Be terrible at something.

Once upon a time, in an art class far, far, away, I was asked to draw an apple. As realistically as possible.

Instead, I drew a poop floating in a toilet. A modern post-apple, you could say.

My professors took it in stride. “Fancying yourself a conceptualist, eh?” they wise-cracked. They gave me some tips to make my piece even more out there, to really lean into the ridiculousness.

But deep down, I wasn’t trying to be a conceptualist, or ridiculous.

I was just really, really scared of drawing an apple.

I wasn’t a realist painter then, and I’m not a realist painter now. Deep down, I knew it would be hard to draw that apple, so I found a clever and memorable way to skirt the issue entirely.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was afraid to face the gap between what I could do and what I couldn’t.

Thing is, growth demands that we face that gap, and cross it.

The bridge-building and gap-crossing process can be pretty messy, strewn with false starts and frustration. And ugly apples.

You will suck at something before you excel. Unless you’re a savant, that’s just a fact of life.

I’ve heard it takes ten thousand hours to master a skill. So why would we chastise ourselves and stop if we don’t get it in ten? Or even a thousand? Why would we let being terrible in the beginning stop us from mastery?

Celerate being terrible. Revel in how much you suck. It’s a sign you are well on your way to being a master.

If I had been aware of my fear twelve years ago and overcome it by drawing that apple anyway, maybe I would be traveling the world, kicking ass in international photo-realist apple drawing competitions. Who knows?

What’s your apple? What’s one thing you could start doing now in order to bridge that gap?

(And how do you like those apples I drew at the top of this post?)

Here’s to building bridges and crossing gaps,

xoxo Maeg

10 thoughts on “Be terrible at something.

  1. Maeg,

    I don’t remember who said it, but one of my favorite quotes is that to become the best, we have to be willing to start out as the worst. I read this right as I started to do bead embroidery, and it helped a lot!

    I’ve gotten so much better at the beadwork, but one thing I struggle with is finishing my pieces so they look polished. My solution has been to try something new with every piece — I’m making a lot of bracelets right now so I can refine my skills, and I’m learning that positioning my thread tails in the right place and making the corners of the bracelet round is getting me closer to where I want to be.

    Soon, soon, I’ll be ready to sell my pieces. :)

  2. Great post Maeg! I really needed to read that today! I laughed at the ‘poop floating in a toilet’ idea. Seriously funny! My three year old son talks about poop constantly, and I find myself thinking ‘if I hear poop one more time…’ But, thanks to you, I laughed at ‘poop’ :)

    And, for the record, I think those apples you drew at the top are very real looking! Nice work!

  3. What a WONDERFUL post!! Luckily, I have many things I ‘suck’ at! :) Starting the list now – and, with it, I get to see the possible in what seems impossible. That’s pretty lovely. This was a much needed perspective today.
    Thanks. And, again, WONDERFUL!

  4. Oh such a great post! It is so true you simply must allow yourself to be bad at something before you can get better at it! When I make something new for my store, the first couple of goes/ samples can often be REALLY average border line bad. I do think however it is amazing how quickly the idea/ project can transform. I often hear people say “I do not have a creative bone in my body” but I wonder (given how badly my first goes can be) if perseverance has more to do with it. Thanks, lovely lil reminder.

  5. I was just having a similar conversation with my sister last night. As the old saying goes, if at first you dont succeed………………

  6. I needed this! Thanks for allowing me to remember that I don’t have to be good at everything, that there is room for mistakes, and that I can grow slowly. Wow, I don’t have to be good all at once!

    One of my apples is writing. I enjoy it, but I just don’t think I’m all that great at it. Sometimes I am and it feels good. But, the more I do it, the better I get, or so it seems.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  7. combine this thought with the 1 thing theory and your set to go! focus at least 2 hours a day for 90 days on the one thing you dont want to start to accomplish. whether your spiritual path, music, art, yoga, meditation, any thing ! you will dramatically see improvement on every aspect of your life. om mani padme hum!

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