Talent

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I've been using the word "mania" lately in an uncomfortable way. Now I'm trying to think of a comfortable way. I wish I wouldn't do this stuff.

It's uncomfortable only because I'm referring to myself, with a long history of non-manic behavior. I've had all sorts of other behaviors, not nearly all good ones, but they tend to follow a path that leads down, not up. I've never been a high-energy miscreant.

My adventures with mind-altering substances, as cautious and minimal as they were, all leaned toward the passive, booze being the main culprit. I appreciate caffeine, God knows, but cocaine, or meth? Not for me. Smoked a fair amount of weed in the late '70s and early '80s in college, like everybody else I knew, and tried psychedelics a few times, always very pleasant and relaxing, but yeah. I was mostly interested in the booze, because I'm not into getting revved up. In the slightest.

And nothing feels different, even after all these years out from alcohol. I just seem to be a fairly sedate person. Social, friendly, even pleasant. Not particularly pressured when it comes to speech or actions, which is why this has been a little disturbing.

I think I'm just feeling better, really, after a long period of not so much. This hits me as kind of elevating, and I've just really been in a good mood, with energy, particularly after my recent sickness of whatever variety. Just a little elevated, talking a bit faster, being silly. I don't honestly think it's a sign of mental illness, although, again, it makes me a little uncomfortable. It's just different. And it'll probably pass.

...

In the meantime, though, I'm writing like crazy. Obviously. The other day I dashed off 1500 words in 45 minutes, just spinning my wheels in the morning, thinking at the keyboard. Good grief.

But I know how to write. I've been writing professionally, to the extent that I've earned money doing it, since my early 20s, and published continuously for nearly 20 years now. It's a remarkably pathetic writing career, really, small time and not profitable at all, but I know how to do it. It might bore, annoy, or entertain you, but it's not going to be bad writing. Usually.

There are other creative things I know how to do. I can play musical instruments. I can imitate voices. I can act. All of these I've done professionally in some manner, and in public, and reasonably well. There's no secret about this.

And no secret about what I can't do, either. My sense of rhythm is fine, and I'm not graceless, but I really can't dance. And I worked as a dancer professionally, too, or at least there was dancing. It's not bad, just inhibited and awkward. I can't seem to relax. There's no talent for dance. It happens.

There seems to be little hope for me with spatial and visual things, too. I'm not clueless; I have a reasonable sense of symmetry and style, I think. I don't feel I have an aesthetic deficit; I know what I like, and I know what's good, and I'm pretty comfortable with these judgments.

I just can't reproduce it, or understand why not. If I take the time, I can sketch better than many people, apparently, but perspective seems to get skewed. Faces are off, buildings are crooked. Colors glare, too, and clash, and I'm not sure what to do. I just know what's wrong.

I don't lose any sleep over this. We're all good at some things, not others. No news here.

I know where to turn, too. I know professional designers, artists, people with that special sense of how reality fits together and how to play with that. I can always ask for help, and I know whom to ask.

But for the past few months, in really an effort to feel useful and some guilt over the workload of people I know, I offered to take charge of the social media aspects of my church. It's a small congregation, with a small budget, usually very healthy financially. Most of the expense involves salaries of drastically underpaid, highly educated professionals who didn't enter their field for the big bucks anyway, some of whom work at other jobs to make ends meet.

And it seemed unfair to force people with too much on their plates as it is to update Facebook. I could do this, so I did. It's fine.

But this is the internet we're talking about. I'm a writer. Words sometimes are fine, but sometimes they're not enough.

So I've had to cobble together graphics, something visual and interesting, old news to people who do this for a living. New news to me, and if you'd like to see some godawful pictures, I have a few. More than a few.

I knew it, too. I just sort of sighed, chalked it up to faulty programming or a missing gene, and kept plugging away, clunky graphic after graphic. Day after day. Week after week. Graphic after graphic.

So how funny is this? I got better.

...

Not great. I said better.

And what I think happened makes sense. I just started paying attention to design, probably unconsciously. Analyzed patterns, looked at colors, began to grasp spacing and perspective and focus. I could do a passable foxtrot, it seemed.

None of this is remarkable, in terms of art. I haven't developed talent, just more skill at stealing ideas, and minimizing the clunkiness. I've relearned forgotten tricks, picked up years ago with early Adobe offerings on new PCs with that amazing 486 chipset and CD-ROM drive. I have some skill with layers and masks and kerning, believe it or not.

I don't sigh and do what's minimally acceptable. I redesigned the church website. I keep wandering through pages, adding graphics, some good, some overdone and unnecessary, just to play around.

I've become a little manic about it, in other words. A little over-enthusiastic, discovering my new abilities. Knowing that I'm better. Knowing I won't improve much more. Knowing a real talent would get dizzy with the eyes rolling up, and so on.

It reminds me of a passage in Flowers for Algernon, when Charly, the main character whose low IQ has been boosted by Science!, discovers punctuation. He writes about; it in-his journal: scattering. little punctuation! marks around with, joy. Until the next day, when he feels dumb.

This is the next day, then. It's not as though I've reached my level of incompetence; I was there before I began. I just got a little excited by fonts, briefly. And layers. Not by my latent talent, but by the way I learned how to hide my talentless condition.

And now I'm a little judgmental about my work, as happens. It's not going to stop me, though. I've got more kerning to learn, and there are colors I haven't explored yet. And damn if I don't think I might just choreograph something today, just for fun.

Chuck SigarsComment