When I was a kid, I took ice skating lessons. I loved the rush of cold past my face as I sailed across the ice. I was given my own pair of beautiful white skates. My slender kiddo form was a great asset to the sport and I loved every minute of it.
But I was afraid to fall.
I was too cautious and afraid to lose control that I failed the second level. So I quit. My skates just sat in my closet until they were too small to wear anymore and, now that I think about it, I don’t remember what happened to them. We probably gave them away. I’ll never know if God had professional skating in His plan for my life but I do know that fear falling at prevented me from developing a solid talent on the ice.
My brother is better at the piano than I am even though I’ve had more formal music training than he did. We both have a natural ear and deep love for music and while I have a few more technical skills then he does, he is, hands down, the better musician.
Cause he’s has the patience to figure it out. He’ll sit there and piece out the chords and melody lines ’til he gets it right. I know how some things are done but I don’t have the patience to sit through sour notes, missed chords, and the reputation that’s required when mastering an instrument. So I stay in one spot, not growing in my craft of piano playing.
Yesterday, I wrote about not being good at everything. Those things we don’t have a natural talent or liking for that require an extra push to get done. For me, that’s math. But what about the things we may have actual talent for? Our creative God gives us creative talents and passions as a gift. But while He may have given the gift, the practice isn’t included. That’s your job.
Every artist must refine her craft. This is why they’re artists. Their very soul craves the art but they must still pursue the process. Being an artist isn’t about being a prodigy, it’s about the tireless pursuit of that which you can’t help but want to share with the world.
We still have to practice the things we love. An athlete wakes up before dawn to get to the track. A singer exercises and strengthens his vocal chords on a daily basis. The homemaker is intentional about finding new ways to manage time and economize. The teacher makes a point to get to know her students so she can best reach them. This is art. It must be practiced so we become better at it.
I still like the cold against my face when I’m on the ice but I haven’t mastered a basic sliding stop and can’t do much more than go around the rink in cautious circles. I love the feeling of the keys under my fingers but I haven’t taken the time to patiently strengthen my coordination and music reading.
Pursuing your art, the work you naturally love and want to share, means letting yourself fall over and over and over again until your leg muscles learn and master what you expect of them. That means pushing through the pain of exercises until your fingers fly across the keys without you thinking about it. It’s a process. It’s a practice. It’s showing up consistently and not quitting even when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.
That’s why I’m doing Write 31 Days. I’ve been told I’m a good writer and I definitely have a passion for the written word. But I sorely need the practice. So every morning this month, I’ve committed to sitting myself down and not getting up until I hit the publish button. After years of struggling to ‘make time’ to practice the craft of writing, I decided to take the bull by the horns and just do it.
Being afraid to fall is a function of a deeper artist issue that’s plagued my life: the pursuit of perfect work.
Perfection in art will kill your craft faster than anything else.
It killed my skills on the ice.
It’s killing my talent for the piano.
It could kill my abilities as a writer.
Allowing yourself to fall and fumble through sour notes while practicing is one thing. It’s still a relatively safe place. But shipping art to the public in an imperfect state is a totally different story. And it’s that need for perfection that keeps us from shipping anything at all.
But you have to ship. And you have to ship imperfect stuff so you can learn to create better stuff. It’s an ongoing process that never ends. Your art will never be perfect. Your craft will always need tweaking and there will be new tricks of the trade to discover.
So practice! Let yourself fall. Force yourself to listen to the sour notes. Hit publish. Don’t let the pursuit of perfect art keep you from experiencing and sharing the art itself. You’ve been given a gift and a unique life voice. Don’t get in your own way of sharing it with the world.