Brilliance isn’t something you can buy for yourself. You can only receive it as a gift.
Some writers – I’d call them The Lucky Ones except for the fact that their brilliance is usually accompanied by a corresponding (and non-returnable) insanity – are granted the gift by the gods. Or The God. Or the universe. Or fate. (Pick one.)
They’re born with it.
They can’t deny it. They can’t escape it. It is woven into their being. Tell them to write something bad, they’ll try, and brilliance will whisper in the words they choose to leave out.
The naturally brilliant are not perfect. Far from it. But there is an innate and immutable beauty to their imperfection. They know this. They breathe it. They choke on it. The imperfection is where they find the best stories.
Then there are those who aren’t born with brilliance, but are awarded the next best thing: the Badge of Brilliance. Maybe someone gives it to them for a short story. Perhaps they get it for a novel. Or a blog post. They might get it once or a dozen times. It’s given to them by strangers and friends, by the well-informed and the uniformed alike. It means the most when the badge comes from someone they respect, like another writer. A brilliant one, preferably. Some who are given the badge are too humble to wear it so they stuff it in a purse or a pocket. Others display it like a neon sign.
There’s a third group and it’s a Very Big Group. It consists of people who weren’t born with brilliance, and who haven’t been given the badge.
Ah yes, the Yet.
The Yet can be a motivator. Who doesn’t want to be called brilliant? Even those who would ultimately stuff the badge in a purse or a pocket want it. Brilliance is a writer’s brass ring. And so those who haven’t touched it (or those who want to touch it again) work hard to earn it. They read and write and study and hone their craft in pursuit of it.
The Yet can also be a monster. What if brilliance continues to elude them? What then? They become discouraged. Confidence dwindles. The dream crumbles. Writing just isn’t fun anymore.
Maybe you weren’t born brilliant. Maybe you’ll never wear the badge. So what?
Are you writing? Are you telling the stories you want to tell? Are you trying to become the best writer you can be?
Then here’s some good news: You can find happiness and fulfillment and success and maybe even wild success without having been called brilliant once. Because even absent brilliance, you are still the only person who writes like you. And there are people out there who happen to like the way you write. Or will.
I think that’s brilliant.