Should I Try to be a Polymath?

What came first, the polymath or the chicken?

I’m confused again.  I’ve been reading articles lately that are in contradiction to each other.  Am I supposed to be a polymath or not?   Is the prevailing knowledge still of the idea that “Jack of all trades, master of none” is appropriate, or are we seeing the polymath as the new fancy word for the renaissance man?

I only ask because I remember when eggs were bad for me, then good for me, then bad for me again.  I’m not even sure where we finally landed on that one, but I eat eggs every day.  I like having diverse interests.  I like to write, I have a huge interest in learning other creative outlets, like drawing and photography, and I have a pretty good handle on computers from several aspects as well.  I also love to work on my cars and work with my hands.

If learning is good, why is ignorance bliss?

Some of the articles I’ve read recently claim that having these diverse interests will improve my human condition.  Then, I read another one that said I need to focus on one thing.  I can say that I’m going to take the egg approach here, I’m going to do whatever I can, and increase my aptitude across more than one genre because I enjoy it, and I love to learn.

Which is something that everyone says I should be doing these days, right?  We do all agree that you have to keep learning in life now, correct?  It’s the only way to outrun the machines!  Because once the machines crack the Turing test in a few years, they’ll know more than humans anyway.  So even this advice is now suspect.

As someone trying to find their way through the creative lifestyle, while working for a living, this has been one of the more difficult aspects of my journey.  Should I be focusing on learning tangential skills, or should all of my focus be on improving my core skill, writing?  And WHY do I keep listening to outside voices about what I should or should not be doing?

But what should you be doing?

Because we are hard-wired to constantly be critical of ourselves.  The more we value the work we are doing, the more personal it becomes, and the more we listen to the advice.  We sometimes even try the new advice even though “nothing is broken.”  We violate the cardinal rule of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  I do this all the time, only to remind myself that I only have to answer to myself when it comes to my creativity.  I’m not doing this for anyone else.  I do this because I have to, I have something deep inside of me that wants me to continue moving forward to see where it goes.

If I learned tomorrow that writing was the new cholesterol, I would be distraught.  Fortunately, that would never be the case, if anything, writing will help keep my brain active, so I should live to write another day.  If I end up like my parents, at least I’ll have years of work to thumb through to see who I was.  If I can remember my password, that is.

I don’t know if broadening my focus is making me better or worse as a creative individual, and like the scientist who never knows if their observations are affecting that which they are observing, it’s going to be impossible for me to determine if I’m progressing or not from my vantage point.

All I can do is go back to my basic goals – write every day, and study the craft of storytelling.  It makes sense to me that being a more broad artist would make me better.  If I could draw and produce my own photos, even a simple blog would be a platform for me to have complete creative control.  Each post would have exactly the photo I wanted to add visually to the text. That sounds like creative nirvana to me.  I’m being hopeless and romantic again, though.  My expectations that I could get any other creative skill on par with my writing when I’ve been doing one for decades, and just starting with the other two, is a naive idea, and far from the reality of, “My pictures are crap,” or “My drawings are crap.”

You have to create crap to create art. So, if the quality of my visual aids starts to take a drastic nosedive, you’ll know why.  This is my refrigerator, and those are my creations.  As you would with a child learning, please be nice and supportive.

You can join my growing email list by subscribing here or drop me a note in the comments.  I’d love to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.