Epiphany time: as I was contemplating a certain theme, I thought to myself, “I wish I were a little more eloquent.” It wasn’t until after the thought fully formed that I saw the irony and nearly laughed out loud. For you see, dear reader, I had been expounding (mentally) on the necessity of practice–mainly in art and dance, though the same principle applies language and pretty much any other skill in the world.
So, instead of just dreaming of how I might encourage people, or waiting until I’m “good enough” at expressing my thoughts, I’ll follow my own advice and dive right in, be it ever-so-awkwardly, because you can’t get to where you want to be unless you Practice.
Throughout my life, I’ve had more than my fair share of what I’d call leisure time. I’ve also had lots of encouragement from others to pursue various activities, little discouragement, and a natural inclination to not really care about other people’s negative opinions anyway. As a result of these two huge advantages, I’ve practiced various arts pretty extensively. Most of my interests were self- (or book- or internet-) taught, but I’ve spent a lot of time doing the things I love.
People frequently give compliments on my work. They tell me I’m talented and creative. At the risk of sounding completely full of myself, I won’t say they’re wrong. Whatever skills I have are great gifts. However, any talent I might have wouldn’t even be apparent if I didn’t practice. Likewise, you can never know what talents you have unless you discover them…through practice, practice, practice!
I think this concept is largely ignored because it’s repeated so often. It’s become just a buzz in the background of clichéd inspirational phrases. But it’s repeated so often because it is so true! Whether it’s drawing or dancing or writing or woodworking…you must do the thing not-so-well before you ca do it beautifully. There will absolutely be a time when you are inept and uncomfortable in any discipline. This period could last a month or ten years. It’s different for everyone and with every skill. You will make some things that aren’t quite up to par. You will make some things that are just awful. Everyone, including the most skilled–or perhaps I should say, especially the most skilled–has.
The only possible way for you to get better at something is to do that thing. And above all, do not tell yourself you can’t. Understand that every single person whose art you admire was, at some point, not an expert.
I’ll take a break from pontificating now. And after writing that last sentence and reviewing what I’ve written here so far, this flashes across my mind: “I can’t think of a good way to wrap this up. I’m no good with conclusions.” More sweet irony! It’s okay to end like this. This piece doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be. If I want to be a good writer, I’ll have to write some bad stuff first. And keep practicing.