TALENT & INSPIRATION
OUR UNKNOWN RESOURCES
If, as discussed earlier, creativity is comprised of talent, inspiration and craft, then how do we pry them apart for further examination? If you are asking, ‘What difference does it make,’ you’re on the right track. The process of combining these three components is impulsive. I only bring this up for the purpose of a broader understanding, if such be possible.
I have often heard it said of talent, “Either you’ve got it or you don’t.” or “Nobody knows for sure where it comes from but everybody knows it when they see it.” Everybody on this planet is talented at something. In many areas, talent can be built through the practice of craft and craft is a learning process. There are many practicing professionals; doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects and engineers, but those with genuine talent are rare.
When we move this discussion into the arts, drawing and painting, music, literature, screenwriting, photography, sculpture, architecture and the various realms of invention, true talent is always tied to inspiration, and inspiration is understood least of all.
Tony Elner, one of my architecture professors at Arizona State University, told the class that his best inspiration came after a few beers, that getting slightly high reduced the inhibitions and opened the cerebral windows to inspiration. I must confess, I sometimes took this theory to the extremes, eventually waking up the following morning with nothing but a headache. The truth is, when inspiration comes, it comes in floods. There’s no controlling it and there’s no sure-fire way to prompt its arrival.
Many authors complain about sitting for hours, days, weeks, or even months and years staring at the same page, waiting for the words etched in the deep recesses of the brain to emerge. They can almost reach out and touch them but they can’t quite read them. This is called writer’s block. Whenever I find myself in this situation, I pray for inspiration. Inspiration usually follows, which is the reason I firmly believe that inspiration and talent come from God.
When inspiration comes, we need to follow it, enhance it and feed it but never try to lead it. Never allow others change it for you. That process never works. Ain Rand’s, The Fountainhead, leads readers into the struggle between Howard Roark, an architect with inspired talent, and the world of traditional architects of his era. When these traditionalists alter his inspired creation a disaster of style is the result. Roark destroys the project with explosives and is eventually acquitted of the crime. So, don’t allow others to twist and altar your design, your story, your art or your invention.
I don’t, however, recommend you refuse to listen to the advice of others. While many want to poke their ideas into your creation, others see what you are trying to do and want to help you make it better. For them, something is missing. So, always listen to criticism. Be polite. Thank them for their time and for their suggestions. Look at your work to see if something is missing, if something might be resolved in a better way and still be within the scope of your original ideas. Let their suggestions truly sink in before you reject them. I have, at times, seen the reasons for suggestions concerning my screenwriting and dealt with the problem in a totally different way, both enhancing my original idea and resolving any problems posed by my critics. If you follow this process with great care, it will almost always make your work better.
Art schools, architecture colleges, music conservatories and the institutional study of literature are all good places to learn craft. If you feel you have talent, take your education as far as you can. In this environment, always listen and take advice. You are there to learn craft and grades do matter. Though superficial, grades are a standard by which most others will judge you.
Your talent, if you truly have any, will push you. Inspiration, if it comes, will guide your talent. Craft will allow you to make your inspired talent more enjoyable for others. At the end of the day, if others are not enriched by your creation, don’t stress over it. Keep moving forward. Keep learning to do it better. Always strive to be the best you can be at whatever you do. Otherwise, why bother?
During the next few months, I will discuss the craft of writing fiction; from short stories to novellas, from stage plays to screenplays to novels, the craft always follows a certain set of rules that help to make it work. I’ll do my best to bring these to light.