Note: The original version of this article was posted in March 2012.
As creatives, every album/ novel/ painting that we create should move us one step closer to connecting with our Muse.
We can start our careers imitating the work of a favourite mentor. We can make stuff that is trendy at the time. With every stride we take, however, we want to progress toward making art that aligns with our deepest, truest selves.
This is hard to do. For some, it takes a lifetime to make work that is true to their soul.
Every artist will have a different reason for why they struggle to make work that they can claim as theirs (and only theirs).
Introducing Late Bloomers
One reason making authentic work is hard is because some artists are Late Bloomers.
In one of Malcolm Gladwell’s articles from What the Dog Saw, he explores the question of why some artists are able to make great, authentic art right from the get-go, while others take years to hone their style.
Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.
He argues that this conception of the ‘young genius’ is only half-true. There can be two kinds of artists: those that get recognized early in life, and those that get recognized later on. He calls the latter category the Late Bloomers.
Herman Melville, for example, was recognized early in his career—at thirty-two he produced the literary masterpiece Moby Dick. Pablo Picasso’s success story is similar; he had somebody drooling over his work, and offering him big-time bucks, in his young twenties.
Other artists take longer to get recognized.
Gladwell believes the reason is because Late Bloomers engage in a kind of lengthy, open-ended, creative exploration. In other words, they take their time.
They’re unclear about what truths they want their art to communicate, so they experiment.
Late bloomers Drift
It takes them longer to figure out their path in life, to find their voice, to hear the faint whispers of their Muse.
That doesn’t mean anything though. Some artists produce masterpieces at twenty, others at fifty. Creative energy and output peaks at different times for different people.
Late Bloomers’ creative energy peaks later in life. They cultivate their skills and ideas over a lifetime, improving their work gradually as they toil along.
Whether you’re an Early Bloomer or a Late Bloomer is out of your control. The moment you break through is not something you can predict or prepare for. So the only thing you should concern yourself is staying true to your vision.
Ask yourself these questions:
What do you want your art to say?
What truths do you want to communicate?
What story is dying to come out?
If you think you might be a late bloomer, keep hustling and stay true to your Muse. Take your time, trust your intuition, and try to see the big picture. One day you’ll break through, and when you do, the world will wonder where you’ve been all these years. 😉
Are you a Late Bloomer? How can you tell? How long have you been working at your craft? What advantages might a Late Bloomer have over an Early Bloomer? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Image by Chase Alias