I am not now, nor have I ever been, "exceptional". There are things I'm good at, I think, and some things I even do quite well...but no one has ever described me as "exceptional" in any meaningful way. I am liked by my friends, respected by colleagues, and I have built a career and reputation that I believe is (hopefully) largely positive, practical, and professional. It's not, however, some kind of wunderkind, published at 20, franchise at 25, meltdown at 30, type of career. It's been pretty steady, really, with ups and downs.
None of this is meant asa negative, exactly, and definitely not in a "Oh, woe unto me, I am not a unique and amazing snowflake!" way. It's more that, this is a truth universally acknowledged, and although my mom frequently likes to call me "brilliant", the grain of salt that goes with that is epic.
I have never excelled at things without working at them, and even then, I don't know that "excel" is a word I'd use anyway. I've done okay at them, or fine. But unless I put in effort, I don't magically do something exceedingly well. I wasn't an overachiever at school. I liked certain subjects (or loved them) and tended to do well in those because I cared and although I was often bored in some classes, I wasn't super advanced, never skipped any grades, and certainly was never even considered for any "gifted & talented" programs. I have no idea what my IQ is, but aside from being relatively sure it's above average, I'm also relatively sure it's well below whatever counts as "genius" or whatever. This has never particularly bothered me. I know people who are certified geniuses, Mensa members, and grade skippers. I've known people who graduated high school early and went to Ivy League colleges. They're all lovely, smart, awesome folks. In the end, though, I'm not sure those things have made their lives any easier or better, nor does any of it define them as people, especially now that they're grown ups who don't have to worry about grade point averages.
I'm sure it's not just my generation, but because the Dot Com Bubble rose and fell when I was in my late teens and 20's, I do think some people my age (myself included) internalized a rather unfair and exceedingly lofty idea of what we should have achieved by, at the latest, 30. You see a few people make a ton of money, or someone get published at 22, and you think: I'm still kind of figuring things out and I'm 25. What's wrong with me? Am I failing? Should I be doing more? Should I give up? What does it all mean?
Fast forward to now, and I am 33, almost 34. I've been working in my field for well over 10 years. And I've worked -hard-. And now, after all that time, I finally feel like I'm doing things I want to be doing, in the ways I want to be doing them, and feeling a certain degree of confidence in those accomplishments. But. Not every day is a success. Not every day is full of awesome offers. Lots of them are frustrating, lots of them are tiring, and lots of them are discouraging. On those days I wonder if I'm the only person who has these thoughts, these fears, these utter flailings of doubtful self-worth. I doubt it. I know a lot of other creative people and have yet to meet one who didn't sometimes think they were utter rubbish at whatever.
On those days I think I'm grateful not to be "exceptional" because that's an added pressure I don't need. I've always had to push myself, to try, to work, to get better. The kind of things that come "easily" to me are not really quantifiable. For instance: I have a knack for understanding stories. Of knowing where they're heading, what they're accomplishing, and what they should do. This is why I can edit other people's work, I can see what they're trying to do and I can help them do it, without putting myself in it or getting in the way. No one would consider that some kind of "gifted" talent or whatever, but it's certainly come in handy for me. It's also allowed me, as a storyteller, to find the voice in my own work and really get at what I'm trying to do with a given story. So that I'm a solid, if not exceptional, storyteller.
So, what's the point of all this? I guess it's to say that writing, art, editing, dancing, whatever it is that you do...it's important that you work at it and it's okay if you're not the Best Ever, or a mad genius. It's more important that you get something out of your work and that it conveys what you want it to, than to worry about whether or not you're some kind of prodigy. Most of us aren't. And we can still do what we love, and do it well.