Frogs… and what they say about talent.

Eden Robins writes what she has just decided to call “quirky fantasy” or “quirkrock”. She also edits Brain Harvest and lives in Chicago, where she is currently trying to do too many things at once.

So check this out, you guys:

It’s an anthropomorphic frog. I drew it. It only took me about two hours. I know, right? How did I draw something so awesome in only two hours?

For me, drawing is an excruciating process. Brain-hurty, frustrating, tedious and ultimately disappointing. My artistic talent peaked somewhere in that golden age of youth between eating my first solid foods and pooping in the appropriate receptacle. I figured that was the end of that story… and I was pretty much fine with it. I would focus on other things I enjoyed and was actually decent at — like softball, or having imaginary friends. I always assumed drawing ability lay in the universe of the Talented — in the world of Some People Are Just Born with It.

But the funny thing about talent is that the more you think about it and try to pin it down to a useful definition, the more elusive it becomes. Is it innate ability? Well, starting when… from birth? What do you really know how to do when you’re born? I can probably say I’m a talented breather, but that’s about it. Somehow, somewhere, there was learning, however early and preliminary it might have been. If talent is a heightened ability to learn, well then that’s just an accessory to skill, isn’t it? Or, if talent is basically an amplified version of interest or passion, you can add a drop of ambition, and suddenly you’ve got something you can hold on to.

Of course, this isn’t to say that there’s no such thing as having an advantage — there are people for whom certain things just seem to be easier. And maybe that’s talent. But really, that’s just a slight boost up the massive mountain of learning and work and effort that everyone who wants to be an expert at something must climb. And sometimes talent — and being told that one has it — can be a crutch to actual achievement, and more importantly, to learning. Because if this idea of innate ability is the preferred state of affairs, then learning takes a sad second place, becoming the thing you’re left with when you don’t “have” talent. I believed this for a long time. I was embarrassed if I couldn’t immediately do something well.  I still am. To be honest, publicly showing this pencil drawing is making me a little nauseous. Thus, it should be no surprise that for a long time, I got very little done.

So here I am. At the base of that intimidating mountain (rendered crappily, no doubt, to match my own abilities). But I want to be able to tell stories in pictures as well as in words, and if I have to draw a thousand crappy frogs before I can move onto the next amphibian (both literal and metaphoric), then so be it.

My next step — also publicly announced here so that I feel obligated to do it — is an ongoing comic strip chronicling my quest to learn how to draw, where the characters in the comic will be portrayed by whatever creature/object I’m learning at the time. First up: frogs. Coming soon to my own neglected blog.

6 comments on “Frogs… and what they say about talent.

  1. Nice post, Eden. I couldn’t agree more about talent. If it just means something’s easier to learn, then in the long run that can only be a moderate advantage, and sometimes a detriment. As a math teacher I see this all the time. Some kids absorb math concepts very simply, but with math you will _always_ sooner or later get to the point where something’s not obvious to you and you have to work to get it. Often the kids who’ve been able to learn everything else without any effort are completely thrown, and just give up and say that whatever they can’t learn easily is stupid anyway so they’re not going to try. Meanwhile kids who’ve had to struggle to learn everything just keep plowing ahead because they’re used to it. They say that Michael Jordan didn’t make the letter basketball team his sophomore year, which is unusual for a person who goes on to the pros. So was he really ‘talented?’ Or did that failure to succeed just make him put his head down and work ten times as hard as everyone else?

  2. I have a soft spot for frogs. :)

  3. Hellbound Heart says:

    you should come to australia and see my green tree frogs!!

  4. WoW, awesome post! I will definitely come back again!

  5. Can I simply say what a reduction to search out somebody who truly is aware of what theyre speaking about on the internet. You definitely know the best way to bring a problem to light and make it important. Extra individuals have to learn this and perceive this side of the story. I cant consider youre not more common because you definitely have the gift.

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