Do you think I’m a good dancer?
My daughter asked me this question as we were talking about signing her up for an after-school dance program.
There is no good answer to the am I good at... question. Often when parents tell their kids that they are good at something - it will have the exact opposite effect (because telling someone they are good at something does not create an internal sense of competency). Of course, you’re also not going to say - no, you are a terrible dancer and squash their opportunity to learn.
But, we adults, also ask ourselves the am I good at question all the time. In fact, the older we get the more we limit ourselves to doing only what we think we are good at.
I’d like to ban the question entirely and propose these instead:
Do you love it? Or is it really important to you?
Do you love it enough to put in the time you will need to improve? Even when it’s not so fun?
Are you willing to make mistakes?
Are you willing to be vulnerable and possibly look foolish?
I’ve been sharing my writing publically for a little over a year now and it’s one of the most vulnerable things that I've ever done. Wanting to be good at it, I recently took out a bunch of writing books from the library: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and On Writing Well by William Zissner. (A favorite, that I already own, is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield).
The main point of every one of these books is this: To become a better writer you have to write. Every day. Whether you like it or not. Sitting in front of the computer or paper feeling totally stuck for hours counts as writing. Because stuckness is part of the process. Crappy writing also counts as writing (phew).
This is not rocket science and holds true for any endeavor.
How do you become a meditator? You Meditate.
A runner? You run. A dancer? You dance.
So, if it’s that easy, why isn’t it that easy?
I think it’s because we paradoxically think too much of ourselves and not enough at the same time.
We think we should be somewhere further down the path than we already are (too much of ourselves) -and since we’re not where we think we should be we spend precious time feeling bad about it or just stop trying (not enough of ourselves).
I think this quote, often attributed to Bill Gates, sums it up:
Most people underestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.
I often feel like I should be able to sit down and write a blog post in one sitting. This is definitely not my reality. This post took a few hours of being stuck and a few more to write and edit. I'm also sure that once I send it out I'll find spelling mistakes and sentences that don't quite make sense.
And still, I’m a writer because I’m writing. I may never be good at it and I’m definitely not sure if I love it, but it somehow feels important to get my ideas on how to live a good life on paper. Writing reminds me of what's important - and I’ve heard from a few other people that it helps them too. For me, that’s worth it.
And as the Japanese proverb goes:
We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.
*The above picture is of one of my dearest friends, Ziesl, dancing in my kitchen on Purim.