On the Subject of Talent
Updated: Apr 13
Why are we talking about this again? Oh, right, because someone is trying to do something like someone else, and is finding that difficult or impossible.
There are two issues here:
1) Believing we should be able to do something like someone else 2) Grossly underestimating the amount of dedication and hard work it takes to become fluent at something
It couldn’t be more simple: You have your own treasure yet many of you are sniffing around someone else's yard and whining about your own “lack of talent.” It's absurd. Hello! You’re looking in the wrong place!
Talent is the river that flows from your passion, via education, training and hard work. It manifests when you find out what you LIKE to do instead of what you WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO—because the latter is based on the very limited set of options you are giving yourself. Please stop doing that to your soul. Your own thing done your own way will be something that has not existed before. It is likely hiding under a thick blanket of familiar cultural ideals, culturally disincentives (and incentives), or taboos. A unique and precious thing covered up by society’s oh so common pile of doo.
Do you want success and popularity, or happiness and a feeling of self-worth and purpose? Well if you are continually chasing someone else’s work your answer must be “None of the above.” If you want to emulate your idols—operate the way they do. Understand how they find their own work. Every successful artist and every art teacher you will ever encounter will tell you the same thing. Just look at where they’re pointing.
Even if you have the discipline to make yourself work hard at something no matter what, if you don’t like doing it then what really is the point? And to be very honest, if you are an artist this lovelessness will show in your work. So in that sense, with art, you cannot be truly successful at whatever you want.
The comparison is also often made to playing pro sports. But a sport is a narrowly defined contest based on a very specific set of skills, or even just one skill, with a clear cut and finite set of winners. If you make your art into a sport you will be frustrated and disappointed. Many of you are doing that without realizing it, because you inherently think being able to make a picture is being able to make a picture like so and so. You think your creative vision is what you are seeing in your head, when really what you are seeing in your head is nothing more than other people’s pictures (that’s the same for all of us at the beginning). Your unique vision appears when you MAKE your own pictures, and not before.
If you find your passion(s) nothing else will matter. The good news is we all have passions; the bad news for your ego is you can’t really control what they are. And identifying them can be tough, because passion-like motivations are powerful, sneaky buggers, coming from the outside and masquerading as what will bring you fulfillment on the inside.
Meanwhile your real passions don’t seem like paths to money, success or the image of how we want to present ourselves to the world. But if you want to stop being perpetually frustrated you must give in to them.
And you can’t pre-identify your passions, because, again, that will just be coming from your head. You have to find them by trying things. Creativity is not a set of decisions and choices—that is just how it appears to your conscious mind after it happens, or how it looks from the outside if you’ve never experienced it.
DON’T RULE ANYTHING OUT, PLEASE. What are you afraid of? That you might discover you have a passion for something you consider lame and potentially unprofitable? Who cares? (I mean that literally—ask yourself this question).