Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Talent is a Myth

People have told me I have “talent” all my life. Maybe I do have some. But all “talent” ever did for me was make me able to draw a marginally better bunny rabbit than my classmates in second grade. The difference between a “talented” seven-year old’s drawing of a bunny and another kid’s drawing of a bunny is minimal. They are both seven.

Everything after that is sheer work. Sheer number of hours spent putting pencil to paper or brush to canvas. Sheer practice. It’s an enjoyable kind of "work", but it is still work. I draw marginally well because I drew every day between age 3 and age 21. If you did anything every day for 18 years, you would have some degree of ability.

It’s not talent.

Talent is a myth.

The myth of talent cripples.

We like to think of artists being born, being magical, special, different. Once we think of ourselves as “artists”, it makes everything we do have a special weight: The weight of having to prove that you are a “real artist’ with everything you do. There is little room for error. Creating a “bad” work of art throws artists into despair. They feel they are not “really” an artist.

No one is “really” an artist. The people who work hard at their craft every day for years and years get better at it than those who don’t.

I can be stymied by the imagined imperative that everything I create, every mark I make, must indicate my unique, intelligent and inherent talent, and any failure reveals a lack of uniqueness. If I spend my time evaluating myself, there is a defensiveness that obscures the art. Defensiveness makes art that is fearful. Defensiveness makes art that “protests too much.”

To truly learn, and to truly create, we must shed all ego. The idea that “I am an artist” must go out the window. The wondering “am I good” must be driven out of our heads. Just keep going, don’t stop, don’t look back, don’t evaluate, just produce.

Don’t wonder if you have talent, or insist you have talent, or hope you have talent, or beg your teachers or peers or critics to tell you that you have talent. Don’t despair when you realize you have no talent. Talent is a myth.

Work hard at your art. Then you will be a true artist.