The next episode of Creative Dissonance is up. We’ve been at it for a year now and even though it’s only been eight episodes, I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned. We started this series because the both of us love to pick up new skills and we wanted an excuse to try more, but also because we wanted to share.
If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to rant a little about why I care about my series beyond the silly fun we have making it.
I believe that we have been raised in a culture of specialists and celebrity. We are constantly shown the work of people that are the best in the world, the best in history, whose passion for their craft borders on mental illness and whose training began the moment they were conceived. We do not get to see them learn, or the hundreds of failures the led to the masterpiece. Sometimes their great works will inspire us, too, to greatness, but so often I see people driven away from something that they might enjoy by the self-comparison to masterpieces and the myth of talent.
Very few people are born with what is seen as natural talent. If there is such a thing as inborn talent, the slight advantage it confers can almost always be overcome with honest interest and effort. The myth, though, is perpetuated by the word itself. “You’re so talented,” so much is loaded into that phrase: you have an inborn gift; I don’t; I could never be as good as you; and the worst one, I shouldn’t even try. Also, by attributing ability to talent, we diminish the time put into gaining a skill; we ignore the effort and credit a blessed birth.
In my mind, one of the great tragedies of our first world economy is the need to specialize. Careers demand experts. Generalists have no place in the workforce. Children are asked what they want to be when they grow up from a terribly early age. We are led to believe that we are defined by the career we choose and that without having direction and focus, that we will end up working dead-end jobs for barely enough to survive on. Sadly, this is often true. What is truly depressing, though, is how often people will find what they believe to be their niche, and then stop trying anything new.
If I may steal from Oscar Wilde:
“If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know you will never become anything, and that is your reward.”
Because of all of this – the need to specialize, the belief in predestined genius, the ever-present comparison to greatness – we shy away from new things. We fear failure. We disparage mediocrity. We refuse to try. I think that there is value in poor art, more to be learned from hard-earned failure than simple success, and so much to be gained from curiosity that it defies words.
I love Creative Dissonance because it reminds me to celebrate not knowing how to do something. It lets me share the joy of learning something with new friends and makes failure something to laugh and smile about, and we do that most wonderful of human activities that so many adults seem to have forgotten, we play.