Archive for August, 2017

Confidence

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Even small successes nurture confidence.

A month ago I had the delightful experience of watching my youngest grandchild learn to walk.  He’d already taken his first unsupported steps some time before I arrived for my visit, but on my first day there, he was still toddling only a few steps at a time before landing on his well-padded seat and having to cautiously resume his upright stance before making another attempt.

"Stepping Out," by Charlotte Mertz (7"x5" graphite pencil, #170801p)

“Stepping Out,” by Charlotte Mertz (7″x5″ graphite pencil, #170801p)

The second morning of our visit, he was able to walk for several additional steps at a time.  But if he swiveled his head or tried to turn, he lost his balance and would drop down onto his seat again.

By the third morning he had mastered his turns enough to make a game of pivoting, and by evening was able to not only cross the entire room but chase his brother halfway down the hallway.  His efforts weren’t perfect; he wobbled a lot and frequently lost his balance.  But he had developed enough confidence to prefer his upright mobility to his previous four-point method of locomotion.  And the more he drew on his confidence, the more adept he became.

The same is true when we practice any skill.  Our advancements may not be as apparent as those of a young child, but even our baby steps do improve with practice, and, despite minor setbacks, “wobbles,” and sometimes-less-than-stellar results, the more we succeed, the more confident we become.  That confidence becomes apparent in the results of our efforts, which, in turn, encourages us to stretch our skills even further.

So whether our practice is in walking, drawing, painting, playing a musical instrument, or some other skill, even small successes indicate progress.  And progress generates confidence that our efforts are worthwhile.  So let’s focus on our successes, however small.  We’re getting better all the time.  Let’s keep at it!

Creatives and Commitment

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

“Creatives” – those of us with an artistic or creative bent, often find that our artistic interests lie in a number of different fields—visual arts, music, writing, crafts, invention, and more.  Our problems often lie not in a lack of interests or abilities but in an overabundance of them.  Our time and energy can become so fragmented as we attempt to follow such a wide range of pursuits that we don’t fully commit ourselves to any.

But, however creative we may be, without commitment and focused effort, how can we excel?

I’ve found that when my own attention is cast in too many different directions, shotgun style, I can’t home in on a single area to try to master.  I am often faced with some hard choices about which to set aside.  I need to determine where my primary field of interest lies at any given time, and therefore where I need to concentrate my most intensive focus.  Once I do that, it becomes easier to cull out the less important or less productive pursuits that drain my time and energy or distract me from seeking mastery in that primary area.  Painful as it often is, I need to conscientiously say “No!” when tempted to head off on yet another artistic or creative tangent.

I’ve had to do precisely that this summer, having come to the painful realization that one pursuit, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was demanding a disproportionate amount of time and energy and had been distracting me from what I consider my primary pursuit.

Certainly it’s possible to pursue and attain a high level of skill in more than one creative field. We have many examples before us of creative people who have excelled in multiple areas of expertise. But we need to know ourselves well enough to recognize our limitations and how many fields we can realistically expect to master within a given time frame.  Also, we can rarely reach mastery in two different fields simultaneously, but are more likely to master them at different periods in our lifetime, allowing ourselves time and focus to develop separate skill sets specific to each field.

Perhaps we may be satisfied with mastering one or two fields and be “just good enough” for personal satisfaction and general enjoyment in other areas.  That’s ok, too, … so long as  “just good enough” in too many areas doesn’t interfere with striving for excellence in even one.  If it does, it may be time to evaluate our self-image and personal goals (“Am I willing to remain mediocre because I feel that I’m nothing special, or because I don’t want to stand out in the crowd or become famous, or because I don’t want to work that hard, or because I can’t afford the time or cost of further training, or because I’m giving [X] higher priority right now?”)  We may have valid reasons for settling for mediocrity in some areas.  Or these “reasons” may just be excuses—conscious or unconscious—to justify neglecting our innate talents.  We often walk a fine line in that regard, so we need to be honest with ourselves.

I think it’s important to acknowledge what our own individual bent is (which is not the same as a talent we may envy in someone else and wish we shared), and to concentrate on that, committing to hone our understanding and related skills in that/those limited area[s].  Then we’re more likely to get somewhere noteworthy.