Discover more from Sketch Pad
Talent is wildly overrated
Journalist and podcaster Guy Raz on the qualities that define a great creator
“When it comes to the creative process, it's not just about doing the reps every day. It's about challenging yourself, forcing yourself to be in situations that are not comfortable and that are not easy.”
Jay Clouse and journalist and podcaster Guy Raz talk about the qualities that define great creators based on Guy’s experience interviewing celebrated artists and entrepreneurs. This is an excellent listen for anyone interested in doing creative work for a living.
You can catch the complete episode (47 minutes) on YouTube.
Talent is wildly overrated. According to Guy, it’s a “fierce pursuit of craft” that defines great creators. In other words, showing up and doing the reps. Someone with innate talent won’t get very far without consistent and deliberate practice. That said, consistency is only half the equation…
Challenge is essential to improving your craft. Anyone interested in creating for a living knows the importance of showing up—but consistency on its own doesn’t lead to improvement. Just like how you can reach a fitness plateau, your creativity can also stagnate. Guy observes that there’s often a huge payoff when you make a risky career decision or push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Example: After gaining massive recognition as a fictionalized version of himself on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert became a talk show host for The Late Show. The role was a challenge for Colbert since he was no longer playing a character—and the show saw terrible ratings and reviews in its first year. Over time, however, he found his groove and has since turned it around to become the U.S.’s top late-night program.
Creativity comes from intense collaboration. The lone genius is a myth—Guy says there’s no such thing as coming up with something brilliant all on your own. Other people are integral as sources of inspiration and feedback. You’ll do your best work when you build an environment with great energy to feed off of.
Why you should try a variety of projects: experience in one field can fuel creativity in another. Many great creators are multihyphenates—and chances are their skill in one domain is enhanced by skill in another. For instance, apart from performing in an indie rock band, Carrie Brownstein wrote for and appeared on SNL. She also co-created the show Portlandia. Guy points out that even Charles Darwin wasn’t only focused on human evolution; he juggled multiple projects (including ones related to worms and minerals). Entertaining different interests can help generate new ideas.
This reminds me of Cal Newport’s advice on managing multiple projects. I imagine pursuing a variety of interests is creatively enriching, but you need to be mindful about them. Going overboard will mean making little progress in any one area.
Luck and hard work are interconnected. Luck and hard work aren’t mutually exclusive—in fact, effort often reveals opportunity. Thinking of Guy’s earlier points, showing up and taking risks can help build skills and connections. Hard work generates momentum for opportunities that might not otherwise appear.
At one point in the episode, Guy shares an anecdote about Judith Light, an actress who initially swore she’d never do a soap opera or a sitcom. She eventually changed her stance, and rose to stardom from her roles on a soap as well as a sitcom. It’s an interesting story that makes me think of the concept of “selling out” as an artist—an idea that I now realize can actually be pretty toxic and limiting. Some actions one might perceive as selling out may, in reality, be a way to grow. That said, I think you can sell out when you compromise on the values and beliefs that drive your creative work. But trying a new genre or technique that doesn’t initially appeal to you isn’t selling out—it’s a means to challenge yourself.
If you made it this far, thank you for being here! The best way to support Sketch Pad is by sharing this visual with someone who might enjoy it. And if you’d like to, send me your podcast recommendations here.