TALENT, CREATIVITY, AND THE FALSE IDEA OF A CREATIVE HIERARCHY

I’ve been conducting some “high touch” research about the creative process. Some of you have been generous enough with your time to chat with me about where you are, where you want to be, and what you need to do to get there. I’ve seen some common themes:

“People tell me I’m so talented, but I don’t believe them.”

If your friends tell you that you’re talented, you probably are! If your friends told you you need to work on your machine quilting skills, you would probably believe them without a second thought. So why can’t we accept positive feedback? In fact, we often forget all the positive feedback and focus on our own self-criticism or the one negative comment we get. The way around this is to accept and enjoy our talent and not care what others have to say.

In Biblical times, a talent was a currency. What value would you put on being able to go to your creative space and enjoy yourself, maybe even lose track of time?

Your “talent” is your reward for taking the time to learn and enjoy a skill.

“My friends say I’m creative, but I’m not. I’m just a copier.”

Do you make stuff? You’re creative!! Silly you! You have bought into the idea that there is a creative hierarchy. There isn’t. I was told by a teaching assistant in a drawing class in college that I was “a good copier, but the world has Xerox machines for that.” I’m sure he was trying to push me out of my comfort zone, but it didn’t. It stopped me in my tracks. Most of the masters learned by copying.

In fact, human beings learn all kinds of skills (walking and talking to name a few) by observation. First, we mimic the behavior (baby babble). Next, we identify with the behavior (discover we can communicate). Finally, we internalize the behavior (it becomes our own).

Most of us are on this creative journey as a soul fulfilling and enjoyable past-time. Why do we insist on taking ourselves too seriously and putting ourselves into boxes (or wishing we were in a different box) if we are enjoying what we are doing?

I’m all about trying something new, IF YOU WANT TO, but it’s also okay to just enjoy what you are doing. Achieving a skill set and enjoying that skill set is a wonderful thing.

“Sure, I can read and follow a pattern, I can piece and appliqué really well. But I’m not really creative.”

First of all… HOGWASH!! If you make because you enjoy making, you are creative. Every decision we make, conversation we start, meal we prepare is an act of creativity. We are creative beings.

Being creative isn’t about making something that’s never been made before, although that’s one aspect of creativity. Creativity also isn’t about being able to draw. That puts a terrible and unnecessary limit on the creative process. Creativity isn’t about coloring “outside the lines,” unless of course you want to color outside the lines.

Creativity is about engaging in an activity which makes us feel energized and whole. It’s about finding a way to use our skill set (whatever that is) in a productive and rewarding way.

Let’s not muddy the waters of our creative process with a lot of self-doubt and criticism. If you enjoy healthy criticism, join a critique group. If you don’t… For Pete’s sake, allow yourself to enjoy your passion. There is no creative hierarchy.