20 September 2012

"Creativity is Not a Talent," He Said.

A few days after @MarsCuriosity landed at Gale Crater, my beloved Spousal Unit and I caught the freshly-made Martian Mega Rover documentary on the National Geographic Channel.  What looked so fine and perfect on Aug 6th, it turns out, almost didn't happen for so many reasons including tearing parachutes, motor gears grinding against themselves, failing crane cables.  As it was, the launch was delayed by 2+ years so the engineers could invent new machinery to solve all the problems.

 Rose on Artist's grave in 2008.

My late sister, whom I refer to in this blog as Artist, was immensely gifted.  She could paint, design and construct the most elaborate costumes, build miniatures, draw with an amazing eye and most delicate sensibility of line, knit without a pattern, do calligraphy, and could have been an architect for her fantastic sense of space and order.  She spent time and money on her craftsmanship and abilities both at college and at art school seminars.  She was also a very playful person; kids loved her ability to invent and entertain.

In short, she had ability but she worked damn hard at bringing it to a level of expertise that made what was always hard work look easy.  That ease was based on years of practice and work.  (Once, she said, when she was painting a portrait, she was asked what she charged for such commissions.  When told, the person retorted, "Why should it cost so much when it is so easy for you to do?"  What that person didn't get is that what looked easy to him/her was the result of hours, weeks, and years of work.)

Miniature painting of a portrait artist with easel  

Artist was talented, but she could have done nothing with that talent.  Instead she looked for ways to creatively express it.  In one sense she was massively successful; she left an apartment and large storage unit stuffed full of everything she'd ever made in her life.  She made and never stopped making.  But in another sense, she did not succeed.  Except for a small group of people, no one ever saw her work.  Like many artists, she wasn't much of a business person.  My point is not that she failed -- she didn't -- but that having talent, or ability, or intelligence isn't enough.  One has to work one's self creatively to raise one's abilities to the level that connects with others; whether that connection is getting one's paintings in a gallery, or succeeding at getting a room full of children to master fractions, or landing a car-sized piece of machinery on another planet.

This link leads to a blog post about snowboarding 
that says pretty much what I am saying here!

Note, being talented does not = being creative.  Second, being creative does not only mean being artistic.  And being creative does not always equate with intelligence or success. But, as actor and educator LeVar Burton liked to say on his award winning children's show Reading Rainbow, "you don't have to take my word for it."  


  1. Were you actually awake at 4:01 AM when this posted? The creative juices flow when they will, I suppose.

    I am enjoying the John Cleese video and this post in general. At one point I had hoped to make enough money off of photography to pay for the equipment. Thank goodness I didn't become a wedding photographer! My best photography comes from a flow state much like the open state he describes. When I am out hunting images, I can wander for hours forgetting to eat and drink. But how else will I come across dune buggies, fire dancers and zombies?

    I'm sorry your sister was never able to get her work into the wider world. Artistic dedication is a rare commodity; craft with moderate skill is more readily accomplished.

    1. While I present my posts to go live around 4am, I am typically awake early (4-5am) - it's the best time for fast creative thinking and writing I find. 9-noon is my time for critical thinking work like the metadata job I do). Afternoons are good for more meditative creativity when I need to let and idea or image marinate. Evenings are for baseball and reading. ;-)

      I really like your photo work, Dwayne. You've a terrific eye for composing what you see in a slightly off-kilter fashion. I find that zooms my attention in while at the same time giving me a kind of floaty sensation of seeing something bigger. (If that makes sense!)

      Thanks for the words on my sister. She was astoundingly absorbed by art.

    2. That's pre-SET not present! ;-)


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