Talent Matters, But Not Always

So, Patty and I just watched “Twenty Feet from Stardom” an HBO documentary that won the Academy Award several years back. Not only was it profound in its message, but beautifully produced and filmed. If you have not seen it, you must see it. The subject is simply: The Backup Singers for the great bands of the 20th century are as talented as the stars they backup, but there is a chasm separating them. It also highlights how talent is not what keeps them from stardom.

And that made me think. The fame, the celebrity, the money, the power – none of this is the reason one sits down or stands up or hunches over a desk and creates. It never was about this. It never will be. Sting speaks of this quite elegantly in the documentary. If the celebrity and fame is what you are after – and if you have not paid the price, the dues, experienced the “hard knocks” of what creating art actually means – then that celebrity will be fleeting and wafer thin. It is the joy and spirit of the art itself, captured in the day-to-day moments of creation. Everything else is irrelevant.

If you read my posts (which you must because you are now), then you know where I stand on all of this. The joy is the creative act, the life lived, the sitting and experiencing the art while it happens. This is why the artist does what the artist does. Everything else is bi-product… sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible but always brief.

Have you heard of Walter J. Miller Jr? No? Well, those who know SciFi know him. he wrote one book during his 70 year lifespan: A Canticle for Leibowitz. He never published another book the rest of his life. He wrote. He became a recluse, and when he died his work was published – a 600 page tome. The Canticles is known as one of the greatest SiFi novels of the 20th Century… and one of the top 100 greatest novels of the 20th Century. The novel won the 1961 Hugo Award…. famous! And then…. Just write and write and write and write and write… for nobody but Walter J. Miller Jr.

So, what are you doing today for the spirit-filled wonder of creation itself… the just doing for doing sake? My advice (no matter if you want more than you can ever know or possibly obtain) is to concentrate on the art itself – the delight of doing. The celebration and joy will follow… even if it is just between you and your creation. Even if nobody ever knows or cares. And if it is not talent that separates those who “make it” and those “who don’t make it,” maybe it’s time to realize how false those categories actually are.


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