“This is supposed to be fun, what am I doing? I could be taking a nap on the couch in front of a football game right now.”
That is my quitting point, what is yours? When it comes to doing creative projects as an avocation we all hit a point where our skill level is just not where it needs to be to get through the next thing we are trying to do. Our choices?
1. Settle and be satisfied with our current level.
2. Quit, naps are pretty great.
3. Plow through the “I can’t” and admit that you don’t know something and take the time to learn it.
How many picked three? Yea, you are teacher’s pet! I often don’t. When it comes to doing things for fun, for my own satisfaction, it is a lot easier to say, “Look, this is good enough, I’m not a freaking professional, if I could play guitar like Eric Clapton, I’d be Eric Clapton.”
And; there is some truth to that. The fact is creativity requires discipline and practice, getting your skill to a higher level requires plain old hard work. As adults, we already work pretty hard, we are supposed to simply enjoy our creative pursuits. Unless we face the occasional challenge, we will get bored.
That could be why I try so many new things. Beginner levels are the easiest. I have always liked things that come easily to me, who doesn’t? The things that come easily give me immediate satisfaction, so I put in more time and by putting in more time, I get better. The trouble is, when things come easily to you all your life, you never learn how to plow through the “I can’ts.” I’m going through that right now in my guitar playing.
I am long past the pleasant surprise of having pretty sounds come out of the instrument connected to my fingers. Now I want to advance, I want to play songs, I want to sing while I play. And, right now I can’t. It’s not that I don’t know how, I know what I have to do, I am simply lazy. I know I have to learn some new techniques, some new chords and I have to put in the time but the problem is this: ego.
Because, to get better I have to embrace how terrible I am right now and put in some tedious hours to break through to the next level and I hate the thought of spending all that time sounding terrible. Even as I write this, I know how juvenile that sounds, but knowing doesn’t make it less so, in fact, it makes it worse. What is my choice? Keep playing like a beginner? Take more naps? Or, suck it up and understand that I have to put in some work.
Work? I thought I was doing this creative stuff to be happy, to find fulfillment. If I want to set goals I’ll do that at the office or to sell more books or something that makes.. me… more… money. There we have it, in my heart I don’t believe my own bull. I think releasing my creative beast is only something I do when I feel like it and not when it gets hard.
Easy there self loather, that might be a little harsh. Maybe it is easier to write this than to practice my freaking guitar: actually, that’s it. I’m doing what comes easily again. Self deception is a terrible thing when brought into the light.
There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.
Sir Joshua Reynolds
The fact is, I’ve wanted to play guitar since I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and I put it off for decades. Now I am using every excuse in the book to avoid putting in the hours I need to become a good player. In my heart, I know any creative pursuit requires discipline and time, what’s up with the self sabotage? Loving what you do makes it easier, even as a bad guitar player, I love the sound of my instrument. I’d have a lot more trouble if I had to learn a skill that goes against my values, like pistol shooting. The self sabotage is a form of laziness, pure and simple, and it is easier to get away with being lazy when it comes to your “hobby.” I mean your boss won’t want to hear it if you don’t feel like working a little harder, so most of us will put in that extra effort on the job.
I often write about “leaning forward”( you know: like over your skis as opposed to sitting back, like on the couch). Deciding to be active, to fill your free time with meaningful, creative pursuits is a life choice. And, while taking a nap now and then is a wonderful thing, I need to remind myself that learning new things is one of the most stimulating things in my life. And; you can’t learn new things until you admit you don’t know everything. Damn, I like to think I am always the smartest guy in the room! Time to embrace my suckage and move on!
So, I have convinced myself (I don’t know if I have convinced you) to dive into my guitar roadblock head on, starting this evening.
Now if I could only get this psyched about doing some sit-ups.