I'd argue that artistic success is true admiration from one's peers. It's hard won and not often bestowed on the popular (though there are obvious exceptions). Charlie Parker, for example, considered one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, was not hugely popular among audiences at the time. Louis Armstrong
had to completely reinvent himself from the hip "young lion" of Weatherbird
and Struttin' With Some BarBQ
, to the entertainer famous for his role in the movie High Society
, and Hello Dolly
. But their art has remained relevant over time, a great test of good art.
There is no separating talent from the other qualities, it's just one piece of a complex puzzle. And at some point, becoming the "best" at whatever you do becomes replaced by a realization that talent is really about our commitment to undertake an inner journey and share some of the treasures we find. In the case of my novelist friend he decided he didn't want it (whatever "it" is) badly enough to really work to get where he needed to be.
In the end, I think "talent" is about the determination to discover who we are, and what we want to say and the effort to do it as well as we can. It is, what it is, nothing more or less. The real challenge is to say something unique and honest, and say it with grace and energy. After that, it's in the lap of the gods whether or not others connect with it.
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