The interviewee, neuroscientist Indre Viskontas, was talking about music, but she was really discussing creativity, and what makes great artists.
Success as an artist, she said, came down to three things:
2. Imperviousness to feedback
I found this list surprising, and wanted to think about each one of these traits. Since writers are artists, we can apply this list to ourselves:
Her first trait, obsessiveness, gets a bad rap in our culture so often. But you know how you might make a dish many times, trying to nail it? Or how you agonize over a sentence, writing it over and over? Viskonta would want you to embrace your obsessive side.
Obsessiveness and perfectionism are linked. The only downside I can think of is if obsessiveness keeps you going around and around, and not moving forward. This can be an issue when deciding when a piece of writing is “done.” That’s what deadlines are for!
I don’t know about you, but Number 2, “imperviousness to feedback” sounds terrific, in theory. Great artists are not held back by criticism. They believe in themselves, the path they’re on, and their work. They are not destroyed or sidelined by what other people say about their work. I bet they don’t second guess themselves either.
It’s not that they don’t make changes or listen. It’s that they believe in their own process. Now the question is, how do we sensitive types develop a thicker skin? Psychology Today has some ideas.
And then there’s Number 3, the lack of inhibition. We’ve seen a lot of that (ahem!) on social media, but I don’t think that’s what Viskontas is getting at. Successful artists give themselves the freedom to create. They don’t judge themselves. They let themselves go wild and rein themselves in later. If you reign yourself in immediately, you’re not going to produce any writing. I have had to control my inner editor quite a bit, and give myself permission to write. Editing comes later.
She said that great artists are talented people who work hard, versus trying to achieve something. I take this to mean that are not working hard to get ahead. Instead, they are working hard because they have something to say, and they want you to experience it.
What do you think of this list? Do you have these traits? Can you suggest others?
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- Steve Jobs and the Internal Editor
- Do Women Writers Have a Confidence Gap?
- Who Thinks You’re a Good Writer?
(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)