I had a friend growing up that was fantastic at painting and drawing, her name was Liz Jackson, and she seemed to effortlessly produce art constantly. We went to an art fair one weekend in middle school, and when we came across easels set up for anyone to use, we ran over immediately to take advantage. I wanted to paint a forrest at night, complete with a full moon overhead. I started, but no matter what I painted it looked nothing like what I thought it should. After trying for a good ten minutes and seeing how much more successful my friend’s painting was, I tore my painting off the easel, and dumped it into the garbage in a huff. I was so jealous. I was so mad. It’s wasn’t fair! How come she was so much better than me? Why are some people good at everything? This feeling came up more than this one occasion, and not just for painting. I’ve been jealous of musician friends, and sculpting friends, friends good at field hockey, friends who could speak more than one language, and the list goes on and on. The point is that there are a lot of things out there in this world that I would love to be good at, but I’m not, and that disappoints me. It disappointed me until I realized why I wasn’t good at these things…
So, sure, some people are probably good at the things I listed above partially because they had some talent for it, but do you want to know how they got better at those things? They practiced. They practiced over and over and over, and then, because they could, they practiced some more. That’s the secret, that’s the key. I wasn’t good at painting because I took all of ten minutes and expected a masterpiece. Do I like painting? No, not so much, not enough to like you know, practice, or anything. I love writing, and I never have really sat down and tried to be good at it. For me, I write because I have an idea I want to share, and it’s the most exciting way I know how to share it. I write because I love it, and can’t help myself. I write because so hard that I have to set timers so that I don’t forget to pick my children up from school, because otherwise my children would sit all day waiting for me at school! I write because I love it, and that’s why my good friend Liz paints. She loves painting.
I share this with you, because I think it’s important when we look at people who are exceptional at things and realize that this is not divine given ability, but rather someone who didn’t want to do anything else. And that it’s okay to make art because you love it, instead of trying to make art because it’s good. In fact, since it’s never going to be good for everybody, this is really the only real reason to do it in the first place.
I might be preaching to the choir on this one, but I was thinking about my crappy painting today, as I do more often than you’d think, and remembering that you have to want something more than greatness to succeed. You have to love it. Because then, when you’re spending your time doing something you love, you’ve already succeeded. It’s great having people come see my plays, it’s a fantastic feeling, but is it better than a whole day spent writing? Maybe not.