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Passion, practice and the water table of talent.

Monday, January 23, 2012 by Marianne Elliott

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When I wrote ‘your passion is not enough’ I knew I was beginning to say something, not finishing. I was opening a conversation with myself and with you.

Today I was walking home from a visit with a friend, listening to Zen Howl, by Natalie Goldberg. Natalie said, “Talent is like a water table under the earth and you tap it with your effort and then it comes through you.

And I thought, yes! Effort. That’s what it takes.

But, I then thought, what if your effort is directed in the wrong way? What if you dig in the wrong direction? Effort will only tap us into the water table of talent if we use skill. Right?

That’s why the Buddha went on about skillful means. Right? That’s why I listen to Natalie Goldberg talking about writing. So that when I sit down to write I am practicing to become a more and more skillful writer.

I’ve sat for days on end in a zendo with Natalie. So I had a fairly clear image of her as I listened through my headphones. And I could imagine what she might say to me next.

“Don’t worry so much, Marianne. Why do you need to know what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’?”

(And, I suspect, she might tell me I’m asking the wrong questions. That’s what she said to me when I asked her whether she found it harder to write fiction or non-fiction, which I now agree was a pretty silly question.)

Effort.
Practice.
Craft.
Skill.
Passion.
Persistence.

We need all of them. And we need curiosity. And desire. We need our primary hungers, as Rachel calls them.

And perhaps most of all, we need humility. I need humility. The humility to accept that I won’t find the answers to all my questions. That simply finding the questions themselves is sometimes my practice.

So for tonight, I’ll keep practicing my yoga, my writing, my digging. And if I hit that water table, I’ll be sure to let you know where it is.

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One Response to "Passion, practice and the water table of talent."

  1. Joy says:

    This: “The humility to accept that I won’t find the answers to all my questions. That simply finding the questions themselves is sometimes my practice” resonates strongly within. Thank you for the reflection:)

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