Editing Thyself Part 2, and The Genius in All of Us

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In reviewing The Genius in All of Us, the new David Shenk book subtitled Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong, Annie Murphy Paul gives us some tantalizing insights into a world of personal possibility. "That means there can be no guaranteed genetic windfalls, or fixed genetic limits, bestowed at the moment of conception," she writes in the New York Times Book Review. "Instead there is a continually unfolding interaction between our heredity and our world, a process that may be in some measure under our control."

There could be no one happier than yours truly to read this. My life brings me into constant contact with people of far greater intellect than I believe I'll ever possess,and I was never the smart one in my family. I am only and ever the one who keeps on working hard, who keeps trying, even as failures mount, to get somewhat ahead of myself.

This, apparently, is what Shenk is calling for, to "think of talent not as a thing, but as a process; not as something we have, but as something we do," in the words of the reviewer.

Shenk's own words are quoted here, toward the end of the review. They, too, touch me deeply. I recognize in him the striving that I yesterday described about myself. I am given cause to perhaps stop berating myself when I cannot at first get the sentence right:

“My attitude toward my own writing is simple: I assume that everything I write is rubbish until I have demonstrated otherwise. I will routinely write and rewrite a sentence, paragraph and/or chapter 20, 30, 40 times — as many times as it takes to feel satisfied.”


Beth F said...

There is a lot to be said for this. As with anything, it is practice that makes the difference. I see this in so many areas of life. Some one says of someone else's talent or skill: "I wish I could do that (or do that as good as you can)." What he or she doesn't realize is that the talented person has put in thousands of hours on that skill, whatever it is: writing, knitting, photography, cooking...

septembermom said...

I like the idea of thinking of talent as a process. I think a continuously critical and editorial eye helps us get through life generally. Awesome post Beth.

grete said...

Funny you should write about this book today! Only yesterday I put it on my Amazon wish list. Touching to read about the baseball legend Ted Williams who practiced hitting that ball morning, midday, evening from a very early age. "His whole life was hitting a ball," recalls a boyhood friend. "He always had that bat in his hand. And when he had made up his mind to do something....." The mystery still exists though, for where did all that DETERMINATION come from? And what about YOURS!

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