I was talking to a younger friend last night at an opening of an exhibition. I have known this person since she was quite young and have always admired her native talent in many disciplines that she has chosen to follow over the years. She has shown great ability in painting and drawing but also craves to create in video, music and dance. She said she wants to paint but feels that she wants to equally do all these other things as well.
We talked about whether it was possible to do everything and still reach the highest peak of your potential in any single endeavor. I cited other artists I had known who had this immense talent and felt the need to go in several different directions with their creative energy. As a result they never achieved maximum focus in any single creative area and, while the work was good, never felt like it reached as far as it might have with a more singularly focused effort.
She said she had been thinking about just that thought, that just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you should do everything. She spoke about Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer whose 2003 book on creativity is shown above, and how she had written that sometimes the artist must choose a single route even though they have wide talents in order to achieve the greatest focus.
I joked with her that I felt lucky to be so limited in talent that I only wanted to paint. But I wasn’t completely kidding. I understood early on in this process that I had to choose and focus fully. I somehow felt that if I went in too many directions my message, my expression of self, would go from being a focused and resonant single note to a cacophony of disparate notes. That single, shining note would be lost in the chaos, never to be clearly heard.
I got up this morning and thought about that conversation and about her words about Tharp. I felt lucky that my choice was made and hope that thoise lucky talented folks, like my young friend, can someday find their own clear resonance. I found this clip of an interview with Tharp and much of what she says here can be transferred to any endeavor of effort. It’s worth a listen.