Xx: X Factor, That Special Something When All Else Is Equal

During April, I will be blogging about how creative people can practice their craft every day and what rewards will come from the daily effort.

Xx: X Factor
That Special Something When All Else Is Equal

For “X,” I’d initially planned to say “X Marks the Spot” and tell you that daily practice constantly corrects your course so you’re ever-aiming toward your greater and greater creative potential.

I still think that’s true.

However, I’ve become fascinated by the idea of an X factor, that mysterious quality someone has that makes their work more evocative and captivating than other work, when all else is equal (like skill and medium, etc.).

Some people have charisma, that personality that can attract and charm nearly anyone, but then there’s the X factor, some intangible element in the creative work that makes it so obviously art, whether the artist appear disheveled and crusty or polished and professional.

However you define the X factor, I believe it grows from daily creative practice. I think people who live and breathe their craft invite the X factor in, make fertile ground for it, and without their even knowing it, let it add depth and power to their work.

What other explanation can there be? Do you recall work you’ve seen that left you spellbound? What gave it that X factor? I don’t think the artist has much control over the X factor, but I don’t think the quality is arbitrary either. Where does it come from? What makes some work so substantially amazing?




I write and illustrate stationery, cards, customized snail mail (yes, you can receive handwritten and illustrated letters in your mail!!), coloring books, and more. My business name is "Carrot Condo." After teaching English for 15 years (gasp!), I am now a full-time parent and part-time artist slowly, but steadily, building a creative business and life. You can read more at carrotcondo.com or see my products at etsy.com/shop/CarrotCondo. Thanks for your interest and support!!
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11 Responses to Xx: X Factor, That Special Something When All Else Is Equal

  1. EcoCatLady says:

    I’m not big into the visual arts, but there are definitely musical performances that leave me breathless – and it’s often really hard to define why. Joe Cocker’s version of the Beatle’s classic “With a Little Help From my Friends” comes to mind. Strong X Factor there!

  2. Rose L. says:

    Phantom of the Opera! So sensual and touching. Me, I would have chosen the Phantom and stayed with him. Just saying…

  3. Very good point. why else can art not be ‘learned’ it can be taught, you can practice copying it. but unless you find that individual spark you just won’t gain the same amount of omph that someone with that spark has already.

    Stopping by from the AtoZchallenge

    • TRISTA says:

      I somehow missed these last few comments, and it was a nice surprise to bump into them today. VL, that’s a good point … we can copy great work as a way of practice (I plan to try to copy the structure of an essay by Ursula LeGuin, just to feel how she did it.), but the X factor ties directly to what makes a person unique. All the more reason to get fear and hesitation out of the way of our work. Hmmm, and all the more reason to keep practicing so we’re “in tune” when an X factor moment strikes.

  4. Alex Hurst says:

    The X Factor is indeed a powerful force. I suppose when I’ve seen it in books, it is because the artist has hit on a perfect trifecta of an idea: unique, fresh, and energetic. It’s one of those things that is sort of one-time use… try to recreate it, and suddenly it is a gimmick, and no longer useful. Much like how tropes are made!

    • TRISTA says:

      Yes! I just wanted _Big Eyes_ by Tim Burton. Have you seen it? If not: watch it!! It addresses all kinds of issues in art, but one of them is exactly what you said — how something fresh, unique, genuine, can get copied by others (or reproduced indiscreetly) and become tiresome. Then again, not all tropes are cliche … Okay, more food for thought. Thank you!!!

  5. weebluebirdie says:

    I think the X factor is there when someone can be honest in letting their vulnerablity show, revealing their true self. There is a rawness of emotion in works which touch us, we recognise that it has come from the heart.

    • TRISTA says:

      I love this Wee Blue Birdie! You’re making see that daily practice builds our skills and abilities, so when we have a moment to be vulnerable and reveal something raw and true, we have the skills to render it powerfully so others can feel it too. I’m thinking, now, that X factor is just like the vectors crossing on a grid–the epicenter of practice, skills, emotion, and true self. Thanks for making me think!

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