Art Blog: Talent is Highly Overrated
How do you define talent? What part does it play in the development of a successful artist?
If we wanted to distill talent down to its essence, we might get a clue or two by thinking about the child prodigy. After all, if talent is the essential element of a successful artist, then we must be born with it. And if we’re born with it, we are going to show early signs of aptitude.
But what if your inborn talent is never nurtured? You might be lucky enough to grow up in a nurturing family environment that encourages and cheers your every tiny effort. On the other hand, you might even be unlucky enough to have parents who exploit your special abilities for their own gain. (Don’t get me started!) Or you might simply be an incredibly talented child whose parents are oblivious to your talent or perhaps have no appreciation for the arts. Even worse, you might get negative feedback and discouragement at a young age from a thoughtless parent or teacher, ending further exploration. With talent being the common denominator in these examples, each scenario is going to have a different outcome for each individual.
So we can take it as a given that there are plenty of talented people in the world. Not just in the arts, but in the ways that we learn and see the world. We need more than talent to succeed. And I’m of the opinion that even without a lot of “talent” — whatever that is — we can learn and be very good at any number of impressive skills.
In combination with talent or aptitude, here are a few other attributes that I feel are just as important for success:
- A sense of play
- A sense of wonder
- Willingness to fail and to try again
- Ability to learn from mistakes
- Study (self-education will get you a long way if formal education is impossible)
- Practice and more practice (this one can be the deal breaker for many otherwise talented people)
- Patience (see above)
- Bravery (you will need this if you’re thinking about exhibiting or performing)
- A support system of like-minded people
There could be more. These are just some that came off the top of my head. Can you think of additions to the list? Which one of these attributes do you think is the most important?
The next time someones says to you “You’re so talented!” just smile and say “Thank you.” You will know in your heart of hearts that you’re so much more than that.