Why I ‘wasted’ my artistic talents

Photo from Pixabay


When I was younger, I was “that kid” to my peers.  

Sometime in elementary school my classmates and teachers figured out I had a tiny bit more talent than almost everyone else when it came to art class.  

During my homeroom’s holiday party, I was the one my classmates asked to draw their Christmas trees.  Meanwhile, one of my friends—who thought their Christmas trees were just as good —sat in a corner and glared daggers into the back of my skull.

I was the one my art teacher decided had done so well on a project that she matted and framed it for my family. Then she brought it to the high school to show the art teacher I would have in two years.  

It was kind of fun being good at drawing and coloring and painting.  I liked to do it and it seemed to make my family really happy. That framed project is still hanging up somewhere in our house.

But high school was a different story.  

Several of my classmates suddenly blew me away with their artistic abilities, and I was finally not the best drawer in our art classes.

Maybe I never was, and those classmates just kept their talent a secret.

Maybe that’s what I should have done too.

At least I didn’t have to draw any more Christmas trees.   

But even though I wasn’t the only artist in the class, I was usually stuck doing things I really didn’t want to do.  

During Homecoming week, I drew the giant sign that our class’ hallway would be judged by. 

I stopped doodling in my free time. I grew to resent art because everyone expected more out of me than I expected from myself.  It was like I owed everyone who ever believed in me more than I could possibly give, and that was a debt I could never repay.  

Around the same time in elementary school that people began to realize my artistic capabilities, I discovered another talent. While it was hard to keep my sketches and doodles a secret, this one was easy.  

For a long time, nobody knew that I spent most of my free time writing stories on our home computer.

I had always done well in English classes; that was no secret. But that I took the time to draw out plot lines and craft characters and write it all out?   

Not a single person knew that.

I can’t help but compare my two talents now.  

Looking back, it’s clear why I started to hate having artistic talent. Too much was expected of me.  

With writing, nothing was expected of me.  I developed my skills at my own pace, and there weren’t any assignments or extra requests anyone was throwing at me.

I read books to learn how other people wrote.  I paid attention during grammar lessons in school.  With the knowledge I gained from those two things, I’d see what I could do.

I didn’t go on to college to be a typical artist.  

I came to Butler knowing right away that I was going to major in English writing, because currently there is nothing I love more.  

I might not have gone on to become a typical artist, but I certainly became my own kind of artist.  It isn’t the art that my family and friends and teachers probably thought I’d go on to continue creating, but it’s the only kind that I care about.

It’s been a long time since I have thought about drawing or painting or sculpting.  Because it has been so long, I find that occasionally I don’t mind doodling when I’m bored.  I have a sketchbook and fancy pencils. I’m making a little bit of progress.  

It’s a shame to know that you’re good at something you dislike; I hope I get back to a place where that isn’t the case anymore.

But try to think back to elementary school and junior high—maybe even high school.  Did you know one of those kids?

Just know that if you don’t want them to waste their talent, don’t pressure those kids to utilize it all the time.  Let them go at their own pace, and let them develop other interests outside of that talent.  

Even if they grow up and decide to spend the rest of their life doing something else, the talent wouldn’t be completely wasted.  They would probably still do it in their free time.  

But if you teach those kids that it is the only thing they should ever do whenever you need them to do it, they will really waste it.  

And probably never do it again.