Thursday, November 16, 2006

The T-Word

It never fails. Every time someone compliments me on my knitting by saying, "Wow, you're really a talented knitter!" I cringe (I say as if this happens all the time. It doesn't, but it has happened more than once). I cringe not because I can't take a compliment (shoot one my way and try me if you're in doubt), but because in my heart of hearts, I really don't know how to respond when those particular words are uttered.

It all goes back to an internal debate I have had with myself for as long as I can remember: Talent vs. Skill. Back when I was an actor (didn't know that, did ya? I have a BA in theatre performance.) I didn't feel particularly talented at that, either. I was skilled enough to passably act in several quality productions, but I saw infinitely more talent around me than within. When I sewed for a living, again, I felt adequately skilled (perhaps a smidgen of talent in assessing how pattern pieces come together to make the finished garment) but not particularly talented. I have this niggling suspicion that follows me daily that mediocrity is the highest bar I may set for myself, which is horribly depressing for someone who really has a desire to create something great, just once! I will freely admit that I am a fairly skilled knitter. I've honestly not come across a pattern which eluded the grasp of my skill. I think that part of the answer here lies in the wording of that last statement. Patterns. I knit from patterns. Where's the talent in that? I guess that I believe that the real talent lies in the design of a piece. Yes, there are some remnants of the recovering perfectionist in my work, but is that talent, or just attention to detail? Or is this whole debate just a matter of semantics? Am I just afraid of the T-word? Am I afraid of appearing pretensious? Perhaps that's it.

Wow. I just read over this and it all looks like a flashy lure for some Walleye of a compliment, but really, it's not. If anyone can really explain to me what talent is to them, perhaps I can put this worry to rest and just smile and say thanks if it ever comes up again.

5 Comments:

Blogger msubulldog said...

My sister and I were just discussing this today! We're both good cooks and good knitters--but it's only because we're good at following directions. I'm no designer (which I agree is definitely talent), but I can make anything if I can follow directions. I mean, geez, who can't?
And that's where the talent lies, I think. You wondered if something is talent or just attention to detail--I think attention to detail (and being able to follow directions) can be your talent. 'Cause it doesn't take long to realize that some people definitely aren't detail oriented and couldn't find their way out of a paper bag with a map.
So, that's my take on it. My talent is following directions, being willing to try anything, and changing the color & fiber now and then. Not too shabby, I think. *grin*

3:31 PM  
Blogger Skippy said...

I totally second what she said; there is talent in attention to detail and understanding the concept of a pattern, stitch, etc. You picked up tech editing with no problem at all why? Because you're fantastic at understanding the concept and abstract thinking. You GET it. You picked up the socks I was making and without hardly looking said "you reversed [whatever you said]." You understand both knitting and sewing, and myriad other things in a way I never will, it's intuitive to you, and that's talent.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Kat with a K said...

Hmm, interesting. I think that there are natural abilities that lead to skills in various areas, and the idea of "talent" is a societally-created concept that involves which areas of skill are considered "special" by the culture at any given time. But that was just off the top of my head, so now I need to think about this.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Acornbud said...

Practice saying "thank you". I too go the way of looking the gift horse in the mouth. Maybe its a crafters affliction;)
By the way, you are are skilled, talented, and crafty blogger!

9:01 AM  
Blogger mamma said...

I actually thought a lot about this. A talented knitter is all about knitting. You want to add design to the definition of a knitter, but knit design is a separate category. A talented knitter is skilled at knitting, purling, finishing, following patterns. That's you baby! You are a talented Knitter. Talent is an extension of skill. When you are so skilled it appears effortless, that's talent.

When people told me I was a talented knitter I would tell them a trained monkey with sticks could do the same thing. That demeaned me and my skill, as well as the giver of the compliment. I was saying they liked things monkeys can do. Not very socially skilled am I? Just smile and say thank you.

8:04 AM  

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