The Myth of Talent

Almost every day I hear things like this: “Wow, I wish I could draw like you, you are so lucky to have been born with talent”, “You have so much talent, I can’t even draw a stick figure”, and “I wish I had your talent”, and many variations of these sentiments.

It’s baloney.

It’s true that I’ve always doodled and sketched and coloured (what kid doesn’t?), and I’ve always looked at the world in wonder, but I did not come out of the womb with a pencil in my hand. Some of my early drawings are downright awful.

Really, truly dreadful. There are mountains of paper somewhere with my failed artworks on them.

What I did do was keep trying, and learning. Drawing, or painting or sculpting, whatever, are skills. They take hard work and persistence and a willingness to fail. Oh yes, fail—horribly. Over and over.

It’s a Lie

There’s a myth, a LIE, that creativity and artistic skill is something one is born with. It’s not true – though I believe some artists have remained silent because it makes the process somewhat mysterious, and therefore maybe more valuable? I think it does the opposite. I think that this myth devalues artists because a lot of people believe that the work we produce takes no effort… sort of like it’s magic or something. Or, that it isn’t ‘work’ at all.

This could not be farther from the truth. The worst effect of this belief is that many people give up on any creative urges they have.

Everyone is Creative

Everyone is creative, it’s a basic human trait. We are resourceful beings, problem solvers, and that is the basis for creativity. Some people are creative with cooking, or running a household, or dancing, music or how they parent, some have the urge to make things. All of these are creative endeavours. Anyone can learn the skills to draw or paint, or sculpt. If they want to—it’s not something you are born with.

I am amazed by how often people put themselves down, or compare themselves to others.

Don’t Buy Into It

Don’t buy into the myth, keep working at it. It’s not magic—it’s the willingness to be awful before you get better. It’s the willingness to learn a new skill. It’s about accepting that your vision is valuable, and how you express yourself is unique. It’s really about being your own best friend, and not your own worst critic.

Have you believed talent is something ‘others’ have or were born with? How has this myth held you back from doing what you want? Have you overcome it, how? Share in the comments…