Are you "cursed" with too many talents?

Many artists I know are "cursed" with too many talents. A man is a screenwriter, painter and actor. A woman is a photographer, dancer and an executive director of a nonprofit.

I’m one of these artists. So, I know this curse well. We’re creative in a few artistic fields and then we can also organize the hell out of almost anything: an institution, a publication, a marketing campaign.

You might be wondering how too many talents can be a curse. Two ways this curse can manifest:

  1. It will be hard for others to remember what you do and to keep you in mind for referrals and projects because one person may know you as a poet, not a muralist or because you seem to dabble not dive. Or simply, nobody can remember what you do.
  2. Spreading yourself around on many different projects is a convenient way of holding yourself back from the one or two things you really want to do. For some of us, the curse can be a way to submerge ambition. Well, my heart is in the screenplay but that makes it scarier so I’ll go plein-air painting this weekend. And I’m a damn good painter, after all. (But you should have been burning to the end of your first draft instead.)

The blessing of the curse is that you will have more choices about how to make money. If you have organizational skills, that talent can pay the bills while you develop yourself as an artist. But if you can organize something, you might not put as much time into developing your art, because all your creative energy has been sapped by somebody else’s marketing campaign. And besides, it’s hard to make a living as a painter, so you won’t try as hard because it is hard.

So, if you have this curse. (You know who you are.) I have two assignments for you this week.

  1. Make a list of all those projects: the poems, ceramic sculptures, seashell lampshades, radio jingles, librettos, installations and … you listening? PICK ONE. Finish that one. You may only work on the next project when that one is out in the world. So, for example, if the one project is a novel, you may move onto project #2 when the novel is making rounds with agents. In other words, when the first project is no longer a creative project, you may move on.
  2. Work on your one project for the first 25 minutes of your day. So, if you’re going to slog away managing someone else’s project for the day, put your own art first. Twenty-five minutes a day, when you’re only working on one project, will make a difference.

Don’t be disturbed if these assignments make you sad, grumpy or angry. The curse hasn’t helped you prioritize. And now that you’re making one project a priority, you may feel grieved by all the time you’ve wasted. The only way out of this is to stick to that one project and put it first, every day.

Write or paint or sing or whittle through the tears and the fury. Put it onto the page, the canvas, the musical staff.

The Musician’s Table by Juan Gris, 1926, oil on canvas.