I often talk to people about one of my pet-peeves: Talent. Talent is one of those things that when you are a child people say “Oh, he’s got talent” or “You’re so talented!” when really what they are responding to is that you learned a particular skill more quickly than they expected. For years I struggled with this idea that some are “talented” and others are not. I always enjoyed photography growing up and my brothers and I had a darkroom in the bathroom where we made prints and so on, but I was often disappointed by my photos. Around the end of high school I decided I didn’t have the “talent” to be a professional photographer and set my cameras aside.
Some years later, I began to use photoshop 1.0 on scans of images I had made. I quickly realized that it wasn’t a lack of talent that was making my photos less than good, but a lack of skill and access to a high-quality lab! Photoshop was that lab. I could take a mediocre exposure and tweak it a bit and *snap* it would be better.
When I first started my career as a designer and photographer, many of the projects that came our way took me weeks to conceptualize and invent around. Now, I often can see the solution to a project within moments of hearing the client describe what they are trying to do. This transition has convinced me that creative thinking is, like so many things, a “learned” skill. We practice at sports endlessly drilling to learn how to best hit a tennis ball, but we rarely think about practicing at thinking, or creating.
Much like training at sports, training the creative muscle can be painful, can leave you sore, and can take a lot of time. I have found that the best way to keep the creative muscle in shape is by approaching every creative opportunity with a free, open mind. Letting my intuition and experience work on a solution with a free hand always creates good solutions. Sketching is a great way to explore a creative solution. I’m not one for a solid rendering, just a gesture, a scribble to get the idea across and record it. I find that photoshop is my creative space of choice, a place where I can bring together different elements and see how they play. When I’m working a design or a logo I like to work on many versions at once and just see which ones “rise to the top” naturally.
I’m bringing this up because I think I’m finally having an “aha” moment in relation to many things web 2.0 after this last weekend working on my blog and other pages. You need to understand the tools and the workspaces you have before you can use them, and I finally feel like I am getting a handle on these things and that the space is starting to sing.
Creativity is a muscle. You just have to keep working it out.
On that note, Check out Julieanne Kost’s website. She’s the Senior Photoshop Evangelist at Adobe and spoke at the HOW conference we were all at lately.