LOS ANGELES, California – Dr. Frank Crane once narrated a story about a writer who asked an eminent musician why Paderewski was better than other piano players.
This was the musician’s reply: “Did you ever see a horse race? Well, in a close finish, you know, one horse is just a little bit better than the others. That’s why Paderewski is the greatest pianist.”
This enigmatical reply suggests a great deal.
It is the thing we cannot put our finger on, the indefinable, the impalpable, which bridges that fine line between talent and genius.
Work alone won’t take us over the line. It takes us nearer, and we cannot bridge it until we near it, but work alone will not do it.
Determination alone won’t do it. We may grit our teeth and say, “Now something’s got to crack. I will do it.” But determination alone will never create a work of genius.
Education alone won’t do it. It helps, but genius is often a thing apart from books and instruction.
The truth is, genius is something we either have or we have not. If we haven’t, there is nothing we can do about it.
Then, we ask, what is the use talking of it?
This is the answer:
Nobody ever knows whether he has genius or not. Some unpromising specimens have had it. It sometimes does not show itself for years and years, Sometimes it is not recognized until long after the possessor is dead.
No one can tell until he has tried, and he has not tried until he has done his best and continued to do his best for a long time.
De Maupassant, the master of French short story, wrote and tore up what he wrote for give long years, perfecting his art. Later he produced such masterpieces as “Happiness” and “The Piece of String.”
His advice was: “Practice for years. Make yourself as clear as possible, Then in everything you write do your best. Someday the muse may visit you and you will write a masterpiece. And one sonnet or one short story is enough to bring lasting fame.”
As someone has said: “Genius is the matter of a quarter of an hour.” If we always try to do our best, always strive to perfect to the highest possible degree, we may be one of the favored few, but anyhow we will have done our part.
Having genius is something we cannot determine and are not responsible for, but doing our best is entirely within our control.