First posted on The Writing of a Wisoker on the Loose, 11/21/2010
Have you ever said, “I’d love to do [name of activity], but I’m just no good at it?”
If so, you’re not alone. I not only hear that excuse from people all the time, I use it myself. Many of us have bought into the “prodigy myth” — you know, the one that says you have to be good at something the first time you try it in order for you to have any hope of ever doing it well.
Not true . . . so very, very, very not true. If there was one thought I could reach in and yank out of people’s heads wholesale, that would be the one.
Repeat after me: I must let myself be bad at something in order to ever be any good at it.
You must be willing to push through the phase of screaming terror, of towering anger, of utter self-disgust, of whining and blaming it on the equipment, the ambient noise, the smell in the air, the dogs barking, or anything else handy. Those are all perfectly normal stages, and everyone goes through them–some more quietly than others.
But if you stop before you get through those stages, and give up . . . you may never work up the courage to try again, because now you know it’s going to hurt to try. You may never be a Hugo-award winning novelist, a master artisan, a renowned painter, a terrific hand-spinner, a champion jockey, or whatever new skill you’re aiming to learn. But it isn’t time yet to decide how high your personal ceiling measures when you’re leaning the basics.
Whether your personal inspiration and idol is Emeril, Orson Scott Card, or Barack Obama, they did not get to where they are by being geniuses from the cradle, with the Midas touch of turning everything they tried to gold in the bank. I guarantee they sweated and swore and threw up their hands. They walked away a hundred times determined to throw in the towel, positive they couldn’t possibly do what they had set out to achieve. They failed, over and over and over, sometimes in embarrassing or dangerous ways, and they still do.
But they keep trying anyway. And so now we know them as superstars of our world, people who have changed our lives just through that one simple fact: they keep trying anyway.
I firmly believe it’s time we left behind the ideal of the brooding intellectual who practically sweats genius from every pore; it’s time we take down the ivory pedestal that anyone creative is almost forced to perch upon.
Don’t stand in awe of genius. Don’t put yourself up against an impossible standard of matching someone who’s been working at a skill for longer than you’ve been alive. Get up, try again, start over, try again, get up, get up, GET UP. You will reach whatever level you set for yourself; don’t ask how high the ceiling is, because in the end you’re the only one answering that question.
Trust me: no matter how many obstacles you think you see, there is absolutely nothing between you and the open road of possibility . . . except you.
So start walking, wheeling, dancing or running today.
I’ll see you out there on Route Dream!