I suck at this!
When I taught High School and I would ask my students to do something that was outside of their comfort zone (which included almost anything they hadn’t done before), I was always amazed at how fast they would want to give up. They had extremely high standards and almost zero forgiveness for themselves while performing processes that were entirely foreign to them. “I suck at this!” was an all too common mantra in my class for the first few months. This biggest challenge for me in the beginning was not discipline or class management (I’m a big guy with tattoos), it was breaking down the belief that somehow, because they weren’t instantly successful at something, they were failures at life.
Of course you suck!
I think that much of the population operates under the false assumption that art or craft should be easy, mostly because true artistry gives us that impression. When we watch a true artist work, all we see is a blur of effortless technique coupled with an emotional delivery that, at its best moments, culminates in something that has the power to touch us at our very core. What we don’t see is the ten thousand, labor-filled hours that it took to arrive at the one moment that we have just had the privilege to witness. You can be certain that those hours were populated with millions of failures, large and small, that needed to be overcome in order to achieve anything that resembles the effortlessness that we see before us now. Taking that into consideration. it’s not only naïve, but downright ludicrous to think that we, as beginners, could do anything but “suck”.
It’s okay to suck. In fact, it’s great!
Mastery is a long walk. That’s one of the absolute best things about aiming for it. It takes a long time to get there. At first, your muscles are weak. At times, it’s difficult to even want to put one foot in front of the other. But if you keep going, before long, your muscles get stronger, your sense of direction gets better, your vision gets more acute, and you realize that the goal is not to reach a “destination” at all, but just to become a better walker with every step. This is not to say that goals aren’t important, just that they aren’t the point. If you’re a great walker, you’ll reach a ton of goals…and then pass them on the way to the next big thing.
“It’s not the destination, it’s the…oh, shut up, will you?”
I hate sayings like that. Empty platitudes that have all the power and imagination of an empty platitude. Phooey! However, in every saying, no matter how creaky, there is a kernel of truth. In this case, I agree that the important thing to focus on is the journey, but I think, for me it’s more specific than that. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of walking or (yikes) driving somewhere and when you arrive, you wonder how, exactly, you got there. I know I have. So, if you’ve been there and done that, we can agree that it’s entirely possible to cover some serious ground and not remember a damned thing about it. I think a lot of people embark on their creative journey this way. This approach can get you a long way, actually. It’s true that if you just keep walking, you will certainly get somewhere. If you make a thousand paper cranes, you will become proficient at making paper cranes. But, and it’s a big but, what’s lacking here is any mindfulness about the journey itself. Every step gives you valuable feedback, not only about your art, but about who you are as a person. The super-laser-focused-go-getters often develop a killer technique, but because their minds were elsewhere during the trip, they lack the soul that only comes with the experience of walking with intention and mindfulness. In the end, the journey isn’t really about the art at all. Getting better at the art is a byproduct. The journey is about you.