6. Practice Not Included | 31 Days

This is post 6/31 of Write 31 Days. See full list HERE.

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.

Why?

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.

#write31days

5. You’re Not Good at Everything | 31 Days

This is post 5/31 of Write 31 Days. See full list HERE.

One point. One measly, stinkin’ point. How in the world did I fail by one point?!?!

This wasn’t my first CLEP exam but it was my first fail.  Standing there with my score in hand, my fried brain feeling so utterly at sea, I had no idea what to do next. The worst part about the whole thing was I had to wait six months to retake the test. Stupid test.

It was my first attempt at the College Algebra CLEP exam. Math. The one subject that always been my arch nemesis in school. I don’t have a natural liking or ability for it so any good grades I managed to receive came from long hard hours of working at it. And I generally did not enjoy it. Math. The only subject I’ve ever been tutored in while in high school. And now, after all the blood, sweat, and tears I put into prepping for that exam, I failed. By one point.

Ugh.

I have a confession to make. I wasn’t going to share this but…I snoozed again this morning. Yeah, I know, Monday morning and I already fell off the wagon. Now I’m behind in my routine. Again. 

We all have a list of things we’re not particularly good at. Those things we can’t seem to conquer, master, or get over. Sometimes they’re such simple things and we don’t know why it’s so tough to just do it

I should be able to do this! My friends can do it, why is it so hard to get it done?!

We compare, we calculate, we reason, we make excuses. 

Stop it. Let me tell you something. 

You’re not good at everything.

You’re just not. And that’s okay, you don’t have to be. I think we all know this intellectually but then we face a task or situation that requires us to perform and we kick ourselves for not being able to deliver. It happens in school, on the job, in our families, with our friends. 

So I want you to say it. Go ahead and say it. 

I’m not good at everything and I don’t have to be.

Now the pressure is off and you can focus on two things: 1. cultivating and capitalizing on the things you’re naturally good at, 2. searching out the help you need to work on the things you’re not good at but still need to get done or delegating the task to someone else who is actually good at it.   

Obviously, that College Algebra exam wasn’t something I could delegate, so I got a tutor to help me work through the material and prep for a re-take. I passed the second time around and washed my hands of math classes forever.

Until my final term at TESC when I had no choice but to fulfill a three-credit slot with a math class. Are you serious!?

Sometimes you don’t win. You have to grin and bare it.

I’m still not great at math. I still snooze in the morning and struggle with my routines despite my best intentions. I’m not good at everything and I don’t have to be. I do know what I want to be good at and I have to work hard at it until I am. However, I won’t kick myself when I fail at the things that don’t come naturally to me. I tried and I’m going to try again. I tried and I’m going to figure out what needs to change in order to get it right the next time around.

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The BF and I have this saying about knowing enough to figure out what we don’t know. And that’s education. You know that there are things that need to be done and knowledge and expertise that are required to accomplish them. So you figure out how to get it done, you don’t just leave it or do it halfway cause you’re not good at it.

You know you need those credits for school so figure out how to get it done. You may not like the subject and that class may not apply to anything in your real life but you have the satisfaction of figuring out a problem and doing your best.

You know that project needs to be done at work or in your home so you figure out how to get it done yourself or delegate it to someone who will do it for you. Now you have the satisfaction of a job well done and the added experience tucked in your pocket for next time.

You’re not good at everything. That doesn’t me you can’t or shouldn’t get it done, you just have to put in extra effort to make it happen.

I’m through with CLEP exams and I’ll never take another math class (fingers crossed) but that just leaves room for the million and one other things that I’m not good at but need to figure out a way to get done. So I’ll keep learning and growing so I can master and conquer.

I’m not good at everything but I’ll do my best to do my best at everything.

#write31days