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Talented or not? Thoughts on identity

2011 April 15
by elizabeth_admin

The other day I had my palm read.  I didn’t go looking for a palm reader mind you.  A friend of mine just offered up randomly that she could read palms and she read mine.  She told me that I would live till I was about 110 (no thanks, at least not that long and definitely please let me be healthy until the bitter end!).  That I would have one more child, a girl (um… Don’t you need someone else to procreate?).  That my career ended (my singing career did end about 9 years ago).  And that, by the curve (or lack thereof) of my thumb, I was only moderately talented.  She also said that I would never make money with my sewing.

Ordinarily I don’t take this kind of stuff seriously.  But I have to admit those last two things have stuck in my craw the last few weeks.  I know I have mentioned my past foray in singing, but I don’t think I mentioned that at one point at a very stressful time, I lost my voice.  I couldn’t sing in tune if my life depended on it.  My larynx felt like it was stuck in lump in the throat position for months.  That lump feeling, which in small doses is annoying, was so painful when experienced 24/7.  It was draining.  It was demoralizing.  And it was humiliating. 

I was a singer who couldn’t sing. 

I was 28 and just about to finish my Masters degree in Voice.  I had been a singer for most of my life at that point.  I started voice lessons at 12 and had pursued singing ever since then.  That’s 16 years people (for those of you doing the math).  16 years of singing.  16 years as self-identifying as a singer.  There was no Plan B should Plan A fail.  Because Plan A wasn’t going to fail. 

Needless to say the next two years were humbling.  I had not only lost my voice, I had lost my identity as well.  What would I do now if I couldn’t sing anymore?

Fortunately, I did rebuild my voice from scratch with the help of some great teachers and I was able to sing again, better than before.  Not only that, but I knew how to teach it too.   Of course I was happy to regain my voice and to sing again, but one of the curious side affects of the whole experience was that of liberation.  I didn’t have to identify myself as a singer anymore.  The experience taught me that I wasn’t just a singer.  That I could do other things if forced to do so or even if I wanted to do so.  I think that’s why it wasn’t as hard as one might expect to leave singing when I did.  I knew I wasn’t just a singer and that I could do other things.  My identity didn’t depend on that one talent any more.

After that life lesson (and years of auditioning), I thought I would be impervious to comments about my talents.  But I have to admit that palm reading rankled me.  It gnawed at me.  Could I still be identifying myself as a singer after all these years?  It was like, with that one comment, she had pushed my button. 

Today, however, I had an epiphany while ruminating on my moderate talent.  I realized that I am actually not talented at all.  In fact, I’m a creative.  I like to create things.  Whether it’s music, mosaics or sewing.  The term talented sounds so 1996.  It’s archaic and quantitative where numbers shouldn’t ever rear their ugly heads.  Now “creative” is a term I can get behind.  It seems limitless and positive.  Positively limitless in fact.  It wouldn’t matter to me if you tried to quantify my creativeness, because any amount of creativity is great in my books. 

So, tell me: are you talented or creative?

Here’s a sneak peek at what I finished creating last night…

21 Responses leave one →
  1. NancyDaQ permalink
    April 15, 2011

    And yet, people say “I’m creative/not creative” as if it’s either/or. I think people can and do have varying degrees of creativity, just like anything else. I also think it’s a skill that can be developed if a person wants to.

    OK, off the soapbox now. The little dress is totally cute!

  2. April 15, 2011

    Hmm, I would consider creativity as a talent. Fortunately, I firmly consider palm-reading to be bunk… If we must fuss around with silly stuff I’d prefer a tarot reading, with a good cold reader who will reflect your ideas back to you… At least you may learn something about yourself, if not your future. 😉

    Ok, off of my sceptic’s soapbox, onto another one…

    Talent is great. Creativity is great. But ninety percent of success at anything isn’t talent. It’s hard work, commitment, and dedication. The professional artists I know aren’t professional artists because they’re so much better than me(some are, some aren’t)—it’s because they refused to quit. Ever.

    I envy that, actually. I think if I could ever truly focus on just one thing, I could be really great. As it is… Not so much.

    And then there’s fear, which is almost the anti-talent, but that’s a whole bother post.

  3. April 15, 2011

    I hope you won’t let this ‘reading’ stop you from getting your Etsy store up. (And by the way, i would love to correspond with you about that.) You made a great decision by adding that band of dark above the ruffle. Love it! Very creative 🙂

  4. April 15, 2011

    How does the expression go – genius is 99% hard work, 1% talent. In actual fact, to be successful we mostly need to stick at things, having a ‘gift’ is actually only the beginning.

    • April 17, 2011

      Having a ‘gift’ quite often means you don’t ever use said ‘gift’ because you never see it as being important or worthy of working at. I’m with Mary Nanna – 99% hardwork, 1% talent.

      I love the dress, Elizabeth, very creative with your placement of the blue.

  5. April 15, 2011

    Wow, what a revealing blog post. I had no idea you had a singing background. That dress is so pretty. Anyway, in terms of talent and creativity: I think the two are inextricably intertwined. Craft v. talent – that’s a more distinct classification, I feel. You can learn craft, but talent – I think you’re born with it or you’re not. But both craft and talent can be indulged via creativity.

  6. Alison permalink
    April 15, 2011

    The distinction you’re making between “talented” and “creative” feels like a healthy one. To me, “talented” seems like something subject to the judgment of others, while “creative” feels like an internally generated energy. Someone might say you’re more or less talented than someone else (or than your perception of your level of talent), but who’s to judge whether you’re creative? If you FEEL creative, you are!

    • April 15, 2011

      Well put. My thoughts exactly!

      And that little dress is TOTALLY cute! Love that you added the band of navy at the bottom. It adds that “special something”. And the design choice you made to add it with the ruffle is creative. 🙂

  7. Lene permalink
    April 15, 2011

    Hi there.

    To me, talent is something inborn that concerns a certain aspect of life – some have a talent for music, some for languages and some for cooking. I speak 6 languages, but spent 7 years, practising 5-8 hours a week, trying to learn how to play classical guitar. Aged 19, I met a guy, who had picked up a guitar for the first time 6 months earlier – and he played much, much better than I did despite all my effort. So I decided that I just did not have sufficient talent in that area.

    On to the sewing – I do believe, that sewing is part creativity and part craft (in the medieval sense of the word – not the stick-rhinestones-on-a-tshirt-and-call-yourself-crafty sense of the word). Talent is not required… You need to know some techniques – some basic and some advanced, and the longer you work on it, and the more techniques you master, the more creative you can get, because you will KNOW how to carry out your ideas, and can think out the necessary steps.

    Hope that made sense 🙂

  8. Marie-Christine permalink
    April 15, 2011

    Mmm. Well, this one was clearly not a talented palm reader, because everyone knows they should only tell you nice things about yourself :-).
    You can have a talent for something, but it’s hard not to be creative at it because that’s usually what talent consists of. Almost everyone can learn to do something well if they practice, the talent comes from the creative dimension. So that distinction is a moot point to me.
    Also, I think this general ‘talented’ thing is bs. You have specific talents, you may have more than the average but nobody is all-around talented at everything. Your particular talents may not be appreciated, because they’re not fashionable, or you may not have discovered them all because of a too-limited life. But that doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t have some..

  9. April 15, 2011

    I’ve never felt very talented or creative though I’ve always wanted to be. However, I am a firm believer that one can learn ANYTHING they set their mind to learn. A firm believer that if you try hard enough, long enough you well become very good at the thing your are trying to learn. I also believe that one is NEVER too old to learn. And if someone tells me I can’t learn something or do something, I’ll learn it or do it just to pi_s them off. I guess I was born with more tenacity and stubbornness than talent or creativity. There is so much of “other people’s” talent and creativity around that they are so willing to share, there is no excuse for not taking advantage of it thus becoming talented and creative yourself. Nuff said!

  10. April 15, 2011

    I’d say the same about myself – the creative thing. Not the living to 110 thing (that seems a little extreme). I think that if you are creative then you find yourself turning your hand to all sorts of things: primarily writing, sewing, and crochet in my case. It’s adding beautiful stuff to the world however you look at it, and that can only mean you’re somehow tuned in to how beautiful the world already is.

    And no, I’m not going to apologise and bleat about the failings in the thing I make (not today anyway). It’s enough just to make. Most people don’t bother.

  11. sewer permalink
    April 15, 2011

    Um, I think creativity and talent and skill and experience go together.

  12. April 15, 2011

    I like the way you are posing the question. Like another commenter said, creativity is something you can generate. It makes sense.

    Talent seems to occur in little pools here and there. Some people have vast pools of it, some have smaller pools. Of course, it all still takes hard work to bring the talent to full bloom.
    For me, I know where my talents lie. I work hard at it, but it is still fun and it feels easy even though I am expending significant effort. In areas where I am not talented, it is just hard work, it feels hard, and the results are nothing special.

  13. April 15, 2011

    I think the cute dress you have created says it all, beautiful!

  14. April 16, 2011

    Thought-provoking post. I’m not sure what she would mean by ‘talented’ – it covers such a range of things. And as others have said above, talent doesn’t get you anywhere without hard work. To me, creativity is a need that has to be fulfilled, and it’s easier for me to fulfil it in some areas than others – I can be more creative with dressmaking than writing, for example. But if I didn’t sew I’d probably create something else.

  15. April 16, 2011

    I’ve totally been there with the music thing — and along the way was told by some (famous) teachers I had no talent, whereas others said I had a ton of it. In the end, I decided not to put my livelihood at the mercy of other people’s whimsical opinions, so I do music as my avocation, but it took a long time to disengage from being totally identified with my instrument (and not sure I have done so even now!). I do think talent is something you are born with (a combination of physical and chemical elements that predispose you have a natural ability at something); creativity is something anyone can engage in, whether talented or not. (As for palm readers, fortune tellers, et al. — bunch of hooey, IMO.)

  16. Ruth permalink
    April 17, 2011

    So what if I do something that I am not “talented” at? My sister was a great sportswoman when we were young and I was only ever so-so. My sister is really built for sports (tall, muscular etc) and I’m not (weak, spindly little thing, I was!). So I am not “good at” sports but knowing that other people are better at them than me doesn’t bother me at all. I still do them because I enjoy them.

    I don’t think I am particularly talented at sewing either. But again, I love doing it and have every intention of keeping on at it. Some people say I am great at it and some people would look down their noses at what I produce I am sure. Who cares?

    I think too many of us live out our lives by reference to what we see reflected of ourselves in others’ eyes. The question is, how does it (whatever ‘it’ is) feel to you?

  17. janwou permalink
    April 17, 2011

    Do not talk yourself out of your sewing mojo. We will not all be Vera Wangs but we can use our drive to create. You have an interest in something that has opened your world and let you go places that you never would have ventured had you not sat at a sewing machine one day and decided to learn something new. That sewing machine has been your buggy to new and different ways of exploring the world. Let you mojo continue to take you to new places.

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