What [Galenson] has found is that genius – whether in art or architecture or even business – is not the sole province of 17-year-old Picassos and 22-year-old Andreessens. Instead, it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. “Conceptual innovators,” as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. Think Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, and Orson Welles. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group “experimental innovators.” Geniuses like Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers. Galenson maintains that this duality – conceptualists are from Mars, experimentalists are from Venus – is the core of the creative process. And it applies to virtually every field of intellectual endeavor, from painters and poets to economists.I think one of the main reasons I'm so sensitized to this issue, aside from the fact that my work process puts me squarely in the second category, is that, having been pegged as 'the smart girl' pretty much since preschool, it was assumed by everyone around me (parents, teachers, classmates, and even myself) that if I were going to be an artist at all, I MUST be one of the 'conceptual innovator' types. Being so 'smart' and articulate and clever and all. (Whatever that means, anyway.) And if I wasn't, if I mucked around and experimented and produced a pile of god-awful crap during school and beyond, I must be delusional. And thus was being pig-headed by sticking to this art thing, instead of decently trundling off to medical or law school like I was supposed to do.
This does not mean that I am announcing myself to the world as a 'genius.' But it confirms a feeling I've always had, deep in my core, that I was on a valid path, even if it didn't look that way to anyone else, or even to me, on my bad days.