Interesting article here by Malcom Gladwell on the New Yorker’s website.
We generally think that precocity and genius go together. In fact–or so we think–genius appears at a very young age. The old saw that states “if you don’t ‘make it’ by age thirty-five that you never will” is almost universally accepted. But it’s not always true.
Thank God for that.
I find it even more interesting younger people and older people approach the creative process differently: The young favor a conceptual approach whereas older creatives favor an experimental approach.
For those of us advancing in years, this is good news. But it comes at a price. Gladwell quotes University of Chicago economist David Galenson in the middle of a discussion about Picasso and Cézanne:
The imprecision of their goals [by using an experimental approach] means that these artists rarely feel they have succeeded, and their careers are consequently often dominated by the pursuit of a single objective. These artists repeat themselves, painting the same subject many times, and gradually changing its treatment in an experimental process of trial and error. Each work leads to the next, and none is generally privileged over others, so experimental painters rarely make specific preparatory sketches or plans for a painting. They consider the production of a painting as a process of searching, in which they aim to discover the image in the course of making it; they typically believe that learning is a more important goal than making finished paintings. Experimental artists build their skills gradually over the course of their careers, improving their work slowly over long periods. These artists are perfectionists and are typically plagued by frustration at their inability to achieve their goal.
Key takeaway? You gotta love the process if you’re over thirty-five. 🙂 And you’ve gotta have someone (or a couple of someones) who love you.
I’m still thinking about “practicing in public.”
I don’t want to make too much of this idea. What we do in public is only a portion of the whole. What we do in private is also important, maybe foundational.
In private is where intimacy occurs. In private is where promises are made. In private is where forgiveness is confirmed, where learning occurs, mistakes are corrected, decisions are made, courage is fostered, faces are set, spirits are strengthened and hope takes root.
Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and the soon to be published Free, is quoted in the December issue of Writer’s Digest:
“I don’t come from the book or media world; I’m trained as a computational physicist,” Anderson says. “We in the software world wrote our code in public. That’s what beta testing is all about. Doing things in public is the norm. I took the habits that were most conventional, just like getting peer reviews in science, and applied it to my books.”
Anderson’s quote reminds me of something I read about Bob Dylan:
Dylan said he needed to practice in front of people. He could not sit in a room by himself and play. For all intents and purposes, Dylan practiced in public. He said that what he was practicing was what he was becoming.
I like that. Blogging is like practicing in public. So is Christianity. What we are is what we will become.
Whether we are writers or musicians or Christians, when the thing is done in public, something special happens.
What is writing? Is it paper or process?
Most people would probably say paper. I’m not so sure. I’m becoming more and more aware of writing as process, though I’m willing to concede this is somewhat a false choice.
How can I say that writing is process? Writing must be the end result, right? In other words writing is most definitely paper. I’m using the idea of words on paper as a representation of the end result. (I could use “screen” rather than paper to keep current with the idea of writing as it appears in the blogosphere. However, the idea of writing as “screen or process” was not quite as alliterative as “paper or process”.)
Posted in Writing
I am compiling information about what we like to call spiritual disciplines. The following is a sober warning to beware about thinking we’re accomplishing too much in the spiritual life.
From a letter C. S. Lewis sent to Arthur Greeves, 15 June, 1930: