Monday, August 16, 2010

giftedness or just plain loving it?

Can't believe August is almost over! But there's still lots of summer to enjoy. It hit 95 degrees in Seattle over the weekend and we went to the lake to cool off. Wyatt is at church camp as of yesterday. Paul is recuperating from all the fun of fiddling for hours on end. My folks fly in from Kentucky next week. The garden is coming in nicely. So far we've had peas, potatoes, chard, beets, kale, and raspberries. Our wonderful dog, Digger, ate all the blueberries! Yep, he's the dog that didn't make it past the prologue in Courting Morrow Little:)

An interesting discussion came up at fiddle camp and I thought I'd share it with you here. With over 400 musicians there, there were plenty of differing philosophies about music and the people who make it. The subject of giftedness came up. Paul's teacher said that she believes far more in persistence than in giftedness. Progress, not perfection. She mentioned the belief that 10,000 hours (at least) are required to master something like music (or writing). Another grand champion fiddler said he doesn't believe in giftedness, only "the gift of loving something."

I'm not sure what I believe. Is there such a thing as giftedness? Or do people become gifted at something by just plain loving it and doing it so much that they reach the level of mastery that earns them the gifted title? Hmmm. I don't know how to explain those folks who come along once in a century or so ~ individuals like Mozart and Dickens and Shakespeare and Einstein. I'd love to know your thoughts.

Our winner for Melissa Burton's historical, With Purpose and Promise, is...


A man of genius is unbearable, unless he possesses at least two things besides: gratitude and purity. ~Nietzsche

Niether a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of a genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius. ~Mozart

Genius does what it must, and talent does what it can. ~Owen Meredith, Earl of Lytton


  1. Congratulations, Sally!!!

    Your garden sounds so good, Laura. Especially the raspberries.

    The question of giftedness is a very interesting one. During high school, I participated in academic competition. Coming from that background, I can say I wholeheartedly believe some people are gifted. I've known people who can solve complicated calculus problems in their head without so much as writing the problem down. How else do you explain it, other than that person was gifted in math?

  2. I think it is a combination of gifts and passion. I was gifted to be able to read music easily. My passion for piano made me practice every day. Writing has been so different. It doesn't come easily, and yet I am compelled to do it.

    What a great discussion-starter!

    81 degrees this morning! It's so NICE outside!!!


  3. Laura, my husband and I had a talk about giftedness on our weekly hike this past Saturday morning. He'd completed his first week of school and had clearly had a great time. I said that didn't surprise me because he's a gifted teacher. He disagreed, remarking that he works hard at what he does. I responded with my take: giftedness means an abundance of inborn talent in one particular area. However, one must still work to make use of that talent, as Gwynly does.

    Shifting the focus to writing, I have seen the work of those who are obviously gifted with the use of words, you being one. However, I know you still have to invest countless hours creating your stories. In contrast, there are those like me who have studied craft, read the works of others, and practiced for years before we began producing prose that showed promise.

    Giftedness is a gift, and I love when someone who has a special innate, God-given ability chooses to use it. The results are often stunning. But just because one isn't gifted doesn't preclude the possibility of learning to write, teach, play the fiddle . . .

  4. Great question!

    I think it depends on what the talent is we're talking about.

    We can learn a lot of things and passion can take you far in many areas. I believe writing is like that. It takes work, depending on where you start on the "giftedness" level, but I think publishing success will come to those who stick with it.

    But in somethings like singing, passion will only take you so far. A person who is tone deaf, or who doesn't have the voice quality needed to go beyond a shower concerts probably won't be singing at La Scala. No matter how many voice lessons this person gets, their voice will only marginally improve.

    Interesting questions. Made me think, and despair that no matter how much I want to be a dancer, I probably never will be. Not much giftedness there!

  5. Michelle,
    Oh what a perfect example. Since I'm NOT a math person, I am always amazed at those who can even perform the simplest calculations on paper! Doing difficult problems in one's head would certainly qualify as gifted! Especially during the pressure of competition!

    I love finding out these insights about readers. It's so interesting to hear you were involved in academic competitions. I have a feeling you are as a good in math as you are English/literature/writing:)

    My husband is the modern day equivalent of an old-time blacksmith (he's a journeyman sheetmetalist) of 20 years. Most people have never heard of them. These obscure folks do math in their head all day, mostly measuring and fractions and then bend all kinds of metal based on the calculations for projects, etc. I think Randy is gifted in math but not super-so (hope he's not reading this). How's that for a word:)? I'm thinking there are different levels of giftedness. Hmmm, that's a whole other arena:)

  6. Regina,
    So happy you're cooler today!! The temps have been blistering back there. With high humidity, it's no picnic. Praying they stay that way for you. In the meantime, I covet your heat. We're back to sweater-weather here!

    Love that you said your love/passion for piano "made" you practice. So true! Somehow piano seems to fit your personality as I know it:) That's a delightful surprise to find out about you. Yet you feel compelled to write, also, but perhaps not with the same passion. Yet something about writing has you hooked!

    That said, I think people can be gifted in several things. And we know who gives us the gifts to begin with:)

  7. Oh Keli,
    So well said! When we're given a gift, it is our responsibility to cultivate and use it. A tragic thing that spurred me to keep writing happened in college. A friend of mine had to leave school for a time because her father died. On his deathbed he told her that he knew he'd been gifted to write but he'd been too afraid or had not invested the time to use it. That was his dying regret. He'd spent his whole life not doing the one thing he felt he was called to do. She was a writer, too. Hearing that really hit home with me about what God expects of us as good stewards of the gifts He's given us. No regrets, then...

    I love how you contrast those who write more naturally as opposed to those who want to learn it, yet both have to work hard at mastering it. It's such a mystery to me. I've often said I would make a terrible writing teacher because I can't explain how to write. But those who study the craft and master it make wonderful teachers AND writers:)

    Your weekly hikes sound inspiring and romantic! Thanks so much for taking time here. I know how busy you are. You always bless where ever you go!

  8. Hi Laura- I love your post today. I believe that it is a combination of both being gifted and cultivating your talent. I believe we are gifted with a special talent. Once we know what that gift is then we are responsible to use it for God's glory. (Someone else might have already said that, but I didn't read through all the comments.)

    I also want to say that your story about your friend's father was very touching. I think that is my biggest fear in life. Coming to the end and having a regret. My heart hurts for him, but is thankful that it spurred you to keep writing! Your books are such a blessing!

  9. Kristen, I had to laugh with you about the dancing part:) Though I know you are gifted in voice/drama! I remember reading that about you!

    You make such a good point. Some things, even those we love, like art or music, may not be our forte if we can't paint or sing:) As for dancing..

    Recently at fiddle camp, they had a professional caller in the evenings for the square dancing. One night was devoted to only the kids. There were about 75 or so on the floor. It was soon obvious who had natural ability and who didn't. Paul, bless him, can fiddle but can't dance (his mother can do neither!). But he did try hard and might be better in time. I'm like you and would love to dance (and fiddle). In heaven, maybe:)

  10. Stacey,
    I'm so glad you take time for my blog posts:) You are so busy and it really blesses me!

    My friend's father is such a sad example but after reading your comment it struck me, based on what you said, that God even used his misuse or lack of stewardship for his daughter's and my benefit. Amazing! Thank you for pointing that out, even if you didn't mean to:) So in the end his life had meaning if only for the next generation... God is so good at redeeming things that are hopeless. I like to think her father is writing in heaven. I think we will all be gifted immensely there in many ways. I've often imagined picking up a violin and playing it like Joshua Bell or Itzhak Perlman, etc. First try:)

  11. Melissa, and Laura, thanks for the book! I'm excited to read it.

    As for me, I'm in the combo department. I think having a gift can give you the desire, but you still have to put in the time to perfect your skill. But without the desire caused by some giftedness, it's unusual that people would even bother.

  12. Hi Laura!

    I think we're each born with certain talents, but they can remain underdeveloped if we don't put in the work, and develop the passion along the way... or discover the passion and then work it until it shines, whichever way it works out. I think it goes both ways.

    Also, those who have the same talent can be born with it in varying degrees, but how far you go with it still comes down to hard work and dedication. Someone with a little talent and a LOT of dedication can go farther than someone with lots of talent but no discipline to work until they excel.

    That's my 1.5 cents on the subject anyway.

    It's forcasted to hit 105 here today. I give up! I give in! Can we please have fall now?

  13. Interesting question! Hmmm, its hard to say! I believe that the most important aspect of someone having a gift is having others that nurture that gift. I think everyone has natural inclinations, and very strong ones some times....but I think we all tend to put our focus towards things that we've received praise or encouragement about. I loved to write and create art at a very early age, even before I had a clear grasp on spelling ;) but I did receive lots of positive feedback very early on for these interests so I naturally wanted to repeat things that brought me praise.
    Other interests, like say dancing, were there in seedling form to a be a talent but I didnt stick with them because I felt like I wasnt shining in them. I remember the exact moment I quit dance was the moment someone came up to the little girl in a tutu beside me and told her what a great dancer SHE was. The woman didnt say a word to the other little baby ballerinas who were standing right there with her. At that moment, I was done ;) and as an adult that makes me sad I didnt give it more of a try, but that's how life goes!
    Because of this I think encouragement and support are the best things you can give a child. I grew up in a family of math haters and math class flunkers (yep, I even flunked College Algebra myself!) with this mindset I have a complete fear and nervousness about math. My husband, however, is pretty gifted with it, and felt so even as a little child and took difficult math classes because he felt he was just supposed to. So it nature? is it nurture? Either way, I think nurture is a big factor in having a gift :)

  14. Wow. You really know how to zing one at us. I agree that this is a great conversation starter! I think I might just have to chew on this one for awhile because I'm just not sure!

    The first question that pops into my head is: Can someone be really gifted at something for which they have no passion, for which they may actually loathe? Aside from the fact that I loathe ironing but I happen to (thankfully) be good at it! LOL

    But I tend to think that when someone is gifted, especially in the arts, they like what they do and they are willing to invest time and energy in it to "perfect" it. Or perfection, as it is, comes about because of the time and energy.

    Then there are genuises whose talent and skill are effortless.

    Interesting stuff to ponder :-)

  15. Excellent question, Laura.

    I do believe God gifts each of us with different talents, but it is up to us to cultivate that gift & not let it die.

    As for those who work very hard to learn something, that's more of an acquired skill, yet equally impressive.

  16. Sally, Yes, so true, without the desire, what's the point?! Passion for something is so important and keeps us going over time. I've never had any desire to do certain things like bungee jump or play the bagpipes (well, maybe the latter) but I can't not write!

    I'm so glad you're the winner! I think you'll really enjoy Melissa's book. If you could send me your snail mail addy at, I'll mail that right out with a bookmark or two. Bless you for stopping by. Always a better conversation for you being in it:)

  17. Hi Lori!
    You are really cooking down there ~ no wonder you don't like the heat!

    I agree that drive and stick-to-it-tiveness go a long way. It's so sad when people miss their calling. And I think we really do have varying degrees of giftedness like you said.

    I think 10,000 hours is actually a pretty conservative number. For some of us who've been writing since childhood, we've gone beyond that. I'm always amazed when people sort of stumbled into writing later in life and get published in a couple of years. That leaves me scratching my head! They have far more talent than I!

  18. Heather,
    Nurture is HUGE and shouldn't be overlooked. Thank you:) How sad that incident happened with a thoughtless comment! Those are the kind of things that people remember for a lifetime. But like you said, our encouragers have a lasting impact, as well. I can just imagine you as a child with your art. You must have loved it then so much - I hope you kept some of your childish art like I have my writing. It's fun to look at it now so many years later.

    You are a fine writer, too, and...skater:) The latter is something I've always wanted to do. You are so wise to hand that love down to your daughter! Will be fun to see what she grows up loving to do.

  19. Mary,
    I'm chuckling at your ironing comment:) I love to iron (isn't that strange?) but am terrible at it! I ironed a dress for church yesterday and it looked better before I started:)

    I am always amazed by those at genius level you mentioned who just sort of showed up and picked up a violin (Mozart) and was playing before kings at age 3!! Or so says Paul's violin teacher. A real child prodigy. Can you imagine? He certainly had the passion for music all his life. I love his quote here as he says intellect and imagination don't count nearly as much as love, love, love for "it", whatever it may be:)

    Bless you for chiming in. Always need a Mary moment:)

  20. Brenda,
    That's the wording I was looking for ~ "acquired skill." I tend to admire those people more as it is probably more difficult for them and requires a greater dedication than those who just seem to come by it naturally, if there is such a thing (and we all seem to think there is).

    "Letting it die" is a frightening concept. I think, sadly, that many non-Christians miss their calling and lead unfulfilled lives. But that's another subject entirely and probably somewhat controversial.

    Hoping your reading and writing are going well! Can't wait to meet you in Indy:)

  21. Laura, you've made me smile that you think I'm good at math. Alas, I am not. I would say I'm about average, and I really love calculators. However, I can estimate percentages in my head, thanks to my grandfather.

    It's also funny that you mentioned literature. Would you believe I was actually roped into doing language arts? I started off in social studies, and my freshman year of high school my coach suggested I also do language arts. I ended up doing rather well with both, but I always had more success with social studies.

    I think passion for something and giftedness can go hand in hand. I've mentioned before that I absolutely love figure skating, well actually I would say I have an obsession with it. ;) Some of the skaters who had the most natural talent were the ones who ended up crashing and burning. The ones who had a great work ethic achieve wonderful results, but the ones who are able to combine both the passion and the work ethnic those are the great ones.

  22. Hey Laura! This is a great question and instantly made me think of that quote by William Shakespeare, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them." But I think that no matter which category you find yourself listed under, if your heart isn't in it then you won't get very far. I guess it all depends on the person. That's all I got, everyone else's comments were so wonderful I don't think I could add anything more, LOL!

    Congratulations on your fruitful garden, and I'm with Michelle for the raspberries! I wish we could boast of such a harvest but so far all we have to show for our efforts is a few tomatoes and some shriveled basil- thankfully we're better at cooking food than we are at growing it ;) And it's so nice to hear your folks will be flying in, I'm sure your so excited! Praying you have a wonderful visit and that the weather stays warm and sunny!

    And thank you for those BEAUTIFUL quotes! I'm off to go add them to my journal :D

    Amanda Stanley

  23. Wow -- what a great discussion going on here! I'm not sure what to think. Definitely just possessing a gift doesn't mean you'll do great things with it unless you work at it. Hmmm...but even as I write that I think of child prodigies. There's Rhema Marvanne -- 7 year old gospel singer who can belt out a song like nobody else. Truly gifted, but at seven can we say she's worked at it? She's certainly used her gift brain hurts from thinking so hard.

  24. Michelle,
    If you can do percentages in your head, you are way ahead of me:) I still struggle with my X tables! One of the reasons I put Wyatt in public school last year was my inability to teach higher math. He went from making an F starting 7th grade to an A by the end of the year, thanks to a competent Algebra teacher. Guess he gets his math smarts from his dad like you do your grandfather.

    You and Heather here are ice skating fans. I love to watch myself but only skated a few times on a river in Ohio and that was mostly skating on the sides of my feet as my ankles became too tired to hold my legs up! But it's so beautiful to watch when someone has talent and passion for it, like you said.

  25. Oh, Michelle and Heather, I'm about to write an ice-skating scene in book 4!! Forgot to mention that when skating came up:) Though I imagine those 18th-c. skates were a far cry from those of today!

  26. Amanda,
    YAY, you're here!! I'll admit I logged off here last night wondering where you were hiding:) So happy to wake up to your comments.

    Love the Shakespeare quote. Wonder if he considered himself born great, achieving it, or having it thrust upon him? So glad you like the quotes. There are so many wonderful ones out there. I just found another book of quotes in an old drawer and blew the dust off. So stay tuned:)

    We actually had to replant our garden several times this year (well, Randy did). This has been such a wet, cold spring we have very few apples on our apple trees, sadly. Randy is now rationing cider! I envy you your tomatoes - they don't grow well here at all, nor basil, which is one of my favorite herbs. Not even in a window!

    Anyway, bless you today in all that you do, dear friend!

  27. Kav,
    So glad you're here!!
    So glad you mentioned these child prodogies (sp?). I will have to look up Rhema on Youtube which is where my boy's found an 8 year old opera singer on the show "America's Go Talent" recently. She is absolutely amazing! Has the voice of an angel. But you're point is so spot on - no, they haven't lived long enough to work at it, bless them. They just opened their mouths, I'm guessing, and out it came:) Hmmm, oh, if we writers could only do the same...

    Back to work for me:)

  28. I read this post after I saw the youtube of Jackie Evancho.

    She is truly gifted.
    I think many have been given a special talent which can be cultivated. This girl is an example of what it is to be gifted. Extraordinary.

  29. I think that we are only good at something through the grace of God. God has a plan for all of us and if we need to be good at something I think he will inspire us to pursue it.

  30. Carla, I think, like you, that everyone has been given a special talent that needs nurturing. Jackie is one of those lucky souls who is gifted right off the bat. I'm glad she discovered it early as it will give so many pleasure simply hearing her angelic voice:)

    Have missed you! So glad you're back from retreat!

  31. Erica,
    YES! Only through God's grace are we good at anything at all! I'm so glad you mentioned inspiration, such an important 11 letter word:) Only by His grace and then His inspiration are we to use it for His glory.

    You are so wise for being so young!!