Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Talent + Experience + Training = Artistic Ability

Boy O Boy. For a man of little 'faith,' I'm exercising a lot of it. I am stepping forward with my acting career on the strength of my faith in talent as a mutable quality, which can grow and become more manifest with experience and training (Jan Powell has spoken to me of artistic ability as having three legs, 1-what we call 'talent,' 2-experience and 3-training; the more you have of any of these things the greater potential there is for the other two.) I am choosing to believe that the greatest weakness in my work--i.e., my frequent inability to bring all of my instincts into play, due almost wholly to fear--will dissolve over these first ten years or so of my career, during which I get used to being on stage and train my instrument.

To have faith in your own artistic potential I find requires two commitments of a receptive mind: 1-to pay attention to your own instincts and 2-to listen to what OTHERS have to say about your work--including their criticism--while keeping in mind that, on the one hand, others see in you what you yourself can't, and on the other hand, that they can't see the depth of your commitment to your own growth or see the potential in yourself that you sense is there. It's a balancing act of openness to the insight and advice of others and steadfastness in the face of what they can't see. It may be a balancing act between sanity and delusion, of course, and for many would-be artists, it is. This is where knowing one's self helps a lot. And honesty.

For my faith in the potential of my own 'talent' to bear out, I do need to work my ass off. My talent won't grow or flourish without the hard work to make it so.

(Also, for my faith to bear out, I must also believe that my work is about more than myself; that becoming an actor is more than just about me "pursuing a dream," which to me is a trivial and silly goal, if that's all there is to it. What I do has to have some meaning to the community I care about. Hopefully, it does. Hopefully, acting is--among other things--one way to model the best of human behavior and expose the worst, without pushing people around. Theater invites people to do their own thinking, both individually and as a community. Or, so I hope. So is the faith that I exercise.)


jason said...

Here's the thing the puzzles me: are we born with "talent", and if so, do we have a finite amount of it? I frequently feel that my experience level has long since surpassed my talent level.

David Millstone said...

What I've been hearing lately is experienced artists saying, "natural talent is a starting point," not a limited amount of 'stuff.' More naturally 'talented' actors may have to work less hard than the 'less-talented' to get to such-and-such a level of skill and attainment, but if the 'less talented' work hard, they can catch up and even surpass their 'betters.'

Or, at least, I bloody hope so.

David Millstone said...

.... Ah hell, you know, "talent" is NOT a helpful word! Yeah, it exists, as does 'lack of talent.' But, there are SO many other issues that decide whether or not one produces artistically satisfying work that the degree of "talent" one has is really not a relevant question.

"Talent" tends to be hindered, blocked, fettered, and denied way more often than it tends not be present at all.... The bottom line is that whatever "talent" I have, I intend to get the hell out of its way, whatever I have to do to do that.

Perhaps we should say talent = stubborn-assedness.