When Hard Work is Mistaken for Talent


“…if we work hard enough, hard work will eventually be mistaken for talent. And if we refuse to give up, perseverance will eventually be mistaken for greatness.” ~Erwin Raphael McManus in The Artisan Soul

I’ve written nearly one thousand posts here on this blog.

One thousand is my go-to number for conversations with my husband. How many times have I emptied the dishwasher or washed the sheets? One thousand. When he asks me how much I spent at Target today, I say “One THOUSAND dollars!” The real dollar amount always sounds more reasonable by comparison. I use the same number when describing how I feel about the errands he asks me to complete during the week. I say things like, “I would rather clean the toilet ONE THOUSAND times than make one more trip to Home Depot!” I’m a real catch.

I have, however, written nearly one thousand blog posts, no hyperbole required.

I’ve also written three full length book proposals (the cause of one thousand tears), a few submissions for collaborative books, essays and devotionals for other websites, a few articles, eight chapters for books that will never be published (one thousand knives through my heart), forty days of devotions on the Holy Spirit, and many notebooks with my own private scribbles. All of this in four years of part-time writing, squeezed into the cracks of my day between the one thousand trips I make to Target and Home Depot and the grocery store.

I’m not a full-time writer, and I will never be described as prolific. Some weeks I barely squeak out a post or two, but over time, the work adds up. The words pile into small drifts. They eventually become large enough to send out into the world and expect a little something back. I’m not the most talented writer out there, I can’t even rub shoulders with the greatest, but I’m willing to get up at five in the morning to write one thousand words. I’m willing to persevere through rejection after rejection in the hopes that someone might mistake my hard work for excellence, my piled up drifts of words for talent.

This isn’t a pat on the back, or a not so subtle way to ask for compliments. This is an acknowledgement of where I stand on the path towards publication. I have an enormous amount of work ahead of me. I have room to grow, and many more words to write before my work is mistaken for something of significance. Diligence and perseverance are underrated qualities, often pushed aside when natural beauty or genius or flash show up. But most of us don’t have those things to recommend us. We have hard work. We have one thousand hours of teaching or studying or apprenticeship or mothering or decision-making or practicing in the wee hours of the morning to recommend us.

This is better than flash. It’s better than natural beauty and genius and “talent”. Take heart, friends. When you feel like the one who got left behind. When you wonder if God overlooked you when handing out gifts and talents. When you question your ability. When you wonder why others get ahead when you do not. Take heart. Do the work. Perseverance tastes sweet on the tongue, while quitting leaves a trace of bitterness impossible to erase.

Over the last four years, I quit writing one thousand times. But I began writing again one thousand more. If you feel like quitting something hard today, know that I am here, sitting in the glow of early morning light, gathering my words and thinking of you. If you have a path to pursue, then allow the flame of your passion to light the way. When the mean winds blow and the flame flickers, struggling to remain lit, perseverance will place a hedge of protection around you. It will make a way for you, until further down the path you reach a clearing, and your one thousand footsteps towards progress are mistaken for greatness.


This fall, I will write thousands more words as I begin work towards an MFA in Creative Writing. I hope you’ll walk this new path with me, and we can cheer each other on towards our respective goals.

Speaking of goals, tell me about yours? What have you done a thousand times and will likely persevere through a thousand more? Changing diapers totally counts.