why your talent may be holding you back or what a cartoon frog taught me about the nature of creativity.
One of my favorite cartoons from back in the day is One Froggy Evening. You know the one, it’s where a construction worker finds a metal box hidden in the cornerstone of a building he’s demolishing. He opens the box and out jumps a frog who immediately grabs a top hat and cane and begins dancing and singing. The worker never considers how the frog survived in the cornerstone of a building or how it can possibly sing and dance. Instead, he immediately sees dollar signs and sneaks off with his find to make his fortune. He devises scheme after scheme to showcase the frog’s singing ability but each time the frog falls silent, so no one ever sees him perform except the man. Failing every time, the man becomes homeless and in frustration abandons the frog in the foundation of another building being built. Fifty years later another construction worker finds the frog and the cartoon ends with the future man sneaking away with the frog, his head filled with dollar signs to begin the process all over again.
I’ve seen this cartoon literally hundreds of times before but this time it didn’t seem so funny because it made me think. That frog is like the talent we were born with. When we realize we have it, many of us hang our hopes and dreams on it, without doing any of the hard work required to grow and nurture it into a form good enough to share with the world. We think the raw ability we were born with is enough, but when the time comes to show it to the world it’s not good enough. Eventually, like the man in the cartoon, we get sick of failing and abandon out talent.
I spoke with a writer friend of mine the other day… I use the term writer loosely, she hasn’t written anything but TPS reports for a year. She wakes up every day with the intention to write but takes no action. Still, the burning need to put the words on paper is there.
It haunts her.
Is she that construction worker?
My friend is quite talented, but she wished she didn’t have this talent and wanted it gone, since she felt that it was wasted on her.
Sometimes, so do I.
I go to put the words down but the empty screen laughs at me. When I do fill the screen, the words never flow as they do in my head.
So instead, I concentrate on other things. I worry about marketing, I worry about Amazon bestseller lists, I worry about Facebook ads, I worry about budgets, I worry I worry I worry and the writing doesn’t get done near as much as it should.
Am I that construction worker?
Talent is a funny thing.
Those without it yearn for it. Those with it are often tormented by it. You can have all the talent in the world, when you’re by yourself. When it comes time to display it…nothing, or, when it comes time to do the work to nurture that talent, you do everything but. Or, maybe you’re one of those, “I’m shy about people hearing/seeing/reading my work” people.
Either way, no one but you sees anything you do. In your head, you’re the next Elmore Leonard, Lee Child, Pablo Neruda, but the only thing your work does it take up hard drive space.
Are you that construction worker?
Screw that. Put that frog back in the box where he belongs, and get to work so that the next time he comes out EVERYONE will be able to hear his song.