The artist is nothing without the gift,
but the gift is nothing without the work.
~ Oscar Wilde
One thing that makes nurturing my creativity hard is the difficulty in accepting that failure is necessary in the process of learning the craft, that the learning curve is messy and long, and the frustrations are endless. It might be expensive also, as there doesn’t seem to be a way to learn something new without money getting wasted at some point.
Meshack Vallesillas wrote an excellent article here about how often when someone thinks they are not creative, they are confusing craft and creativity. He states:
. . . anything you might consider ‘art’ is actually made up of two parts; creativity and craft. The craft is the artistic skill used to make art, and creativity is the spark of life or the ingenuity behind it.
It’s easy to look at others and their accomplishments and assume it’s because of their creative gifts that they are so good. But in fact, creativity requires a perfecting of craft, of practicing, failing, and learning.
I love watching the Food Network. There are so many examples of practice, creativity and failure. When I watch Bobby Flay get ready for a throw down challenge, he experiments over and over with the ingredients. He’s highly creative, but he also practices his craft and hones it. And his failures seems pretty frequent too! But if he didn’t try, he wouldn’t know what he knows.
I’ve learned from watching my favorite boy toy that photographers take thousands of pictures, analyze them, throw out most, and go out to take more, trying new techniques to improve their skills. There is a huge difference in what my favorite boy toy took 40+ years ago when we were in high school together versus what he does today. But just as importantly, there is a noticeable difference in what he did even several years ago versus what he does today. I’m not the only one with that opinion either. The manager of the gallery where he exhibits is amazed at how prolific he is and how each year’s new work is better than the year before. If you’d like to see his talent, click here.
At work, the younger staff is amazed at the things I know. I remind them that I’ve had many years to learn this and it’s not something that they will know overnight. I tell them that learning to do state income taxes is an apprenticeship – not Donald Trump’s apprenticeship, but Mickey Mouse’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. And that it takes practice to get the brooms to bring the water without the water running everywhere! They laugh, but it gets the point across that their success at work is a matter of practice as much as it is head knowledge.
So when I talked about nurturing my creativity the other day, I forgot the reminder that to be creative means to be learning and executing technique as well as having failures. I have to remember that practicing something – anything - is part of being creative. The ideas alone are not sufficient if I can’t make them into reality. I need to try things to see if I like them and to expand the tools I can use. Creativity will remain unfulfilled without practice and hard work.
Here are some other links that you might enjoy:
Changing This One Thought Could Lead You To a Better Life (the article I discussed at the beginning of this post)
Why People (Incorrectly) Think They Are Not Creative (best quote – Craft is something you acquire by learning a skill. If you want to develop your craft, put in your time.)
Creativity, Craft and the Quants (the story about John Lennon and how he could just throw a song together is particularly good – that the song didn’t just happen, it happened to someone with years of experience in listening to and crafting songs)
The Art vs. Craft Gap – A Writer’s Paradox (another good quote – Art is the essence of that originality and the power of the end result. Craft is execution using the tools of the trade.)
Doing a Daily Photo Challenge (my story of how doing a daily photo challenge helped me be a better photographer)