Becoming An Expert & The Creative’s Greatest Challenge

Many of us dream of making a career from our art, of making a healthy living or even a bit more. But most of us never make it that far; why…

Many of us dream of making a career from our art, of making a healthy living or even a bit more. But most of us never make it that far; why is that?

Becoming an expert at anything takes time.

Some say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. That’s 8 hours a day for five years with the weekends off.

But hold on, why would you want the weekend off from something you love doing?

Anyway, I think becoming an expert takes more like ten years. What kind of expert do you think you could realistically be inside five years?

Not much methinks.

Five years will just about get you through an apprenticeship. That’s day 1 — now the work starts.

We’ve got to put in another five years to be considered an expert; then we have another 10 to become a master.

That means we’ve got to practice the art of whatever it is we’ve chosen to do, consistently, every day until it becomes first nature.

But there’s a big problem here. Too many of us aren’t doing what we love; instead, we choose to do things that pay us a wage.

Do we leave the dream on the shelf?

Do we choose to be normal, to follow convention?

Do we give up?

I wonder if this is why so many of us never make it.

The Greatest Challenge To Creative Expertise

There are many challenges to our creativity to becoming an expert.

Probably the greatest is the momentum of the world around us. It has been building for a very long time, and it is compelling.

Not least because everyone we know is part of it and they want nothing more than for us to be a part of it too. All of them well-meaning, of course.

But if we try to be a part of it, to keep the onlookers happy, then our art will be split in two. So we’ve got to enter our own world and make things from there.

We must do so actually.

We have a natural draw towards making things just for the sake of it, and at the same time, there is this draw to being a part of the world and all that goes with that.

People in the world say that we must follow the rules, get in line, don’t drift outside the protective circle of society.

Go to school they say, study hard, get a job just like everyone else, be safe. They say it’s dangerous to follow your heart; you’ll be left alone, cast out.

So where do we go with all this then?

At the same time, there are sources of inspiration in the world — it’s everywhere. So we’ve got to find a balance. We need to find a way of being in the world but always find a way back to our own creative place.

Creativity Doesn’t Have To Hard

We can get on the road to expertise and mastery by merely following our heart. However, I understand not as straightforward as that.

I left school and started an apprenticeship when I was 15, and for a long time, I enjoyed the work although it wasn’t my preference.

Even so, I worked at it conscientiously, and I found out I was good at it. But on reflection, I think that it was not so much a talent, but rather an attitude that made me good.

The standard of workmanship was essential to me; I gave a shit about the results of what I made and still do.

Now that wasn’t for anyone else’s sake; it was for my own. I was compelled to make good shit. No matter what, I’d give my total attention to what I was doing.

These days what I’m doing has become a little more important. I suppose I’ve grown up just a tad and want a bit more for myself, consciously at least.

So doing something that’s not your art doesn’t have to be a trial or an endurance. I believe that whatever we happen to find ourselves doing for a living, we can embrace it.

We can turn it to our advantage.

Yeah sure, we might fall into a career by default or obligation, but it doesn’t have to be a battle to get through it or get free from it.

It’s a state of mind thing.

I think the more we get at peace with things; the quicker the circumstances change towards what we want.

Originally published at on May 17, 2017.

Welcome to The Reflectionist, a daily dose of reflection on the nature of the self, personal reality, creativity, life and work, submitted to the public record for posterity. Read personal essays and articles on the psychology of creativity to help you nurture and broaden your creative prowess.