A Little of a Lot of Things

Hurray for blogging! I’ve been on my feet all day, and if it weren’t for my wanting to continue the discipline of daily blogging, I’d be on my feet still.

I’ve been sorting and packing, which I’m sure seems as ludicrously long a task to you as it does to me since I’ve been working at getting packed for more than four months now. I don’t even have much personal stuff, maybe two dozen boxes of household goods, office supplies, and personal items, and that’s it. Well, three dozen if I include Jeff’s video collection and his VCRs, which I’m keeping for now. I have no furniture, no massive shoe collection, no clothes dating back to my youth, no vast number of books (no shelves to put them on, you see).

But when you’ve done a little of lot things for decades, you end up with a little of a lot of things. And that’s what I am having to deal with — a little of a lot of things and a lot of little things.

handmade miniature rosesToday I sorted through a few boxes of flowers and flower-making supplies and condensed it all down to two boxes. Took me all day. I can see the frown on your face. Why would that take so long, you’re wondering. Well, the flowers are very, very small. To show you how small, I took a photo of this pot of roses sitting on a quarter. Each petal of each rose was individually made, and if you look closely, you can probably see my fingerprints.

I don’t know if I will ever make any more flowers or flower arrangements, but I’m not about to toss out or give away the thousands of hours of work I have stored in those two boxes. And that’s just one of the many things I have had to sort through during these past months.

For most of my life, I made crafty things for a living (a sparse living, but what the heck. I never starved), and I got good at creating unique items. Because of this, I can do anything within a very narrow range. (Successful marketing, unfortunately, is outside that range.) My two or three remaining wholesale customers for miniature cloth dolls (1-1/2” tall, fully clothed) want me to keep making the dolls. My few fans and my publisher want me to go back to writing. The people who have seen my jewelry, think I should go back to plying my pliers. Those who have seen my various scale miniatures think I should go back to trying to make a living at it. (Strangely, though thousands have seen the only piece of art I ever did — a one-inch-tall oil painting — no one has ever suggested I go back to painting. Do you recognize the painting? I tweaked it and used it for the cover of More Deaths Than One, which some people have called the ugliest cover of all time.)

The problem is I don’t want to go back to anything. I want to go forward to . . . I don’t know what. I keep hoping that someday my fingers will fill in the “I want” so I can look at it in amazement and say, “Aha! Why didn’t I think of that?” (My dance teacher wants me to keep dancing, as do I, but we both know there is no career in dancing in my future. Dancing is one of those things that if you start in your teens, you’re already too old.)

Meantime, I am sorting, clearing out what I know I will never use (and of course, those discards could be the very things I will need, but I’m okay with that), and packing the rest until I can figure out what to do with the stuff — or even better, until I can figure out what to do with me.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What is Talent?

I quit a job years ago so I could write a novel — the sensitive and wise story of a love that transcended time and physical bonds. I sat down at my desk, pen in hand, and waited for the words to flow effortlessly from my subconscious, through my fingers, and onto the paper. I waited, and I waited. The paper remained blank.

I couldn’t understand the problem. I’d written poems and short stories, and even summoned the nerve to send one of my better efforts to Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, though they declined to print it.

(Since you asked: the story was about a guy on a train who got stuck sitting next to a smoker. He asked the smoker to put out the cigarette, and when the smoker refused, the guy shot him, proving that smoking really is hazardous to your health. This story may not make sense now, but I wrote it before the prohibition of smoking in public places.)

I thought that since the novel didn’t come effortlessly, didn’t come at all, I had no talent. Perhaps I didn’t. But what I didn’t know then is that by learning and perfecting the craft of writing, one can fake talent. Or maybe talent is perfecting one’s craft. Doesn’t matter. All I know is that now when I sit down to write, I do not expect the story to appear on paper by mental osmosis or as some form of automatic writing. I consciously choose every word. I consciously develop every character. I consciously create every scene. And when the novel is completed, I rewrite it, edit it, polish it. None of it comes effortlessly. But so what if it takes a year, two years, ten years to complete? The joy is in the process, in the effort.

What do you think talent is? Is it something you can learn, or is it innate?

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook