Tayarisha Poe: You’ve got to be dumb and stubborn to get good

“A whole world of thinkers and creators would have died before they began if they had listened to the people telling them what not to do.”

There’s a certain level of naivety that must be in-place for creativity to occur.

When we get too comfortable with the way things are – or when we heed the guidance given to us by those who are, themselves, overly comfortable with the way things are or have always been – we close ourselves off from the doors of original thought.

If we listen to what we’re always told, we greatly hinder our ability to explore what’s possible.

It’s only by embracing naivety and finding our own way that we can open ourselves to creative thought.

Such is the case for writer, photographer, and videographer, Tayarisha Poe.

In her youth, Tayarisha had a sudden realization, that she could create what she loved most: books.

Once I figured out that all the books I loved as a kid were written by someone else, I realized I could be someone writing books too.

So she started writing. Nobody came out and told her that 13 year-olds can’t write books. So she wrote.

Then, in high school and college, Tayarisha began experimenting with other means of telling stories: through photography and video. Only this time she faced those who told her what to do and how to do it.

The professors and counselors told her she couldn’t be a photographer, and a writer, and a videographer. Instead, they told her, you have to pick one and become an expert at it.

“In college, at first, I kept being told that I had to choose between writing, filmmaking, and photography,”Tayarisha tells me, “I ignored that.”

“I can’t think of one without the other, they’re so intertwined. Of course, that isn’t to say that I don’t write stories that are only meant to be read or take photos that are only meant to stand alone. But when I’m starting a larger project, I tend to think of it as all three of these mediums coming together to tell a story.”

The result, it seems, is more vivid stories, more powerful photographs, and the combination of the two to create captivating video.


“It was in college when I realized that people usually tell you that you can’t do something because they’ve never thought to do that thing, or because when they tried it, it didn’t work. Who is to say that you won’t be the one to make it work?

Tayarisha has been diligent to work across all three mediums – the written word, photography, and videography – and her luck seems to have paid off. Her latest project, Selah and the Spades is a beautiful story in the making, paired with humanistic photography and vivid details like those you would see in a film.


It all stands to remind us that it’s not enough to do what others tell you to do (or not to do) or what works and what won’t.

To be creative is to find your own path. Listen to the advice, of course, but in the end you must find your own path to truly be creative.

You’ve got to be really dumb and stubborn in order to get good at something.

Browse Tayarisha’s portfolio, or explore her latest project: Selah and the spades.

This article is part of the Creative Something Footsteps series, exploring the stories of creatives from around the world to share insights and wisdom. Submit your story here.

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