A Gifted Natural – or a Determined Student
I attended a piano recital my grandkids played in last night. The performers ranged in age from about 5 to 14. The performers’ skills demonstrated everything from super beginner, first recital, barely able to reach the pedals and eek out Jingle Bells, all the way up to a classical piece played from memory with no sheet music.
Praise for Effort Alone
The range of proficiency and the growth I’ve witnessed in the skills of the kids over the past few years struck me on a couple of levels. Some of them are so young, they don’t know to be self-conscious yet.
At the same time, they’re getting comfortable sharing their hard-earned, though humble new skill with a room full of strangers.
Can you imagine doing that with your art? Could you pull a curtain to reveal everything you’ve made this year displayed on a stage, and take a beaming-smile bow at the applause for your effort, and not necessarily at the outcome?
For the Love of the Process
There were little performers who were tense and mechanical in their keystrokes, practically counting out the beat aloud to themselves. Compared to the same-age kids who didn’t need sheet music – the ones who sat at the bench with ease, and had a palpable “feel” for the music, the determined ones were a testimonial to working hard at something you love, no matter how you compare to others.
I had overwhelming affection for the earnestness of the kids who had to fight for the music. It put a lump in my throat and makes me weepy-eyed all over again to think about it. I too am the fumbling, determined, repetitious learner. Plus, I’m late for the party.
Thank all the muses to every piece of music ever written for those wise parents, arranging piano lessons and frequent practice for their littles. Dan Coyle wrote that Greatness isn’t Born, It’s Grown. I believe that with all my heart, and I’m so grateful it works that way. Late is better than never.
If You’re Pulled Towards It, Keep Climbing
Art – of any kind – comes easier for some than others. If you are the kid who had to fight with all your heart to make something, and it still didn’t measure up to another kid who made a perfect drawing in half the time – don’t you dare give up.
I’m sitting on the piano bench, hip-to-hip, nudging you to pay attention. Don’t choose to let comparison be the judge of your creative output. The only person you should be comparing today’s artwork efforts to is yourself, last week. Work at getting better than you were before.
And please don’t ever let someone else’s opinion drive your creative car.
What Are You Naturally Good At?
Everyone wants to be good at SOMETHING. If you must be good at something too, and you chose art, but now you’re not making stuff because it’s hard – consider Directing your Good-Meter at something that comes easier (Petting the cat. Picking flowers, etc.)
Then, brush off your hands, take a deep breath, and revisit your art with fresh eyes. Ask your surveying mind to take a nap, and focus instead on the Process. Find joy in the outlet, the purge, the creation of color, the expression, and delight in making something with your hands. Forget the end result.
Embody all the earnestness of a five-year-old, rocking to and fro, mouthing the notes while banging each key with a determined index finger at the piano. Make stuff all the time, without waiting for the praise, the applause, or the grade. Don’t compare. Grab a pencil and just start. Don’t you dare give up.
Make something soon. Really. Even a doodle. It counts.
Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post –
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Instead of shooting arrows at someone else’s target, which I’ve never been very good at, I make my own target around wherever my arrow happens to have landed. You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bulls eye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead center.~Brian Eno