It is a view familiar to most of us from kindergarten: creativity is a mysterious capacity that lies in each of us and merely needs to be “unleashed”. Creativity is what happens when people are liberated from the constraints of conventionality… The truth, of course, is that creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice. It seems to be built up through submission (think a musician practicing scales, or Einstein learning tensor algebra).
Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft, p51 (emphasis original).
I’m kind of glad my parents didn’t decide what activity I was going to ‘do’ as a kid, but let me try my hand at all sorts of sports and hobbies. I got to try my hand at stacks of different things: touch football, netball, waterpolo, dance, sewing, cooking, trombone, F Horn…
I had lots of fun and wasn’t pressured in an unhelpful way; I was a child of a generation in Australia raised to believe “keeping your options open” is the most valuable state to be in.
The only thing my dad ever insisted I discipline myself to master was mathematics (perhaps this was because I was less willing at this particular endeavour than all the rest!). As I approach 30, there’s a little part of me that’s a bit sad I’m OK at lots of stuff, but not the master of any particular skill.
I really feel Crawford’s point when I’m in the kitchen or sitting at a sewing machine. I know my creativity is curtailed by my lack of mastery; I feel the latent, unrealised possibility. And so, I’m disappointed that this realisation so rarely drives me to submit myself to the discipline I need to learn.