The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

They’re calling it ‘Quarantine’s Got Talent’.

Editing, baking and one rather questionable TikTok video later; I can wholeheartedly say that I have flexed my creative muscles. This unique period in our lives has given many of us the opportunity to focus on skills that may otherwise be relegated to mere memories or thoughts. For me, this period has served as an important reminder that ignorance is an advantage to any creative pursuit. Yes, ignorance.

The term ‘ignorance’ often carries negative connotations. We usually put it in the same category as stupidity, foolishness and sometimes even prejudice. Whereas, in fact, it is simply the lack of knowledge or information. Yes, ignorance breeds racism, homophobia and other related hate crimes. However, if we limit its harmful effects and instead transform it into curiosity, it becomes an integral component of true creativity.

Ignorance can lead to innovation

In general, the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to deal with life. Likewise, any creative professional requires skills and experience to thrive in their field. However, we must not allow this prior knowledge to shackle us to the past. As human beings, we are good at acquiring new information to ensure that our prior conclusions are intact – we have an in-built echo chamber. Putting algorithms aside, we often ask Google a question, for instance, subconsciously wanting a specific answer.

When we put these assumptions aside and instead embrace the unknown, we can achieve breakthroughs.

As a child from a South Asian household, a mistake at school was the worst possible thing you could make. I believe that this stems from the way my parents were educated and meant that I sometimes shied away from opportunities to acquire new knowledge at the risk of looking dumb. As I have grown up, I’ve realised that this way of thinking simply stunts growth.

There is no prescription for creative work. If we found a method, whereby we could teach creativity and everybody could teach how it was done, it would no longer be of interest.

“An essential element of the creative is the mysterious” Alan Watts

Ignorance reduces self-doubt

Far too few would consider themselves creative and this could not be further from the truth. Not only do we all have an innate ability to develop original ideas but also the equal capacity to doubt our own creative ambitions. We end up questioning our abilities so much that they never come to fruition.

Think back to when you were younger, let’s say around six. At this age, we are completely convinced about our own ideas, no matter what the world says. If you still don’t believe me, watch the video below and we’ll continue talking.

Provided that your eyes aren’t burning after watching that, I’d like to talk you through that performance. That was my first ever on-stage dance performance at my Year 2 talent show and despite looking like I was having a seizure, I had the time of my life. I had no rehearsals or lessons; I just watched a Michael Jackson documentary, realised I enjoyed dancing, and had complete confidence in my own ability.

I cringe every time I watch that, but it reminds me to do what makes me happy and seek no validation, but my own.

As we become older, we become more self-aware and begin to question what others may think of our actions. It restricts our ability to completely explore our creativity as we begin to think about the consequences of our actions too soon. If I were even half as ignorant to my surroundings as I am in that video, my creative process would be significantly smoother.

The true test will come once all of this is over. The challenge lies in our ability to continue doing, whatever it may be, that has made us happy for the past few weeks. Remain ignorant, see it as a path for learning rather than embarrassment.

“Ignorance sheer ignorance. There is no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession that you are timid or careful.” Orson Welles (Director of Citizen Kane)

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