Why I Hate The Word "Talented"
I wrote a list recently in my phone (affectionately called "my device") of blog topics to muse about. Here's the list verbatim:
The Rabbit Hole
Ch-ch-changes (versus the myth of consistency = trust)
Drummers - what makes a good one and how they are the most important part of your band
Complexity in writing music - keep it simple stupid
I'm not going to do any of those but that gives you an idea of what kinds of things I might be blogging about.
This first post is about how much I hate the word "talented". Do I hate it as much as children singing? No. Do I hate it as much as hearing people eat salad? No. Do I hate it as much as I hate people saying they don't hate anything? Yes. That's exactly how much.
It should be noted that while I write this I am listening to The Shaggs.
The problem I have with the word "talented" (see also "gifted" and "impressive") is that it does nothing for me or anyone else as a person or as an artist, unless I'm a narcissist. Well, unless I'm *only* a narcissist...
1. It doesn't suggest that I've worked hard, it implies I've just been born with some sort of magic ability to be good at something. Perhaps we are imbued with certain apititudes in our genes. I don't deny that. A tall person with amazing metabolism might end up being good at basketball. But there are plenty of tall people who suck at basketball, and plenty of short people who are good at it. The reason I'm good at music can't be limited to some genetic gift. I started learning piano when I was 4 years old and I practiced a lot.
2. The reason I write and perform is so I can connect with people. I write and play music so I can communicate an idea or a feeling to someone else in a way that I can't just by talking with someone. I would rather suck at my instrument and have someone say the song I played made them feel something, or meant something to them, than to have amazing technique and have a ton of people tell me I'm talented.
3. It doesn't give me hope or motivation for my career, it just reminds of all the people out there who are good at music who will never "make it" and all of the people who have who aren't very good. In the words of Rita's mother in Sister Act II, "there are a lot of talented people out there singing their shoulda coulda wouldas now is that how you want to end up?"
If anyone reading this is like "huh, I have totally said that to Meg and a lot of people" don't worry. I know that you probably meant it as a compliment. I do take it as such in the moment. I know it is delivered with the kindest of intentions. This is why I'm writing about it.
So all of you amazing, well-intentioned show-goers who I love and need and want to connect with forever - here's my recommendation for what to say instead if you want to show appreciation for a performance:
1. I really liked the <insert descriptive words here> song you played
2. I really enjoyed watching you play
3. You're really good, I liked your set
4. I like the way that you play/sing
5. Your songs are great
6. I had a great time at your show
7. Can I buy your album?
(#7 is my favorite.)
It's equally awesome to talk to a performer about influences, why they wrote something, what kind of instruments and gear they use, what their favorite whiskey is and can you buy them a drink, can you get my autograph on your boob with a sharpie (yes), can you sign my boob with a sharpie (yes), the possibilities are really endless. Just don't say "talented" or eat salad or invite me to your 5-year old's choir concert or you'll get my bitchy resting face.