When You Feel Talentless

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By Rondi Bauer Olson

A few months ago I had a difficult time leaving behind the world of a book I’d read. I thought about the characters and plot for weeks, reread the book a couple of times, and journaled my favorite passages. At first, I just enjoyed the experience. I gained a better understanding of people from a certain time period and, in that way, myself. But then my thoughts turned from the awesomeness of the story to the awesomeness of the author. A sinking feeling told me I would never be able to craft a world and characters the way she had. Her work was so amazing, it made mine seem almost worthless by comparison.

I felt like the one-talent worker in Jesus’s Parable of the Talents, or Antonio Salieri from the film Amadeus (1984). Like Antonio, I almost felt cursed by what I viewed as my mediocrity, and wondered why God had even given me the passion to create when others out there were so much better at my art than I was. I wanted to bury my one talent.

For a while I fell into a writer’s funk, which means I didn’t write at all, but I did keep reading, and one of the books I pulled off the shelf was a childhood favorite I hadn’t read in decades. Reading with more mature, trained eyes, I realized maybe my beloved childhood book wasn’t the best piece of literature in the world. The author used too many adverbs, told when she could have shown, and the dialogue was often stilted and unrealistic. A little research also filled me in to the fact this author never had mega sales, and would today be what we would call a mid-list author. But do you know what? That never mattered to me when I was a kid, and honestly, it doesn’t matter to me now. The book had a huge impact on my life, and the story resonates as much with me today as it did then.

Going back to Jesus’s parable, it’s clear we aren’t supposed to bury our talent just because it seems embarrassingly small, and many can attest to talents multiplying through hard work and education, but I think there’s more to it than that. Even though sometimes our abilities seem inadequate, and our writing not as brilliant as we would like, God can use whatever we offer for his glory.

Have you ever felt discouraged about your writing? Maybe an appointment with an editor or agent at the conference didn’t go the way you had hoped, or you received a particularly stinging review or critique. Maybe, like me, you lost your faith after reading someone else’s work that seemed so much better than your own. No matter what the cause of discouragement, don’t bury your talent! Your writing is of value, and something no one but you can do. Be faithful to your calling, and leave the results to God.

Rondi OlsonRondi Bauer Olson is a reader, writer, and animal wrangler from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her debut novel for young adults, ALL THINGS NOW LIVING, was a finalist in the 2012 Genesis Contest and is scheduled for release in 2016 by Written World Communications. See more at www.7thdaughter.com.

Comments 0

  1. I never started writing until mid-life and I think a large part of the reason was knowing I couldn’t write like C. S. Lewis, whose Narnia Chronicles were my childhood favorites. I didn’t realize that learning to write was a process or that there could be satisfaction and even ministry in writing that didn’t quite reach that level. My career has never “taken off” in a big way, but I have no regrets with sticking to it, and I keep plugging away at that sequel that readers are asking for.

  2. This message is great encouragement. Thank you so much. I am just beginning to write and have so much to learn. 🙂

  3. My greatest fault is writing articles and plays, etc, but not submitting them for publication. This is another form of burying our talent. We have to believe in each process of writing, not just everything but submission. So, your encouragement is excellent! You followed through and became published. Each of us should do the same.

  4. John – You aren’t the only one with this problem! I meet someone at a conference this year who asked me to pester her until she submitted at least one of her short stories. Mission accomplished! Whether her work is accepted or rejected, she’s taken a big step. Sometimes we all need a cheerleader.

  5. Yes! We’ve been spectators, cheerleaders, and on-the-field writers. Each position is a learning experience. But being on-the-field, having editors too our manuscript back to us, having editors toss our manuscript back to us for more revision, etc. is challenging. Keep encouraging other writers to stay on-th-field. It’s by far the best place to learn.

  6. I feel like this all the time in my day job teaching. I have to remind myself often that I may not be the best teacher, but I reach certain students and they are very near to my heart.

    I really needed this article. I still doubt my writing and have not yet sought publication. I need to get over my fear of rejection and think about the lives that I might touch, just like I do with my teaching.

    (Amadeus is one of my favorite movies and I know exactly how Salieri feels!!!!)

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