Talent Is Persistence

Kirby Ferguson is a New York based filmmaker who also writes. He's also the man behind the Everything is a Remix video series, which is about influence and appropriation in the creative process.

I was reading an interview with him and this part jumped out.

Before you can be an expert at something you generally copy others. This is ok and it makes a lot of sense. You take the work of others and tinker with it. Over and over — sometimes for thousands of hours.

What would your advice be to the 20-year-old version of you, who’s just starting their career?

I wish I had Everything Is A Remix when I was younger. I wish I knew that you can just start copying other people’s stuff and fiddling with it, and putting stuff into it, and just sort of build from there. It’s okay to be primitive. That’s a perfectly fine way to start making things.

I wish the earlier me understood work and practice more. Just the repeated concerted effort to get better at things. I wish I didn’t have the notions of talent and genius I had back then. I thought, “Oh, these other people, they just have something that I don’t have.” When really, they are just people who work more.

I wish I understood work. Work is the key to anything you want to do. If you want to play the guitar—anybody can learn to play the fucking guitar—you can be good at it. Maybe you won’t get to be a genius but you could be good.

You can be good enough to write good songs or make a good film or whatever. There’s no such thing as not having enough talent to get to that level. I mean, persistence is talent, really. Just sticking with it. Talent is not stopping.

When you see the work of others you see the end result and not the process that went into it. You see the sucess and not the thousands of failures.

The process is where all the work is. The process is where the meaning is.