Is becoming a great writer all about talent or more about tenacity? Donal O’Donoghue on the not so simple twists of fate
Do you believe in fate, destiny or any of that jazz? Are you of the belief that your future is already written before you even live the opening scene? Of course if the stars are so aligned why bother with New Year resolutions or midlife revolutions? Why not just play the cards as they fall? Maybe in some ways it’s like that old line that everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. So while you might want the comfort of destiny or fate to assuage guilt, at the same time you don’t want to gamble everything on just one hand. Hence the backstop of the resolution, that this time it will be different, that this time we can change our world.
Of course, the reach of fate is not the same as the quirk of serendipity. Like the fact that I was writing about The Beatles’ track ‘Revolution 9’ when I happened to open up Richard Russo’s book of essays, The Destiny Thief, on a random page. The first thing I read was Malcolm Gladwell’s “the ten-thousand-hour rule” which he argues is how long it takes most people to get really good at something difficult. Gladwell cites the example of the fledgling Fab Four playing Hamburg, a gruelling eight days a week itinerary, as the thing that transformed them. In other words, genius is not enough to get you over the line. Most authors who have been through the mill will argue for tenacity being as crucial as talent. The former will only get you so far, the latter is where you pay your dues. Russo writes of this in his book of essays, how it was not his god-given gifts but sheer doggedness that got him to the heights of success. Destiny or good fortune or fate might be in the alchemical mix but you have to make it happen. So we’re back with our shoulder to the wheel, resolution and revolution in our heads, and a hard road ahead. Unless you believe that destiny will do all the hard work, which is a bit like playing roulette without a ball.
The Beatles: Made in Germany?