Creativity Versus Workmanship

Creativity is a term often tossed around it pool conversations, usually when being used to describe one player or another. Recently I heard about a study that named Efren Reyes and Danny Diliberto as the two most creative players in the professional ranks. Like most people, I have a general idea of what is implied by the term creativity, but I really don’t know what it means in terms of pool, especially when applied to the two most popular games of 8-ball and 9-ball. So that’s what this column will examine.

Since the dictionary defines creative as “having the power to create; inventive; productive; approaching the realm of art; imaginative,” I assume that the praise bestowed on Efren and Danny is associated with their one-pocket games. There are limitless shot options and strategies in one-pocket and many opportunities to invent moves that have never been seen before. There are also occasions to use known tools in innovative ways and to adapt known solutions to fit new problems.

I recently went four rounds in the U.S. Open One-Pocket Tournament in Louisville, and I’m making the claim right here that I was extremely creative. But my creativity wasn’t based on having a formidable toolbox accumulated by years of one-pocket experience. In fact, my creativity could best be defined as creativity by default. I was creative in the sense of a novice figuring out what to do instead of knowing what to do. Unfortunately, in some of my more creative moments I was inventing what didn’t work, which is how I got eliminated.

I think this demonstrates two things. One, creativity means little without workmanship. It accounts for little if you haven’t already mastered the craft. Inventing a few new shots can’t produce a win if you don’t have command of all the meat and potato moves. Second, it reveals that there are relatively few opportunities in 8-ball and 9-ball for true creativity.

In 9-ball the sequence of the balls is predetermined and the layout of the table is dictated by the break. That severely limits the possibilities of inventive action. If the 8 is on the long rail down by the corner pocket and the 9 is way up table on the short rail, there are only a few things you can do. You can go around three rails, come back one or two rails, stop and bank, or play safe. These kinds of situations are more correctly categorized as shot selective rather than shot inventive.

The same goes for 8-ball. Once you choose your group, the goal is determined. There are different patterns you can use, but your chances of ever having to create a shot are slim. Essentially, you are a workman choosing tools out of a toolbox as you work your way through the game. If you have one of those great, big, red tool cabinets on wheels that is full of specialty tools, you are going to shock a lot of players. They will think you are creative, but you’re not. You just have a lot of tools.

In fact, after looking at this subject for a couple of hours, I have to say that creativity is not a major requirement for playing great 8-ball and 9-ball. You will usually only see it in the areas of safety play and two-way shots. Even in one-pocket creativity is essentially based on knowing and extrapolating standard shots.

That said, I’m pleased to share that I learned a lot in Louisville, including a couple of killer one-pocket shots from Scott Frost. They are bold and aggressive and most people will think of them as highly creative. But if you know the parameters in which they work, they are predictable, controllable, and devastatingly effective. I can’t wait to unload one on my one-pocket sparring partner.

So, that’s the end of this column. I love being creative, but I’m betting my money on workmanship. In fact, I’m even thinking about getting myself a new tool box. A big red one. With wheels. Might even need a motor on it.
Good luck and good shootin’!

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