and then...specificity

I have talked a lot about the talent inherent in commitment. I've equally condemned indecision as an ailment in my generation that stifles potential. We do live in a time when people can engage in the creative act on demand.

I've said little about how to achieve focus through decision making, though. So I recently sat down with my notebooks and tried to outline some of the ways that I've found focus in my work and identify the focus of those I admire, and I came to a few conclusions: 

There are two kinds of specifity that a creative person must identify for their career. They are specificity of skill and specificity of concept. It's easy to get lost between the two; while you're expanding your skills, you may be tempted to hone your voice in relation to concept, and while exploring different concepts, you will likely anchor yourself in a singular skill. Both of those approaches are helpful, but if I had one piece of advice I'd give my younger self as a writer, it's that that I should hone in on skill first and concept second. (Not with singular works, but in my self-driven education). 

Why? Only because it's easier. Any expert will tell you that mastering a single skill allows you to pick up subsequent skills much faster than if you were to spread yourself thin in the first place. That's because there are learned principles (like discipline) that apply across ALL skills. If you try to learn everything at once, you will only use the principles you like and never completely master anything. So the first step is to acquire an Alpha Skill.

Once you have your Alpha Skill, then you can go about developing Beta Skills to turn you into that "T-shaped" creative of which employers dream and readers admire. And it's beneath the overhang of that giant T, if you will, that your "voice" (that is, specificity of concept), will develop.

My specifity of skill is writing; so writing is my alpha skill. In learning all my Beta skills, I found myself practicing the translation of characters and conflicts, and that's how I discovered that my specificity of concept was in storytelling.