A story about people who never stop trying

If you have ever tried to master a creative skill, whether it be woodworking or photography, writing or painting, usually you know fairly soon in the process if you're comfortable with it. Most of us find that it takes some time before we become proficient at a creative endeavour.

Now what about creative geniuses? Do they take a long time to develop their skills or are they born with them?

The popular image we have is that geniuses show their unique talents quite early in life. In the field of science, for example, Albert Einstein conducted his thought experiments and wrote his Theory of Relativity as a very young man. In music, we remember child prodigies like Mozart. In the visual arts, Picasso did some of his best work in his twenties.

But history also offers examples of artistic "geniuses" whose talents emerged much later in life after a long and sometimes painful gestation period. Two such people were Mark Twain and the French painter, Paul Cézanne.

In a delightful article in the New Yorker recently, Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink and The Tipping Point), writes about these late bloomers and compares the mental make-up of people with precocious talents to those who struggle for a long time before they become successful.

It's a moving story about the special relationship between late bloomers and whose who encourage them to keep trying.

1. More about Malcolm Gladwell in this profile, "The Gladwell Effect."
2. Gladwell's web site is here.
3. If you'd like to learn more about Paul Cézanne, see the WebMuseum Paris page.
4. The photo showing a close-up of brush strokes is courtesy of Asifth Akbar.
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