I remember the first time I felt like a fraud of a creative. I was standing in the short walkway between my office and the deputy editor’s office. Despite being a few months younger than me, she was to become my beloved mentor.
Her confidence wasn’t the obvious type. She wasn’t the archetypical boss. When she walked through the office, you didn’t feel like you needed to straighten up in your chair, close the not-appropriate-for-work screen on your computer, and look alive. It wasn’t her leadership skills, either. It was the faith she had in her craft that had me at hello.
At the time when I met her, I had already brushed shoulders with several professional creatives in the past. I even dated a few. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, maybe creative talent would rub off on me like a sticky STD. Like any devoted groupie will tell you, it doesn’t. And even though I had a front-row seat to the show, I was so busy being in awe of the talent that I failed to realize and admit that I wanted to be one, too.
It wasn’t until years later, when I landed my first magazine job, that I was treated as an equal. In her action and her expectations, my deputy editor managed to see me as her fellow writer. Yet, inside my imposture heart, I feared we were anything but alike.
As we stood in the hallway, musing as we often did, she began to tell me about the time she wrote an entry for a child version of Chicken Soup for the Soul when she was in grade school. That is when I realized she was one of those creatives. You know, the kind who always knew they had a love for expression. The kind of artist who was supported and guided from a young age. She was committed to her art, and her art was committed to her.
I imagined her drafting her first published piece in her childhood bedroom with the door slightly open, offering her just enough privacy to create, but also making it very clear that she wasn’t hiding. I presumed her writing had purpose.
As for me, my earliest memories of writing were the times I would lock myself in my bedroom to write my oh-so complicated, high school love stories and those of my friends. No one in my family knew I was writing. And to be honest, I didn’t even know I was writing. It felt more like an impulse — like a necessity.
Although writing felt like a necessity, similar to breathing, it didn’t feel special. The practice was an extension of myself. And for that reason, I never saw it as a gift.
I find this to be true for many artists. Our talents feel so natural that we don’t even notice they are gifts. And since they just feel like one piece of our whole, there’s really no reason to nurture that one specific piece. Eventually, the gift goes unnoticed and, therefore, never cultivated.
Even when I hit that place in my life where I felt dissatisfy with my work, I tried to look back for signs for anything that would signal my purpose. People tell you to find your passion – to look at your past for clues. All my past looked like was extraordinarily ordinary.
As I stood in that hallway in awe of my co-worker’s accomplishment, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “She’s going to figure me out.” Somehow I had found my way into this job as an associate editor at a local magazine. I earned it, yet in a weird way, I always felt like I cheated to get there.
I did not study English literature or journalism at school. The first time I ever read a full novel was in college — and it was chick lit. I was an awful speller, and an overall average student growing up. In other words, I wasn’t being groomed to be a writer. In fact, my talent was so raw that for most of my life I didn’t even know it was there.
THE TWO KINDS OF TALENTS
As the years have gone on, I’ve learned that there are two types of talents: the ones we learn and nurture to reach some level of mastery, and our God-given talents. God-given talents are the ones that surprise us. It’s like that time you picked up a guitar for the first time and realized, “Wow, I feel at home here.” That’s what writing was for me. I had never really practiced it, but once I indulged, I realized I was home.
And then we have learned talents. These are the things we enjoy and because of that, we’ve practice a lot to a point where we’ve reached some level at mastery. Perhaps you played piano growing up. You practice enough to make your talent pretty good, but in the back of your mind, you know you weren’t necessarily made to play piano.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
Your gifts are clues towards what you’re supposed to be doing in this lifetime. There is no greater tragedy than leaving our God-given talents dormant. Sometimes we don’t discover them until much later in life. The timing really doesn’t matter. What is important is that we constantly create space to allow those gifts to show themselves.
Giving them space means constantly following our curiosity. The things that spark our interests are always worth pursuing — even if it’s just for a short period of time.
We also want to take our talents seriously. Never ever do we want to pass them off as silly or just a fluke in the talent factory. Absolutely not. They are in you for a reason. Use them, and you will eventually discover why they are there.
Within the practice of using our talents we discover how God intends to use us. And isn’t that what we all want? To be used in the way we were intended to be use. That synchronicity, to me, is an essential part of our individual spiritual paths.
My prayer for you is that you begin to walk it today.