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Creativity And Talent – One And The Same?

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Many people are creative in one form or another. The question is how many of those creative people are also talented at their choice of expression?

A while back, I read an article in National Geographic about “hypergraphia.” From Medicine Net:

Hypergraphia may compel someone to keep a voluminous journal, to jot off frequent letters to the editor, to write on toilet paper if nothing else is available, and perhaps even to compile a dictionary.

As a writer, I thought that this sounded heavenly. Maybe I could catch that neurological disorder and have a constant drive. The more I read about it and thought about it, the more I understood two things. First, I do have my own compulsions to write; maybe not on toilet paper, but I do feel compelled to write my ideas. Second, and perhaps the more disturbing of the two, I realized that none of this promises any talent.

My teachers have always beaten Edison’s words into me: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” I have a few lazy bones in my body so it only worked to some extent thus far in my life. That is – working hard paid off. Shocking, I know.

What about writing, though? What about art? Since a true creative work requires both the drive and the talent, what to do about that 1% talent? Worry about it or concentrate on making it to the 99%?

Many believe the drive to be more important than the talent. I tend to disagree: drive is as important as talent. This has to do with one of the earlier discussions on my blog about types of writers: do you, as a creator (writer, musician, painter), aim for art or for entertainment?

I think it is rather obvious that those who wish to achieve a glimpse of art in their work need some talent in addition to drive. Creativity doesn’t promise talent, but it gives a person drive; yet the practice of any form of expression can only get that person so far. We all know it is possible to succeed financially without much talent and only with drive. To achieve higher levels of expressions, one needs talent as well.

Do I worry, then, about that 1%? Constantly. Can I do anything about it? Probably not. What should I do then? Concentrate on the 99%: work hard.

Finally, if the frontal lobes are important in “providing the judgment and flexibility of thought that underlines talent,” while “structures in the temporal lobes and limbic system supply drive and motivation” – will there be a time when we could simply take pills to increase one or the other?

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  • One can also be talented and lack any sort of creativity. I know plenty of film students who are quite good at what they do from a technical aspect but don’t have a creative, original, or interesting thought in their heads.

  • I have always been of the belief that once you call yourself an artist, game’s over. The real artist is too busy doing the work to fret over whether it’s art– that job is left to the audience.

  • duane

    That may have worked for Edison. On the other hand, Edison was probably a genius, and he was trying to appear modest when he made his famous pronouncement.

    Inspiration or perspiration? It all depends. One can achieve competence with a lot of hard work. It is much harder to produce something that is Earth-shatteringly original and revolutionary without creative genius. That’s a gift. You can’t learn to be a genius. You only learn to become competent. Sometimes luck intervenes. Some discoveries that have immortalized the discoverers were the result of being in the right place at the right time, although they were, no doubt, hard at work at the time.

    Genius will often triumph over a lack of drive. Such is life for us mere mortals. For example, Benjamin Franklin and Herman Melville were evidently slackers, according to “Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America” by Larry Sears.

  • Bryan, so you too make a difference between “technical talent” (for lack of a better term) and artistic talent? Good to know I’m not alone in this world 🙂
    BTW, I think you might find this video funny, it is about a film school student.

    Ray, I agree. While one may strive for being an artist, one cannot call themselves that. That’s totally up to the audience indeed.
    As I’ve said, I try to concentrate on my work.

    Good one, Duane. Edison was just trying to appease us 🙂
    And I do agree with you as well, hard work makes one competent, and the gift of talent, well, as you said, it’s a gift. So can’t really worry about this. It’s either there or not.
    I had no idea about Franklin and Melville, but really??? I find it so hard to believe that loafers can succeed, I mean, at least not before they reached the top. After, perhaps.