Creating: The Talent to Drive Ratio
What if I told you the most talented artist I know, or have ever known, is not successful?
(I will define success here for the purpose of this article as making enough money at art to continue to make art, and no, I won't say who he is).
This guy can walk in and dominate any art task, front to back, with little or no effort. He can pick up a pen or paintbrush (even in a medium he is using for the first time) and put an expert to shame.
He's all savant, no idiot.
He has talent in spades. (Talent being the core ability, the predisposition towards a skill which can be improved by practice; writing, art, game design etc…) Lots of people have talent. Hell, almost everyone has a talent or two — no matter how peculiar it may be.
What my friend lacks is drive. Almost completely. He just doesn't believe in himself.
That is fatal. It kills his art, because what he wants is to be published, but his lack of drive makes that all but impossible.
Drive is a mix of self-interest, perseverance, a clarity of seeing and understanding the quality of your own work, and an urge to do better, which is vital in any artistic enterprise involving money changing hands.
Without at least a spark of drive, I posit, there's no way to be a success.
I've seen artists and writers with different talent to drive ratios.
Some creators have tons of drive, and only a tiny spark of talent, but so relentlessly fling themselves at the wall of accomplishment, that things (usually lots of things) stick.
Some artists are mostly talent, with a bit of drive. They wander about making cool stuff, and make a living almost by accident. If they pushed themselves, they could be much more successful.
Some are an even mix of drive/talent, and these people are machines. They cut a huge swath of success through the creative world.
Those monsters with giant amounts of both drive and talent are the heavyweights. The guys whose work shapes the creative world. They have great ideas and don't give up on realizing them, no matter what.
So what kills drive?
There are three problems I see all the time. They're so prevalent, in fact, that no doubt you'll know one person who represents each. The three cardinal sins that eat away drive are lack of confidence, surrender and delusion.
So, first off, the biggest cause of lack of drive I see is this: lack of confidence. Somehow, creators have learned to hate their own work, and that, somehow, this is healthy.
While judging your own work realistically is helpful, being self-deprecating and withdrawn is destructive. This kind of self-despising, navel-gazing gets you nothing, makes you no better at your art, and certainly won't make it any easier to make art for money.
Secondarily, I see a lot of surrender. People who are waiting for opportunity to show up and take their art and get it out there. While this does happen, it is rare. We live in a world where you can create and publish your own book with little or no risk. The only thing holding you back is yourself.
Last, I see a lot of delusion. You need to judge your own work honestly. Is it good enough to make a living with it? Are you barking up the wrong tree? I, for example, very quickly realized I had no future in 3d art. Can I concept? Check. Can I paint? Check. Can I "sculpt" in Maya? Not…so much.
This was an honest self-assessment after a fair amount of time was put into trying to make it happen. I looked at it and said: "this isn't for me". My talents lay elsewhere so I stopped and got back to things I could tell I was good at.
If you're a creator, you have a ratio of talent/drive, what mix are you? How can you up your drive? I won't really speak to building on talent, because that comes down to practice. Something you should always be doing.
So, what do I do? How do I keep my Drive up?
- Create a lot.
- Create some more.
- Judge my work against others honestly.
- Don't give up (unless It truly sucks).
- Try to sell my work.
- If I can't sell it, I publish it myself.
- If I can't publish it, I put it on the web.
- If I can't put it on the web I at least get people to read it.
The take away is here is in successful creators, there is always talent and there is always drive. One or the other alone is never enough.