One of my intentions this year is to become a confident, vibrant creative. I dutifully added my goals to my BuJo and scheduled time on my calendar to practice my craft.
And yet I’m still feeling hesitant, stuck… RESISTANT! Why is this?
I love to draw what I see or imagine. I love my watercolor and brushes. Why do I feel resistant to something I love to do?
Because of a seemingly benign yet totally charged word: Talent.
You see, I was not born with a paintbrush in my hand. I did not create Rembrandt-esque portraits of my parents when I was two years old. My mother cannot tell a cute anecdote of how I recreated the Sistine Chapel ceiling on my bedroom walls in Crayola when I was four.
I had to learn how to draw, and I didn’t begin until college.
I was terrible at it!
A kind art professor expressed her doubt by not paying any attention to me. Another was cruel, telling me to my face that I had no talent.
So I quit drawing and painting. I majored in art history to be near the art world instead and spent 4 years of undergraduate school and 5 years of graduate school studying the canon.
And compared to the canon, I could see I had no talent.
Yet I yearned to draw. I feel like the best version of myself when I make pictures. I knew this was the way I process the world the best. How could I have no talent for something I yearned and loved to do? For something that helps me make sense of the chaos called life?
The dictionary defines talent as a special, natural ability or aptitude. This implies that you cannot acquire talent and insinuates a mysterious, inexplicable quality that one has or doesn’t have.
An incredibly limiting belief given to a word that derives from the ancient Greek word tálanton, which means balance, weight, monetary unit. Our current definition is one we’ve created through the ages.
And our inner critics use this belief about talent to stop me, you, everyone who yearns to make something from the soul.Our inner critics use this belief about talent to stop me, you, everyone who yearns to make something from the soul. Click To Tweet
An alternate definition of talent
How does this definition sit with you?
A capacity for achievement or success; an ability.
I think this secondary definition from the dictionary is much more indicative of what talent actually is. An ability you can work with through experimentation and practice.
While you may be born able to pick up certain skills faster or more intuitively than others, you certainly have the capacity to draw, paint, sculpt, build, make, etc.
Remember the canon I studied and compared myself with? Only a small fraction were actual child prodigies. Most of our masters practiced and practiced and practiced. They dedicated the time and energy to honing their skills.
You absolutely have the ability to perfect these skills and with practice you will become talented, too. You will become a confident and vibrant creative.
Practice is the only path to your success. Look at all the personal and professional skills you’ve acquired and honed through practice. Creative skills are no different.
I became a better draftswoman over time by practicing. I continue to practice and get better with every sketch and finished piece I make in my chosen medium.
The trick to acquiring any skill is to embrace your setbacks. You will make something crappy, either under- or overworking it. Or make something that just doesn’t look right and get completely frustrated that you can’t fix it is inevitable. You’ll certainly have “off” days and just produce crap.
Embrace this because that is when the learning occurs. That drawing with the perspective that looks off? You can try to rework it or just start fresh and try again. The painting with the out-of-control color palette can become the underpainting to something spectacular. Each modification, each do-over is a chance to perfect your skills.
Creativity is your road back
Humans are innately creative. We use creative thinking all the time. Don’t have an ingredient listed in a recipe? Creativity comes to the rescue when you choose a substitute. Can’t find a tool to tighten that loose drawer pull? Creativity has you reaching for a butter knife.
Practice turns that ingenuity into talent. There is no pressure to be perfect, so experiment and explore. Gather your courage – it’s the main ingredient to talent – and let’s figure out a practice schedule.
- Make the time
- You can manifest a lot of things, but sadly time is not one of them. You have to make the time. Not find it, make it. So look at your calendar and move things around. For me, I have an hour at the end of my work day before family obligations kick in that I can dedicate to quality practice.
- Have a plan
- A plan is the difference between quality practice and unproductive time spent on an activity. Outline your goals and make each session count by doing the activity that moves you closer to your goals. From now until March 31, I’m working on illustrating trees. I want to have a certain amount of finished paintings by the deadline and project activities include gathering references and specimens, sketchbook work, creating a visual library of different tree species – leaves, branch/trunk/root structure, fruit, etc., preliminary sketches and thumbnails, and of course producing a series of finished work.
- Find a way to stay accountable
- Practice with others, find an accountability partner or use social media to help you stay on track (that’s what I’m doing!).
Attitude: Go easy on yourself
Recognize your resistance is your inner critic, who is made up of so many external voices masked as your own. Don’t let yourself get so discouraged that you talk yourself out of your art. If you get so frustrated that you want to give up, perhaps you need to revise your practice goals.Recognize your resistance is your inner critic, who is made up of so many external voices masked as your own. Click To Tweet
Assess your goal – what are the steps you need to take to reach it? For example, if you are learning to draw – are you too ambitious for the level your at? Pushing yourself is a key part of quality practice, but jumping ahead in stages will only frustrate you. This is why having a plan is good. My plan is sketchbook work first. Simple sketches with paper and pencil to work out shapes, perspective and different views, work out palette colors and hone my observation skills. Then I’ll move to preparatory drawings, and subsequent finished paintings.
You have talent. Start with that belief, map out your plan and take action. During the process, I promise you will begin to free your wild spirit – that primal instinct we are all born with to create and communicate.
Listen, you’re in control of your talent – your capacity for achievement or success. So find an accountability partner and get to work!
And if you need an accountability partner…
I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!
Record your progress in the comments below.