The only secret: Hard work

Here, once again we have the unknowning public looking for some sort of magic explanation as to how the artist does his craft. By magic explanation, I mean an answer other than “hard work”. I bought into this as a child as well.

Too much attention should not be paid to those -writers who say (holding one the while with a fixed and hypnotic gaze): “I don’t really invent the plot, you know-I just let the characters come into my mind and let them take charge of it.” The theory that the mind can remain passive and empty, acting only as a kind of automatic “spirit-hand” for the characters…Writers who work in this way do not, as a matter of brutal fact, usually produce very good books. The lay public (most of them confirmed mystagogues) rather like to believe in this inspirational fancy; but as a rule the element of pure craftsmanship is more important than most of us are willing to admit.

-Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, Ch.5

“Oh, isn’t so-and-so talented on that violin? I wish I could play like that.”

Well, if you had been practicing every day since you were two years old and still practiced 2 hours every day instead of watching TV, it’s very likely you COULD play just like that. Maybe even better. Who knows. Same thing with writing books or playing basketball or programming computers or (fill in the blank).

A friend of mine recently sent me a quote along these lines by composer Philip Glass (whom I’m still a fan of):

Actually I have one secret. It’s a very easy secret. You get up early
in the morning and you work all day. That’s the only secret. Is there
another one?

-Philip Glass