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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Creative Failures

I've always been attracted to creative things. I danced when I was in grade school and enjoyed it except that it was my mom's idea (she always wanted to tap dance). Once I hit the rebellious teenage years, I dropped it because my mom wanted me to do it. I regret this because I was good--at least in my dance school. I was always slotted into the top group of tappers. I did make one foray into ballet, but it ended when I broke my leg ice skating.

Ice skating--that was another creative endeavor. I wanted to be a figure skater with all the jumps and grace. Unfortunately, I was never good at this. I broke my right tibia bone, and three years later, I broke my left ankle. That's when I hung up the skates for good.

I took piano lessons, but I hated to practice so I never became very good. I had guitar lessons, but I wanted to play an electric guitar not acoustic. Not that it mattered because I didn't practice that either. I also didn't practice the viola, but because we had music scheduled almost every day in grade school, I was better on that than the other instruments. My parents wised up and did not let me add the clarinet to my repertoire. And when I asked to take drum lessons, they rented the drums. Um, that was another failure on my part. Again, I wanted to learn to play rock 'n roll drums, not marching band drums, but if I'd been a little smarter, I'd have realized marching band drums were cool. Hey, my high school marching band went to England our senior year. If I'd only known...

This wasn't my only foray into music. I love to sing. I was in my junior high choir and I like to think I was decent. Or at least that I was until I got sick. When the virus or whatever it was passed, I couldn't hit the notes any more. Of course, it was just as likely I only thought I was good, but if I noticed a difference, maybe it was there.

In junior high I also tried my hand at theater. I was in two productions. For the first, I had a decent-sized role, but got strep throat the week of the performances and missed them all. The second was Cinderella and I was the narrator. The only character with more lines than me was Cinderella herself. But this was something else I didn't pursue past junior high and I really have no regrets about that.

And let's not forget art. I loved art and took as many classes as I could in school. If only I could have skipped Home Ec and done more art! Let's just say that Home Ec and I were not a good match and I loathed it. To be fair, I also loathed wood shop and they made us take that, too. But art I enjoyed. I just wasn't that good at it. Drawing, jewelry making, sculpting, I'm pretty sure I tried it all. What I always wanted to do, though, was to take a sketch pad and a pencil and draw incredibly detailed pencil sketches. Alas, the talent was not equal to the vision or at least I wasn't close enough that I was willing to work at it and get better. I doubt I ever would have been awesome, but adequate would have been cool.

I also attempted craft stuff, although I will admit I have little patience for it and none of my projects ever came out right. Knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, cross stitch, sewing (inflicted on us in Home Ec) and latch-hook rugs. Nothing came out except the latch hook rugs which, let's face it, are so easy anyone can do them.

I scrapbook occasionally now and I know I'm not very good, but I have accepted this and do it because I find it relaxing and it's a way to be creative that isn't writing. When I'm stuck in a book, it's actually been helpful to sit down with my scrapbook supplies and put together a few pages. It seems to break the logjam, but not use up my creative energy. Maybe because it's so different than writing? Maybe because I've embraced my mediocrity and don't waste energy trying to strive beyond it? I don't know, but it doesn't really matter.

A while back I read this interesting article that had the thesis that we're capable of many things, but give up before putting in the time it takes to be good at them. What grabbed me about this was looking at my long and varied creative efforts and realizing it was true at least to a degree. I wasn't willing to put the time in on anything I tried to reach a level of competence--except writing.

With writing, I was willing to come back to it again and again, to learn, to improve, to edit. I never gave up in frustration when my work wasn't good enough yet. I kept writing, practicing, honing my skills and abilities and craft. It never occurred to me to quit. But I love writing with a passion I don't have for any other creative activity and that makes all the difference. (I still wish I could draw, though, darn it!)