• Scott Stahlecker

Are You Artistically Paralyzed?

“We are all born originals. Why is it that so many of us die copies?” Edward Young.

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I have no talent.” Really? Sure you do. Playing music, writing, drawing, painting, dancing, sculpting, acting, singing, expressing ideas; these are just a few creative activities people think of when it comes to not having talent. It’s easy to understand why. These are the most common forms of creativity people use to express themselves. A few of these talents like singing and playing music also require that people get up in front of large crowds. Terrifying!

One thing many people don’t usually consider is how commercialized art has become. Meaning, everyone has an opinion on what is good or bad in the world of art. Those opinions are influenced by the manipulation of marketing and big money, which places a dollar value on who or what represents good and bad art. This in turn drives the dollars that determines the kind of art that gets put on the radio or hung in museums. What renders people mute or terrified to the point that they are convinced they have no talent? They compare their abilities to the successful individuals they have come to respect in the media and decide they really have nothing to offer the world. So why bother?

When we compare our talents to others we do the world and ourselves a disservice. A talent is a creative endeavor, which we can’t put a price tag on. Strictly speaking, its value is in how happy or fulfilled it makes you feel. Secondary to this objective is whether or not other people get something out of what you have done. It’s never about money unless you make it about money, and unless you are trying to please people who have also been bit by the commercialization bug. One of the most detrimental effects of the commercialization of arts is that it has strangled human creativity. Who rises to the top of the charts in any artistic genre are generally very talented people, but the level of diversity and originality is shrinking. By far the vast majority of people let the marketing gurus decide what they will like, and this makes it likely that in the real world most people will judge what you do by a wide range of qualifiers. If you are imagining how people will react to your art within this context, and comparing yourself to those you admire, you will probably remain artistically paralyzed.

My advice for people who have dreams of becoming a commercially successful is to understand the compromises they will have to make towards their craft. To make money at art one has to make sure their art is relatable to the general public. The economics are simple. If more people like what you do then they will “buy into” what you do. But remember, how much you buy into the commercialization of art yourself is oftentimes juxtaposed to how much you value originality. Whether you choose originality, and commercialism, or fall in between these points of reference makes little difference. The odds of becoming a huge success are extremely rare, perhaps along the lines of getting hit by lightening. Besides, the holders of the purse strings in the world of art still value originality. So you might as well just create the way you want to create, do what you do, and let the bolts fall where they may. Choose to be an original in other words, because you will reap the benefits of creativity, but skip all the stresses, pitfalls, and heartbreaks of trying to become someone you are not.

Fortunately, most people recognize the importance of doing art for art’s sake, and the joy in unleashing one’s creative juices. Creativity is simply good for the soul. No mindful endeavor we do can set us free like the act of creating. Creating builds the intellect, and inspires confidence and well being. “Talent,” or to be talented, has little to do with creativity. It’s a pigeonhole people use to categorize others. The important thing is to start strumming or drumming, pick up a paintbrush, open a blank page and start typing, mold clay, build furniture, dance.

“We are all born originals. Why is it that so many of us die copies?” Edward Young.

You are an original. No one can paint what you will paint with the colors and perspective you will paint. No one can string together words and expressions of poetry like you can. No one will string beautiful and engaging melodies together like you will. "The most gratifying aspect of creating is knowing you have done something completely unique—something no other person can do like you. Expressing your creativity will give you a sense of individualism. Yet, it will also empower you with the feeling of connectivity to others. Being creative will change you and it will change those around you, because by being creative you share your life experiences and personally contribute to making the world a better and happier place."


© 2020 by Scott Stahlecker