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Is talent essential for artistic success?

emthekittenOct 15, 2016, 8:44:23 AM

What is talent?

Talent (noun) – Natural ability, (someone who has) a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught. (Cambridge Dictionary)

As someone who has been continuously struggling with artistic projects, the concept of talent seems to be looming over me like a cloud. I can’t grasp it, and I can’t understand it, but still it interferes with my progress and stifles my motivation. Even if the dictionary definition is pretty clear, it seems to me that everyone interprets it differently. Some argue that artistic talent only shows in young people, and that if you start any later than 14- 15 years of age you’ll have a really hard time. Other people claim that while talent might give you a head start, perseverance and hard work will get you to your goal.

So, it seems that we all have different opinions about the very abstract concept of talent. But even so, can we discern some meaning from it?

Talent has an age limit?

Most people seem to agree that if someone has a talent, it shows early, and when talking to someone in a creative field, you’ll likely hear words along the lines of; “I’ve always been interested in…” or “I started when I was so little I can’t remember.” For someone who looks to learn a craft when they’re well past their teens, this can become very tiring to hear. If all the people that you admire started when they were children, surely you should have done that as well?

“Just start now!” Some will say, in an attempt to be encouraging. And yes, now is surely a good time to start, be you 25 or 75.

But still there is that nagging feeling, telling you that chasing after mastery or even decency at this craft is hopeless. Time and time again I’ve heard that; “If you truly were interested in that, you would’ve started earlier.” If this is true, then it is indeed a waste for me to sit around painting shaky portraits or singing out of tune.

Can you learn without talent?

In the spirit of egalitarianism, many people wish for equal opportunities for all. Talent, however, seems to be completely obliterating any hope of that. After all, if some are born better, there’s no need for anyone else to try, right? The best artworks and the best songs will be created by talented people, anyway.

Yet we regularly hear success stories of people with no perceived talent who beat all odds and became shining stars at their craft, all through hard work! Or is that just another form of talent?

Hidden talent

If someone at the age of 35 decides to learn how to play the violin, and succeeds, is that a case of hidden talent? Even if they struggled for years and years? Where is the line drawn between hard work and “hidden talent”? Some artists even seems to be offended by the insinuation that their success is based on “just talent”, and not on the years and years of hard work they put into their craft.

Do you need talent?

As I see it, if you only wish for a creative way to unwind and let loose, you really don’t need to obsess over your abilities and possible limits. Your talent, or lack thereof, matters little when only you yourself sees what you draw or listens you singing. I believe that creating is good for us, no matter the quality of the outcome.

Please let me know in the comments what you guys think!