Mythologizing natural talent and mundane art making

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Do you believe you are born creative and some people have natural talent, or that creativity is a skill that can be practiced and improved over time? Your answer will reveal whether you have a fixed mindset (natural ability determines skills) or growth mindset (improve is possible) around creativity. With a fixed mindset you believe because you’re not an instant artist, there’s no point putting in more effort. You’ve either got it or you haven’t, which is a very black-and-white way of looking at creativity. This mindset can sabotage further practice which ironically leads to improvement over time, the way mastery is really built.

Mastery doesn’t happen overnight and because we’re not present to witness the hours, weeks, months and years of practice that goes into an professional artist’s journey, we believe it takes far less effort and practice than in reality. We see the shiny results but none of the hard work, effort over time, doubt, uncertainty and self-judgement the artist experienced. We imagine the artist perfect from the start and so there’s no way we can catch them up even if we wanted to. Angela Duckworth in Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance suggests that “a high level of performance is, in fact, an accretion of mundane acts.” Consistent repetitive practice over time builds up. There is no magic sauce you can add to get better quick. She suggests we “prefer our excellence fully formed. We prefer mystery to mundanity… In other words, mythologizing natural talent lets us off the hoot. It lets us relax into the status quo.”

If you choose to believe in the instant artist, you buy into a myth of magic and mystery so it’s no wonder you don’t feel you can live up to those standards. Choose instead to believe in the mundane — the act of showing up at a blank page consistently over time to make your art.