Daily Writers Challenge: Creativity, Talent, Skill? What’s the difference?

Today I’m doing an exploratory essay for the challenge, and, by the way, I invite you to do the same.  By exploratory I mean that I don’t know how it will end …what I will decide by the time the last word typed.  To be honest, a good many of my little diatribes are like that.  Perhaps you can tell?  Perhaps you will notice going forward.

Are you creative?  Do you have a talent for writing?  What is the level of your skill?  Are you good at your craft?

I’ve looked around at what others say about the old battle, creativity vs. talent, and I am beginning to wonder if the conflict is real—that is to say worth the trouble—or if it is just a bit of subjective silliness?

We all know people we think of as talented.  We differentiate them from others for the ease by which they accomplish whatever it is they are “talented” at.  I am, frankly, unsure whether talent actually exists, at least in the form we assume it has.  I wonder if it is, perhaps, just a single-mindedness, a poring over a particular topic, whether by choice or by chance, that gives the appearance, the effect, of talent.

Is talent like luck (another non-thing: luck is when preparation meets opportunity)?  Is talent perhaps single-mindedness meeting a desire to complete a thing?  Here’s another question for you, if talent exists, is it a good thing?

Think about this.  Two brothers (I know them, they’re real) have an interest in music.  One, the older, seems to be talented.  He can pick up any musical instrument and in a week or so play it very well.  The other brother has an urge to play, but nowhere near the “inbred talent” of his older brother.  Whenever he picks up an instrument and works to learn to play it, his brother takes it up also, out of spite, it seems,  and plays well in no time at all.  Talk about a professional buzz kill. 

Image: casualgamerchick.com

But wait, there is more to the story.  The “talented” brother doesn’t work at his skills because he doesn’t have to.  He becomes facile with each instrument, but never puts any real effort into it.  His parents talk about a waste of talent.  Meanwhile, the less “talented” brother takes a single instrument and works hard at it.  He becomes a master, a virtuoso, something that his “talented” brother can never become.  And the moral?  Work trumps talent.

Bottom line, I think, is that if we fix on the supposed talent of another rather than working to improve our own skills, we are, perhaps, shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot.

Today’s challenge is this: evaluate yourself… then look around.  Are you the talented one?  Are you the one who works hard to make it all happen?  Are you happy with where you are?

I’d like to know!


4 responses to “Daily Writers Challenge: Creativity, Talent, Skill? What’s the difference?

  1. Exploring the ‘concept’ and the possibility of ‘talent’ within my life.
    To begin with, especially as this is exploratory, meaning like conversation, that you do not know where it will end up, as you said, I am not going to make apologies for being critical of other talent, for being critical of myself, or for lauding talent, mine or otherwise.
    I came up with a saying in my book: Genius without talent is like laughter without a smile. After thinking of this, Penny is constantly attempting to figure out what she meant.
    This is another attempt. Genius perhaps can be associated with taste. The belief, and even certainty that we know what is ‘beautiful’, that we know what ‘talent’ is, as even opposed to ‘skill’. But taste, and if you buy the parallel, genius, is something that cannot be imparted to another. And yet, as Kant says, we can make the startling assumption, that because it is our taste, and others must necessarily think and have the same taste that we have. Otherwise, they just do not have good taste. In order to accommodate this universalizing of what is ‘only’ a subjective intuition, we will be critical not only of others personally, but of their judgment, their talent, and their skill. “It does not meet our taste”.
    How do we make the distinction, therefore, and ground our critique on sound judgement that is not the benefit we offer to others, of our ‘genius’.
    We can have the vanity of thinking that everything we find tasteful is final, therefore a means of complacency about what we will put effort into, in order to evolve and expand our appreciation of beauty. On the other hand, we can think that striving to be an artist or even a connoisseur requires some kind of humility. In other words we will look for a neutrality of judgement with respect to talent and skill, which is based on technical aspects rather than an over-arching subjective ‘feeling’.
    It is true what you say, about the person who practices, practices, a craft; a person who is neither considered talent, let alone a genius, who is able through perspiration to come if not achieve ‘genius’, as per the saying. But, when it comes to this, it is best to put the energy into developing your own capacity, in preference to passing judgment on what you assume the capacity of others to be. Genius, can come through deliberate effort, into the work and lives of others, as well as your own, quite unexpectedly. It is not always wise to judge genius, and consequently matters of taste, prematurely.
    I’ve probably exceeded a good limit, here, can’t tell, but enough said. Thank you, Richard.

  2. Bottom line, I think, is that if we fix on the supposed talent of another rather than working to improve our own skills, we are, perhaps, shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot.

    Hey! I agreed with you. Do you think my sub-conscious picked this up the first time, as I read your ‘experimental conversational post’….? Actually, morality judgments, are very like aesthetic developments when it comes to finding faults in another rather than in ourselves, don’t you think?

  3. I agree with you, Rik:

    Whenever we use an external yardstick, we do so at our peril.

    The goal is not to be better than others . . . but to better than our previous self.

    Write on!

  4. Of course, talent and skill were left undefined in the above.(Art and craft?) The relationship between genius and taste was however, I believe still, worth exploring. At least I responded and tested myself. If we have no ‘external’ criteria however, our judgments with respect to that ‘long road of discovery’, may turn out to be at best illusory. We might even be hard pressed to ascertain, except for that illusory feeling of happiness, whether indeed we had in fact made progress. I would rather evolve and work towards freedom and truth, than happiness. But these are very difficult to find in that illusive empirical ‘now’.

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