Between Creativity and Mediocrity

Imagine you are a creative artist. In the past you might have found a master to apprentice with. You’d have found them by showing them some of your work. Or if you were an actor or filmmaker, you’d approach somebody in the business and explain your creative ideas.

Chances were, since the person you approached were themselves an artist, they’d recognize your potential. Artists and all creative people tend to recognize each other, because they have this habit of thinking outside of the box, of being a bit more daring or dressing just a little differently, but mostly because they radiate a sense of wonder and enthusiasm that cannot really be described, but is sensed nonetheless. After all, natural talent is already present in people, and education (in the proper definition of the word) is there only to “bring out latent capabilities”.

Today, even artistic people have to go through university or through an accredited institution that claims to teach them how to become an artist. Schools don’t bring out latent capabilities, but train students in techniques, with the general expectation that anything can be learned as long as you work hard enough at it. They create standards and expect students to adhere to those and those standards are forged from what has been done in the past. If you match those standards, you get a diploma that says you have followed their course and that diploma is supposed to get you into your creative job. And in some cases, those already established in the industry accept only people with such pieces of paper.

But teaching techniques is not bringing out latent creativity, because without the inborn talent you turn out a competent person, at best, but the expression of this competence will not go beyond the boundaries of what is already accepted in the industry – so we get acting schools that are so focused on the soap opera industry, that they ignore talent in favour of a pretty face.

This we are seeing more and more in many creative fields. Although there are films made (often those by independents) that are truly novel and that dare to step beyond the standards, most are repeats of what everybody else has already done, both in technique and in content. The same applies to writing. The reason so many “How to find the right topic” classes are popping up, is because those with the diplomas have nothing to write about.

True creative artists never have “nothing” to create. They may not have the means and they may even have to practice the techniques, but the creative ideas are there – endless ideas. And it is those creative ideas that help a society to progress, because if everybody just keeps working within the accepted standards, no invention, inspiration or new philosophy are possible. After all, most people follow a trend; only a small number set a trend.

So how would an institution that is specialized in its field go about recruiting exactly those really creative people that can eventually help change the current trend and way of thinking of most people?

Obviously not by asking for diplomas that are prove of having conformed to the accepted standard.

They do it by allowing themselves to get taken slightly out of their comfort zone. If the person you interview acts like everybody else, talks like everybody else and makes you feel quite good about yourself – in the sense that you feel you could easily teach them all you know – you are looking at mediocrity. If the person you interview makes you either worried or excited, because what they say is new to you (something you haven’t thought of) or you are feeling a little restless, unsure how to respond to their subliminal enthusiasm – then you are looking at creativity.

My advice: be daring. Creative arts are about being original. If you turn away everybody who makes you feel uncomfortable, you are in the wrong job.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Henry Mitchell
    Dec 08, 2014 @ 11:58:01

    I wasn’t trained as a writer. My academic background was in visual art and I practiced that discipline for fifty years as a painter and sculptor. When my eyesight began to wane, I wanted to do something I could get better at, so started writing fiction. I was out of my depth from the beginning. After sending out around two hundred queries, I found a publisher for my first manuscript in the UK. I thought I’d written a novel but my editor said, “not quite.” She has kept me on edge through two novels now (the second, “Between Times,” came out last month. She is teaching me to write, book by book. It has been an education for us both. Art is about discovery. Repetition is the warning to do something you don’t know how.


  2. nonentiti
    Dec 08, 2014 @ 14:35:44

    I can understand that, because in all art lies creativity. You can change medium, but the ideas, the novel insight and visions are still there. They just needed another outlet.


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