When I about five years old, I started writing awkward little stories on my parents’ ancient mechanical typewriter. At twelve, I wrote what could pass as a “novel”. Of course it was awful, altogether terrible writing. My family was rather blunt, as families are. Nobody told me: “You need to pursue your passion!” I internalised the criticism to such an extent that I stopped writing.
Later on, I went to study literature, and now I had the judgment to see that anything fictional I produced simply wasn’t up to scratch. I only ever wrote small poems or snippets, few and far between.
It took a great emotional blow for this to change. In 2010, when my mum lay dying after a bad stroke, I started writing a fan-fiction set in a computer game I played at the time. It still wasn’t good writing, but I no longer cared – I poured all my emotions into the story and my characters. That’s what kept me sane.
Today, I write whenever I feel like it. I even wrote a novel-length story. It’s a good story, but still not very well-written. Who cares? I’ve learned that I don’t need to be published or get recognised as an author. I don’t need anybody else’s validation or permission; I can just write for myself, because it gives me joy.
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This is something I only learned in my 40s. I’ve wasted so much time! And many of my Coaching clients are hung up on the same misconception: That you have to be basically a prodigy in order to practice an art or a craft. I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.
The perfection trap
We all love stories like Mozart’s: The child prodigy who went on to become a celebrated composer, revolutionising the music of his time and earning undying fame. We look up to the genius of the great poets and the sheer raw skill and expression of actors and dancers.
It’s definitely a good thing to recognise and appreciate quality. The problem begins when we begin to judge everyone, including ourselves, by the standards of the masters. Or maybe even that isn’t a problem – there’s nothing wrong with me knowing the flaws of my own writing, after all. The trouble is that I allowed it to keep me from writing for decades.
Can we all agree, then, that having judgment and being able to tell a masterpiece from an amateur’s work shows taste and education – but drawing the conclusion that only the masters should practise their art, is wrong?
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Pursue your passion without being a genius
There are very practical reasons for you to step up and pursue your passion.
1. “Every master was once a disaster”
Very few people can play the piano the way Mozart did at the age of four. Most of the greats in any art or craft, had very modest beginnings – clumsy paintings, bad writing, trivial compositions, and more failed crafting projects than you can shake a stick at. The truth is, you’ll never know if you really “got it” unless you commit to practising for years and decades.
2. Improving yourself
Even if you don’t reach the lofty heights of mastery, if you keep practising you will get better. This is the aim of every serious artist or crafter. You may not have your paintings exhibited in a posh gallery, but is that really what attracted you to your art/craft in the first place? If you love what you do, you’ll have the urge to be the very best you can be at it. Learning and improving your own level of skill will give you a buzz.
3. The fulfilment lies in creating
Sometimes it seems like we’re waiting for the world to give us permission to do something. More often than not, we tie this imaginary permission slip to our skill level. Since even the masters often doubt themselves, it’s the perfect recipe for never creating anything. But isn’t creating the most fulfilling part?
Your Happiness Counts
What you need to understand is that your personal happiness counts. In fact, it’s what life is all about! Look past the judgment and ask yourself why you want to create. How does it make you feel?
Stop waiting. Stop denying yourself. I’m here to tell you: You have permission to do what lights you up. People who are on fire set the world on fire. Go shine your light!
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