I’ve been writing blog posts for writers and artists for sixteen months and over that time have published about 120,000 words. And though I’ve been a professional writer for many years, have written national and international best-sellers, been contributing editor to popular magazines, have had published non-fiction, poetry, and prose, have advanced degrees, have taught in graduate schools, and have been studying, reading, and researching about the arts all my adult life, very rarely will you find me writing anything about how to write or paint better because that is not my main interest.
I will not tell a painter how to paint because I don’t know enough about that. But even if I did I probably wouldn’t talk about good technique or good use of color except to say I recognize them when I see them. I will talk about what made great artists tick and why they’re so special. And I will say that people who do great things are great in themselves.
I know enough about writing to have taught serious writers and found great pleasure in that and discovered I have a lot to say. I’ve written about extraordinary writers—the most extraordinary ever to write. But you won’t hear from me these days anything about developing characters, scenes, conflicts, and episodes, or how to write dialogue, or generate a mood, or structure a plot, or that kind of thing. There’re plenty of books, magazines, web sites, classes, and blogs for that. People have been writing about those things for 2,000 years.
My interest—the territory I have staked out for myself—are The Inner Skills of Creative People, for there, I think, inside, in your spirit, will be found the magical difference between adequate creators and great ones.
I write freely, unabashedly, happily of human qualities that distinguish one creative person from another such as strength (suggesting that every day it’s worth a creator asking, “Am I strong today? Will I be strong?”) And I write about courage, persistence, tenacity, will power, commitment, empowerment, sense of purpose, discipline, good writing moods and bad writing mood, and ideal writing moods. And self-resilience, enthusiasm, guts, self-motivation, energy and your capacity for work, sacrificing for the sake of your craft, boldness, doggedness, adaptability, endurance, resilience, maintaining at all times a high hope of succeeding, and other spiritual dimensions of you. I teach Buddhist and Hindu non-attachment so that the writer or artist might become selfless and dispassionate, and free himself from debilitating envy and worry that so recklessly destroy talented people.
I write about self-doubt, the creator’s curse, and I write about creator’s confidence because confidence may be the most important factor of all. Creative people fail because: (a) they lack the necessary skill, or (b) they have the skill but don’t have the confidence to use that skill well. More fail because they lack the confidence and not because they lack the skill. If you have confidence and faith in yourself you’ll reach higher levels of success than other creators of equal ability who lack them. So much of realizing your long-held hopes—possibly you’ve had them since childhood–is a result of knowing exactly what they are, wanting badly to achieve them, and believing that you can. Confidence precedes success. All great creators are confident.
A poet who lived several hundred years before Plato wrote, “Before the Gates of Excellence the high Gods have placed sweat.” No outstanding creative achievement has ever been produced without a lot of effort on the part of the creator, however much natural ability or how many technical skills he/she possesses. So I write about sweat.
I write about creative patience because patience makes artists and writers more successful.
I write about warrior artists and writers—and warrior actors and ballet dancers—because warriors know things and possess skills that enable them to go through life 18 inches off the ground and to move faster and live more intensely, with stronger commitments and greater seriousness, than everyone else.
I write about production because to produce a work—a painting a sculpture, a poem, a stage performance—is the reason for being of a creator. Everything—all the creator’s training and education, habits and routines, dreams and hopes—are aimed at that central goal: no matter what is happening around you, to get the work out. Some writers and some artists are 25 times more productive than others.
Out of the mass of experiences of a life, you (1) must somehow or other settle on the creator’s way of life, which is a distinct way of being; (2) must have the personal makeup necessary to excel as a creator; must possess the (3) knowledge, (4) persistence, (5) confidence, and (6) complement of skills necessary to excel, and must (7) minimize your weaknesses and develop your strengths.
The creator who has technical skills, but lacks these spiritual inner skills will not go as far as he could, or may not go far at all. What you are—what you are made of, what constitutes you, what you stand for—is so important.
Your technique and your spirit must be united. Creators grow from within.
© 2015 David J. Rogers
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6 responses to “The Inner Skills of Creative People”
I enjoyed reading this. It felt motivating and your angle interested me. It reads like a call, not to arms, but to the pen or to the keyboard, the stage or the palette. I love that you have carved out this specific niche to explore and enlighten. I look forward to reading more.
Josephine, thank you for your comment. I’m happy you enjoyed and were motivated by my post on creators’ inner skills. My wish is that everyone on earth make full use of all the talents they possess.”A call, not to arms, but to the pen or to the keyboard, the stage or the palette.” I love the way you put that. It appears that you, over there in Oman, are a person I am writing to. I hope your mystery goes well. I’ve been re-reading hard-boiled detective novels by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, which I enjoy. Your blog tells me you’re a fine writer.
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‘Writers and artists grow from within’ – this is so true – something I had very little understanding of when I began my journey as a young hopeful, but at the same time, tentative somewhat fearful artist. It wasn’t until I completely grasped the full understanding of this that the flow took over – the deep understanding and acceptance that my creative life, is my life.
Reading your blog is sustainence for an artist in that it breaks through all the societal notions of what it is to be a creative – rather you get to the very real core and essence of the subject. (By the way as soon as I finish writing this comment, I will be purchasing your book, Fighting to Win.)
When teaching, I always emphasise that the artist’s ultimate goal is to ‘marry technical prowess with the intangible’. It is only by tapping into all the inner qualities you talk about, courage, persistency, tenacity, and of course years of dedicated work that this is sometimes achievable.
I am off to Paris on Monday to paint the portrait of a remarkable, woman and artist. Madame Notalle, now 94, will also paint my portrait. I have painted this woman several times over a period of thirty years. This is one of the countless rewards that life as an artist brings.
Hugs to you David – and do hope that you and your family enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. Janet:)
Janet, I appreciate your saying that I get to the core and essence of creativity. That’s my goal, so it is very rewarding to hear that. If you say it, it makes me feel it must be true, for who would know better than a true artist like you? I very much like your artists’ goal of marrying technical prowess with the intangible. Yes, that’s my point of view too. How lovely it is to be able to paint a person’s portrait, and to do so many times over many years. How I wish I could, and how I wish I could compose music. But alas, I am a writer, who tries his best. It’s very noticeable to me that some of the artists I’ve met are also fine writers, as you are. Hugs to you too, my friend.
Thank you so much for this lovely response and I really appreciate your comment re writing….as I am hoping to actually write a book one of these days……Because I am able to produce rapid water-colour portraits, this allows me to record the people I meet and know on my travels….which is something I love to do. I also enjoy working on large oil portraits……ah time of course is always our most precious commodity….Janet.
Janet, I’ll be the first to buy your book, if that’s any incentive. But I know with your sensitivity and powers of perception the book will be something you’ll be proud of and that people will want to read. You’re right. Time is always at a premium. This reminds me of a concept I wrote about in Fighting to Win that I call “The Law of Give Up to Get,” meaning that to get something in this life, you must–must–give up something else. That might be regrettable, but that’s the way it works. This also relates to my discussion with Sara in the comment section on my October 22 post “Artists Strive for Perfection” about the need of the artist to seek balance. Difficult though that is.