Toward the end of an interview with the groundbreaking chef Ferran Adria, TIME reporter Belinda Luscombe says:
You talk a lot about creativity, but you actually seem to be emphasizing expertise. Which is more important?
Adria, the chef who created El Bulli, considered the best restaurant in the world, answered:
If I understand what I’m doing, I can create better. You can be anarchic only if you understand what’s going on. If you don’t, you’re not going to have a long life span within that world. Creativity, if you’re at the top level, is brutal and relentless.
This resonated with me, because I often get the same reaction when I give talks about my interviews with professional working artists: Someone in my audience will always say, “I’m not sure they are really talking about creativity” because what artists really talk about is learning about other ideas and works, mastering new techniques, and the hard slog of generating good work.