“What if I’m more creative than talented?”
That’s what one of my former students asked me recently.
I read the message and smiled. If you’re an artist, you’ve felt that pain.
My dad tells a story. One day when he was in junior high, his band teacher invited an acclaimed cellist to perform for the students. Dad had been dragging that cello to and from school for a couple of years and felt that he was stuck at a so-so skill level.
When young Dad heard the cellist play, he was overcome. And he had an epiphany.
The next day, he turned in his cello. “I’ll never be able to play as well as she did,” he told his band teacher. “So it’s pointless. I’m giving it up.”
“That’s exactly the opposite reaction I was going for,” the teacher said, after trying to change his mind.
Did something similar happen to you?
You feel inspired to write, and tap-tap-tap away at the keyboard, wondering if it’s supposed to be this difficult and whether you’ve got anything. Then you tune into a movie or read a book and think, “Uh … I’ll never be this good. I’ve been fooling myself. Why bother?”
Here are a few good reasons you should NOT give up:
First of all, what makes you think that you can give up?!
That creativity has to get out somehow, and if you’ve ever tried to quit before, you already know what happens. (I go into a little more detail on this in Writers Write.)
You didn’t do anything to make yourself a creative thinker, what makes you think you can turn it off…?
And if that’s the case, why not work with your natural inclination rather than against it? As the world becomes more complex, there will be more of a need for creative problem solvers like you!
So even if your art isn’t coming together the way you’d like, and if it feels like you’re pulled in a dozen directions of creative interest, choose a project and start. You’ll be amazed when you share your work and others say that you’ve helped them put their thoughts and feelings into words! That’s the importance of sharing your creative ideas.
You’re Discovering More Talents
Writing talent isn’t the only talent, you know. While it’s true that some people just seem to BREATHE prose, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should throw up our hands and walk away.
First of all, there’s usually a cost to rare levels of talent. Look at any “genius” and ask yourself if you’d actually trade places. No way!
But one practical thing you can do is to draw on all of your talents, even the ones that you think aren’t related to writing. (It all feeds into the stories we tell.) Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon, famously suggests that “talent stacks” are more important that natural talent. He says he’s an okay artist, sort of funny, and has some business know-how. Put those elements together, and there’s Dilbert.
So what talents and experiences can you draw upon and hone to use in your writing?
You’re Building Something Important
Let’s face it–life is a struggle. It’s a struggle against little things like the jammed garbage disposal, and big things like illness or loss.
It’s definitely not one instagram-perfect high moment after another.
We tend to focus on results. “How many books will I write? How many will I sell? Can I write prolifically enough and market well enough to make a living with my pen?”
But we forget about the value of the actual writing itself: the slowing down, the seeing, the experiencing, the digesting, the reasoning, the connecting, the reframing, the redeeming. Aren’t those things important? I will argue that a regular writing practice can help make sense of the world, and bring order and comfort to our own lives when it feels like chaos will win.
Don’t throw away a chance to build something beautiful just because you may not be able to write like ___[insert famous author’s name here]___. Your voice needs exercise. There’s joy in the discipline, and no one can disrupt it.
Besides, you have no idea where your creative journey will lead you. You have to stay on the train, though, instead of jumping off to browse the gift shop at every station 😉
* * * * * * *
Dad is retired now, and wishes he’d stuck with the cello. It didn’t seem like it would be useful or enjoyable during his busiest working years but these days there’s more room for beauty and contemplation. Mom decided to teach herself how to play the drums during the shutdown, and she just performed in public for the first time. Her courage and obvious joy is an inspiration, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dad picks up an instrument again…
What about you? Do you feel more creative than talented?
Don’t let comparison steal years of joy. Don’t quit!
Need help getting started? Check out these posts: