Humility is the Quiet Skill of Creativity

Thu, Feb 4, 2010

Blogs, Fearless Creativity

Humility is the Quiet Skill of Creativity

“When weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.” – Martha Graham

Reading words were once hieroglyphics. With talking, early on I was incomprehensible. With walking, ask a stroke victim how hard it is to relearn those first steps. Apparently we’re not afraid to be terrible when desire is high or fear is low. Conceivably, groundwork might be easier without speech so we couldn’t talk ourselves out of trying.

Enjoy your badness because once you’re accomplished, there will be times when you’ll swear you were once better than you are.  Backsliding is much less fun than improving; there is fulfillment in working your way up from the mail room of creative talent.

If being an expert at anything means you abandoned your need for approval then it has real value. Unfortunately, revered talent has much more to lose than those rewarded simply for trying. There is something to be said for that grammar school soccer ribbon given for hard work – win or lose.  All we have to do is try hard to win – you’ve already won.  Life is that way – most success is just being there; so be there.

Finding your humility is the quiet skill of creativity. The justly successful are high achievers in creative humility. It’s why the most talented genuinely rebuff compliments, it keeps expectations low, both internal and external. “No really, I suck – don’t expect me to do this again anytime soon.” – what the artist is thinking.

“The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.” – W. Somerset Maugham

Accordingly, I believe sustained creative failure to be a refusal to accept humility, and an error isn’t failure unless you give up the flight. Authentic creatives have a passion for doing; they can’t not-do, and the results are secondary to the act, but no less important than their original idea. Sooner or later, humility provides freedom to fail.

If something is worth the effort, the rightly talented risks embarrassment. Only the arrogant and conceited perform solely what they look good doing. Humility shrinks our need for approval.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to wait to begin painting until I’m an expert. How absurd. “If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing badly.”Gustav Holst

- Bruce DeBoer

This post was originally published as a guest post at GaryUnger.com
Creativity, Freedom to fail

2 Responses to “Humility is the Quiet Skill of Creativity”

  1. Kristin Says:

    WOW – I needed this. As a creative in hiding, it’s freeing to read these words. It is absolutely true that we can’t ‘not do’. It is akin to death. In my case my creative output sits mostly on my computer, unread by all but a handful; yet I still create, for “the results are secondary to the act”


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