Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spiders, Snakes, and Writing

I hid some of my traits from our children in order not to pass them on. They were young teenagers before they knew fast-moving spiders made the hair on my arms stand up (and the ones that jump did the same for the hair on my head), or that snakes and worms were fully e-e-ew no matter their perfection in Nature. My stifling of my genuine reaction was a parenting success.

But other traits I should have suppressed, I did not. My own self-doubt and introspection undoubtedly birthed theirs, and my small triumphs over it don't translate to theirs.

What I wish they, and many other people I know, could do came to me rather late: Get on board with the notion that it's okay to suck, to be low on the learning curve, to strive and flop. I wish I'd realized that good people don't judge you for trying and failing, that it's normal to be pretty awful at something you've only just begun.

Too many would-be writers who take it up when they are adults accustomed to doing well fall into this mindset: They have to be decent right out of the gate. But it makes no sense. Nobody became a master gardener, great waitress, fine surgeon, or accomplished pianist at their first attempt.

When you take up writing—or art, or violin—you're even with high school students, or college student if you're lucky. Those people are young enough to be all right with themselves as unskilled learners. Swallowing your pride and lowering your self-expectations doesn't come easily to people who are used to being great at what they do, but if you want to master new skills, you've got to do it.

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