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Saturday, March 04, 2006


I skimmed through a fascinating blog entry over at Creating Passionate Users titled How To Be An Expert. The thing that excited me so much about this article is that it refers back to a scientific study that verifies a theory of mine. :-)

Some time ago, I started thinking about why I could write, but couldn't draw. I loved the idea of sitting down, picking up a pencil and a sketchbook and making pictures. Unfortunately, I didn't have much talent as an artist. A few years ago, though, I was talking with a guy at work who has taken art classes. And he said something that triggered an epiphany: Maybe I wasn't a good artist because I wasn't passionate enough about it to put in the time it took to become good.

With writing, I was willing to put in hour after hour after hour at it. When I was a kid, I filled notebooks with my stories, and when I went to college and got my first computer, I started filling disks with stories. I knew my stories weren't perfect, but I also knew I could keep working at them and make them better.

Could I have done the same thing with art? Yep. Did I? No. Because I was passionate enough about writing to sit down and do it, but not passionate enough about art. Or crafts for that matter too.

Creating Passionate Users says this:

Most of us want to practice the things we're already good at, and avoid the things we suck at. We stay average or intermediate amateurs forever.

Yet the research says that if we were willing to put in more hours, and to use those hours to practice the things that aren't so fun, we could become good. Great. Potentially brilliant. We need, as Restak refers to it, "a rage to master." That dedication to mastery drives the potential expert to focus on the most subtle aspects of performance, and to never be satisfied. There is always more to improve on, and they're willing to work on the less fun stuff.
Yes! We need to that drive to put in the time. Writing is work, lots of work, but for me, the passion outweighed what writing required from me.

More from the blog:
Where this ties into passionate users is with the suck threshold and kick-ass (aka "passion") threshold. Your users will typically fall into one of the three categories in the graphic: expert, amateur, or drop-out. The drop-outs decide that during that "I suck at this" phase, it isn't worth continuing. They give up.
This has been my other assertion, that a lot of talented writers give up too easily and too early. No, not everyone is who works at it hard is going to be published, but there are good writers who could be more--if they didn't walk away from it. But I have another theory for this as well: If someone isn't passionate enough to keep writing, maybe they are meant to do something else.

To use myself and art as an example, I quit drawing when I was a teenager. I wasn't good enough, so why bother? But who knows what I could have become if I had been (and if I WAS) willing to sit down and work at it? But I wasn't meant to be an artist, I was meant to be a writer. If I had devoted all the time necessary to art, would I have had the time to work on my writing?

I think we all need something we feel passionate about, something that excites us enough to work at it even when we're bad. What is your life's passion? What outlet do you have that brings you joy even when it's hard work?