The Secret to Being Creatively Brave: Ignorance


“Ignorance. There is no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession, I think, that you’re timid or careful.”

That is a quote from Orson Welles, trying to describe how he was able to pull off Citizen Kane, still considered by many as the greatest movie of all time. Despite his credentials, you may be inclined to disagree with him — there are many artists out there who certainly would benefit if they spent more time learning their craft. You even probably have some stuff in your drawer that, looking at it from a more technical perspective, is terribly flawed.

But the quote makes complete sense when, a few seconds later, Welles says about making Kane, “I didn’t know there were things you couldn’t do.”

That is when becoming smarter at your art can become detrimental. The more we learn about the “right” way to do something, the more we risk being boxed in by those standards. A lot of incredible, inventive pieces of art have come from people who didn’t set out to create something revolutionary — they just approached a question in a way the old pros would never think of.

So if you’ve been busy honing your pursuit, then how do you forget what you’ve learned? That may not be possible, but there are definitely aspects of your art that you’ve never tried before, that you have no clue how to do. And when you come at it with an inexperienced eye, you won’t yet know your limitations. You’ll see opportunities where more skilled artists see roadblocks.

Whatever you come up with may not be incredibly inventive and revolutionary, but it may be the kind of thought experiment that will help to override some of that stifling knowledge you have crammed in your brain. A little unlearning can go a long way.

Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.