Talent is a double-edged sword. Not so much because of its existence. But because to a beginning artist, it can make or break them.
Artists will create regardless—it’s part of our souls—but I don’t think I’m going to get many people arguing against the idea that the thing that sparks the idea, the dream, of doing art for a living is the sentence: “Hey, look at that, you’re talented.”
And for pushing an artist to really start pouring their efforts into their craft, there is nothing more effective than some version of that sentence. And just the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, someone chose them to create, will keep an artist going for a long time. Enough to get them through the beginning cramps.
But then the sword swings backwards, and here’s the problem. You get so used to the idea that you can just ART without any effort, that you might think you don’t need to improve. I know this from personal experience.
And as you’re reading, I bet you can already imagine the problems with this. In fact, you can probably blame a large part of the “pretentious artist” thing on that mindset. It’s a toxic idea, that you have nothing more to learn in a craft.
Let me clear up one thing just in case the person reading this doesn’t know: You are never done learning to be an artist. Never. The moment you stop experimenting and growing is the moment you start sliding downhill.
But we still have people who don’t know that lesson. And thus my original statement.
Now, I wish I had an answer for how to solve this. Because we can’t go around telling that kid who scribbles on his napkin, or writes in some old notebook “well you have talent, but come a little while from now you are going to feel woefully under-skilled when you end up comparing yourself to a professional.”
Nor should we say: “You’re perfect as you are now. You got it made, kid!”
So, we’re left with the discussion. A world worth living in will always need artists. And we will always need a way to encourage them. But how do we go about it without dropping them into an apathetic slump, or turning them into the bohemian version of a trust fund baby?
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