American society could and should take lessons from the world of sports as to how to develop talent. How is it that we have become so phenomenally good, in our society, at developing athletes?
First, we give them the opportunity to compete at a young age.
Second, we recognize and identify ability at a young age.
Third, we celebrate athletes' success constantly. We show up at their games and cheer. We give them trophies. When they get to be teenagers, if they're still good, we put their names in the newspaper once in a while.
Fourth, we pay them for potential, rather than simply paying them once they get to be among the best in the world.
The average city the size of Topeka produces a major league player every 10 or 15 years. If we did the same things for young writers, every city would produce a Shakespeare or a Dickens or at least a Graham Greene every 10 or 15 years. Instead, we tell the young writers that they should work on their craft for 20 or 25 years, get to be really, really good—among the best in the world—and then we'll give them a little bit of recognition.