“You’re a writer, so write! Maybe you’ve got something to say.” – Harold Ross, editor of “The New Yorker”, to James Thurber(1)
Everyone has talent. You, me, the dustman, the dustman’s daughter’s second cousin’s brother-in-law’s daughter. I’m not talking about the “Britain’s Got” variety, which seems to involve dancing dogs, or playing the “Trumpet Voluntary” under water whilst juggling 19 gooseberries. Though it might. I don’t know you. I don’t know what you’re good at.
For some of us, whatever gift we do have withers on the vine, til it dies or, at best, becomes a “Sunday painter” sort of hobby.
Often, though not always, this is down to what I refer to as the “Richard Tauber Effect” (RTE). I once knew someone – I’ll call him “Dad” – who had a wonderful tenor voice. A voice, moreover, that he loved to use, and which he did: whilst washing up, or socialising, or in a male voice choir.
He never made a vocation of it, though.
This was due to his love – awe, even – of the talented Richard Tauber. Never heard of him? That’s probably because you’re not dead.(2) According to Dad’s wife, whilst Dad loved music, most of his favourite singers were from the generation before him.
Dad’s reason for not pursuing his love of music, and singing, went like this: he, Dad, had a good voice. Tauber, however, had a brilliant one. No matter how hard he tried, Dad could never be as good as Richard Tauber. So, why bother?
For a long time, I only took tentative stabs at writing. Because I, too, had the RTEs.
I was fortunate enough to meet a promising young writer just as they were starting out on what has been an amazing – both in terms of quality, and success – career as a novelist. Their books sold, and continue to sell, extremely well.
I was pleased for them. I was also a tad envious.(4) Which was okay, since it was only a bit.
But then the RTE set in. What, I asked myself, was the point? I was never going to be as a) gifted, b) erudite, or c) interesting as my friend. So, why bother?
The thing is, my friend didn’t give me the RTEs, any more than Richard Tauber – who died in 1948 – gave them to Dad.
Does the world really need another singer like Tauber, another writer like my friend? Which is preferable: to be a tribute band, or to perform our own original material?
If you want to be a professional musician, writer, painter, chef, or, indeed, someone known world-wide for their ability to play the trumpet in a tank full of koi carp, just go for it. Do it, now.
And don’t ever let the RTEs get you down.
(1) From “The Years with Ross” by James Thurber
(2) An assumption I make about my readers. I could of course be wrong. (3)
(3) Mom? Is that you?
(4) I’m only human. (5)
(5) Last I checked.