Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Creativity & the myth of talent

DH is a keen photographer, particularly of landscapes. You can see some of his work here.

He is a regular listener of the podcasts produced by Craig M. Tanner of the Radiant Vista website. Recent episodes of the podcasts (#13 & #14) have been discussing a more philosophical aspect of photography and this sparked a conversation with DH and I about creativity. This is something I'm interested in on a number of levels.
  1. For myself, I would like to increase my creativity levels in my scrapbooking and ultimately in the form of art. I have plans to take up painting or some form of fine art some time in the future.
  2. For my professional life. Creativity in the workplace is something I feel passionate about and would like to see more of, experience more of and initiate more of.
  3. To support my husband. DH is a creative person but his natural tendancies to depression and self-criticism often stifle his ability to move or progress.
  4. For my son & unborn child. Children are naturally creative and I'd like to encourage it. One of the reasons is that I see it as a great motivator in education and learning, which is something else I'm passionate about.

What is creativity? Is it something we are born with? Is it something we can cultivate?

I think there are people who have a natural talent for certain activities including creative things. But I also think it's possible to cultivate creativity or at least encourage it. I find that I have times when I don't feel creative at all. Sometimes it's because I'm afraid of my own inability to acheive what I see in my mind.

In the podcasts, Tanner goes through a "creativity ritual" that he believes will enable photographers to get more creative. It's interesting to note that one part of the ritual is to create a journal, and to write down a mission statement to guide the photographer through this process. He does get quite evangelical in these podcasts (edited to add: and some of it is IMO a bit woo woo), but they are interesting to listen to, and I think they are quite relevant to people who want to be more creative in their chosen hobby.

He's also written an article called The Myth of Talent.
In it he talks about the process he went through to become a professional photographer. Much of what he says is also relevant to people who want to become more creative.
Long term, committed, practice powered by the purpose of love leads to amazing
transformations. The bumbling beginner becomes the exalted expert. The trapped anddepressed become the liberated and empowered. So why do we so easily buy into thelimiting mythical idea about talent being nothing but a birthright?

I like this concept that by being productive, I will be able to be more creative ultimately.

He also refers to an article from Psychology Today.
I found much of this article useful. One quote I particularly liked was:

People often fall back in their efforts because they are afraid of making mistakes, which can be embarrassing, even humiliating. But if you take no chances and make no mistakes, you fail to learn, let alone do anything unusual or innovative.

Research suggests that creative people make more mistakes than their less imaginative peers. They are less proficient-it's just that they make more attempts than most others. They spin out more ideas, come up with more possibilities, generate more schemes. They win some; they lose some.

Other quotes I like from this article:

Playfulness and humour encourage creativity.


What we see every day becomes ordinary to us. People, sights, sounds, and smells seem to disappear from our awareness. They lose their distinctiveness. One way of dealing with this is to invent a brand-new pattern, a fresh way of seeing the commonplace.

o Begin with something as basic as water. The idea is to notice the number of times a day you come in contact with it and the extraordinary number of ways it appears in your life: from a hot shower or the delicate beads of mist on the leaves outside your window to the ice cubes clinking in your glass.

This technique of taking things out of their ordinary context and creating a new pattern for them is a way of making the familiar strange and opening them to a fresh and creative approach.

What do you think?


  1. somehow this post escaped my feed. Not sure how though. Anyway I found what you wrote interesting. I liked the quote "Playfulness and humour encourage creativity". There were some points in your post that spoke to me and I found myself going yes and aha.

    I do think that my perfectionism gets in the way of my creativity and the thoughts I have about my work not being good enough.

  2. I really liked this and will go and listen to some podcasts. I really believe that creativity has to be practiced. That's why I liked doing Rhonna Farrer's 21 day challenge - it forced me to practice being creative every day.

    Thanks for making me think about this.

    PS Awesome photo of your little man

  3. wow - thank you so much for those links - I've printed the article off so can read it later - love your partners photography - absolutely stunning!

  4. Good post, thanks for links too.

  5. Great posts. It reminds of my DH telling me that Michael Jordan was a pretty average college basketball player - but he worked on things and didn't give up. I love this quote "I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. "

  6. I believe creativity is nurtured *by practice* and to be creative, you have to *let go and be*. There are plenty of articles about dreaming to create and visioning (which is *controlled dreaming* I guess!) and there's an EXCELLENT Level 2 paper at Massey about creativity (in the English department but certainly not restricted to *writing*). Loved the combination of practical and academic research for the paper when I did it in 2002. I interviewed a *real artist*, a woman who taught and encouraged me in book-art :-) ... encouraging her to consider herself a *real artist*.