A couple of years ago, anewscafe.com published a piece I wrote about talent. In that piece I was exploring the world of talented writers. I still stand in awe of a person who can write to a deadline. Every day, or every week or every month they must call on their creative muse and hope she (or he) honors them with their presence.
Do we ask musicians to do that?
Do we ask those in the graphic arts to do that?
Do we ask architects to do that?
Dancers? Poets? Actors?
Well, yes we do.
Bach was the choirmaster and organist of a Lutheran church in Germany for many years and as such he composed pieces on a weekly basis. Back in the day there was very little or no music available in print. Society was just starting to make wide use of the printing press. A choirmaster couldn’t just call up his local wholesaler and ask for 25 copies of the current choir hit to be mailed out to him.
So, every week he wrote music. We have access to most all of that music today and because of that we know that his genius was on display in every piece every week.
Haydn worked for many years in the employee of Prince Esterhazy. His job was to compose pieces to accompany the Prince’s entertainment schedule (hey, this was before Muzak). Hence we have gems such as the Surprise Symphony. It was written because, as the story goes, Haydn got tired of the guests falling to sleep as they repaired to the drawing room after a twelve course dinner followed by Cognac, to hear his latest composition. That was the equivalent of a private movie showing in today’s world. The piece trips along soothingly for several minutes (just enough time for the overstuffed guests to fall asleep) and is then punctuated by a huge, resounding chord. Paybacks are so much fun!
Even Michelangelo worked to a schedule when painting the Sistine Chapel. He took several years to complete it, but worked on it most every day during those years . . . being a creative genius in every corner. And even then the Pope complained that he wasn’t working fast enough.
Most all art commissions have some sort of time line built in.
Architects on commission must submit drawings and proposals on a schedule agreed to by the involved parties.
Dancers have a performance schedule.
Musicians, as well as actors, especially in live performance, have a performance schedule. . . and they have to be ready to give a creative performance every time whether their cat just died or their wife just had a baby.
So this talent thing; these creative juices that flow, is it something that just happens upon us or is it learned? Well, here I beg your indulgence for some more of my non-expertise opinion. I believe that the natural bent for a creative endeavor may be inborn and God-given if you will, but the cultivation of that natural bent is the responsibility of that individual (and their parents when it shows up at a very early age).
And here comes another one of my pet peeves to add to that list of pet peeves about which I wrote about some time ago. When someone shares with me a person, usually a child or young person, displaying some sort of extraordinary skill and that person proclaims, as if it were some sort of badge of honor, “And he/she has never had a lesson!” My response is, “How sad!” Because talent is rather like an uncut stone. The beauty may be intrinsic, but the true revelation of that beauty for all to see comes with the polishing and faceting of that stone. Wasn’t it Einstein or some such person who said that genius is 90% perspiration? Same goes for talent.
Can the talented person accomplish the development of their talent on their own? Of course, but many times they are reinventing the wheel. Pitfalls could have been avoided, lessons and methods they figure out through trial and error could have been shared with them by a mentor.
Conversely, hard work, without talent, doesn’t guarantee a beautiful or inspired outcome. So just what is this ineffable thing we call talent? Well, if either you or I could define it, we could probably be way richer than we are now.
But this I do know, hours of practice, whether at an instrument, in a studio or at a drawing board is essential. Even genius needs polishing.