay in the sun? I mean, there aren’t that many days like today in Seattle each year–I gotta take advantage of the weather–right? But the thing is, you can always make excuses for your lack of dedication.

What I’m trying to say is this: If you’re going to do something and want to be good at it, you need to put in the hours. Nothing comes easy to anyone, even though you may have a proclivity or aptitude for certain things. But you can’t rely on talent because if you do, other’s who are more dedicated will beat you to it.

The Medium of Less

If you’re a big reader I can imagine you’d want your kid(s) to be also. I think that really hurt my mom because she wanted me to love reading as much as she did. She would hang out on the couch with a book on dark winter nights and just lose herself. I liked talking with her about those books and stories, even if I didn’t like reading. I remember her telling me all about The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver–that was when Kingsolver was hitting it out of the ball park and was the next great thing on the shelves. Now she’s an old hand.

Anyway, I think, after all the specialists my parents took me too and all the poor results they had with getting me to enjoy reading my mom lost hope. I think I would have. What’s the point of trying to teach someone something when they try everything they can to NOT LEARN IT. The thing was, I was learning to read. I was playing card games and video games that included reading. Still, it wasn’t the TYPE of reading my mom wanted me to like. And maybe that’s the problem.

You might not know, but smartphone novels are now a thing. A smartphone novel is a novel written to be read on a smartphone. Apparently it’s very popular in Japan. See, most avid readers would be rather put off by reading on their phones for 5 minutes, let alone the time it takes to read a novel. But in Japan, apparently, smartphone novels are really big and lots of people read them while on public transportation and such. It makes sense if a writer can get an episodic form down that keeps people reading.

What I’m trying to say is this: just because someone likes a different medium by which something is diseminated doesn’t make it less.

Of course there are people who would disagree with me. Acadamia is a culprit in this type of thinking, oftentimes disparaging forms of literature that the institution doesn’t find deep or metaphorical enough. But the truth is, reading and the written word is metaphorical by nature.

So, it didn’t seem to occur to my mom to let me play more video games because it forced me to read. Instead she thought reading Brother Bear one more time would be the right way to go, which I hated. Of course she lost hope. She didn’t realize I was getting all the reading practice I needed from a medium she saw as “less.”

Civilian Was A Tough One

Before Halo came out, my parents took me to a couple other specialists I haven’t told you about.

The first one was a weekend long workshop of sorts. We went to a ladies how where she worked with me for 5 or 6 hours a day in order to trouble shoot those “problem words” I had. Problem words, you might remember, were ones like “though” and “the” and words that have no image to go along with them. She said I couldn’t relate an image to them, and as I’m an imaged base thinker, that was really difficult for me. I think she was right about the imaged thinking part, because I do think in images a lot and not language.

Her process, she taught me, was to first learn the alphabet backwards. No idea what good this did me. I could say it backwards for like, a month, and then forgot it. The next thing we did was take clay and shape the letters out of it. We did the whole alphabet and then would use those clay letters to put words together. I’d trace the letters and say the words as I did so. This was suppose to instill the “problem words” in my mind. The best part of the weekend for me was my dad said I could watch Terminator 2. So he pretty much bribed me.

The other lady we went to was weird. She had a unorganized house and thought, if I saw words with a colored piece of transparent plastic over the page, I’d be able to read better. The green we used made the words look cooler, in my estimation, but I couldn’t read them any better.

Eventually I stopped with the clay forming of letters and words. I stopped going to Amy and getting Pokemon Cards. I stopped seeing Val and doing treasure hunts, I even stopped reading with my parents. I think they just sorta gave up. They gave up because every single specialist we’d seen, eventually, told them I’d never read above a 4th grade level. And so my parent’s were like, “what’s the point?”

Of course, just some months after this was when Halo came out, and I started to read anyway. I think I had gained the basics enough to fumble my way through novel. And when I needed help I just asked a friend what this word or that word was. Civilian was a tough one for me to remember.