Trying more than twice… a lot more

I never learned how to draw. I paint abstracts because I love color, pattern and texture. But, I also paint abstracts because I can’t draw. I’ve never taken an art class. Well, almost never. I started a Drawing 101 course in college. I dropped out pretty quickly because everyone in it was an art major and had been drawing the better part of forever. I was better suited for ‘How to draw a recognizable stick figure’…

Today, Amira was practicing her piano. It hadn’t yet been 10 minutes when I heard things go quiet. I went in to check. I found her curled up in a ball on the piano bench. I asked what was going on and she replied: “I can’t do it. I’m awful.”

“Of course you’re awful, Amira. You are just starting these songs. You can’t expect to be good after one or two tries.”, I replied.

We went round and round for a bit before I was able to get her to tackle a few bars of music with me. We worked on it together. Honestly, she picks it up pretty quickly. She doesn’t feel like it is quick enough.

After practicing in tandem, she was nailing sections that she hadn’t been able to. She started to get excited. Pouncing on what I thought would be a good teaching moment, I asked her: “Why do you think you can do it now?” after she jubilantly exclaimed: “I did it perfectly 3 times, Mom!!”


And then… “I don’t know…”

“Because you worked at it. You practiced. That’s why.”

Her response: “I wish I didn’t have to. If I was good, I could just do it right the first time.”

Oh boy. I so know what she’s talking about. I realized that I have often given up before ever truly applying myself. I use the rationale that “if I was good, I could do it right the first time.”

Recently I watch a short clip of artist Chuck Close. He was writing a letter to his 14-year old self. In it, he said:

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

It’s true. I also think the same thing could be said of natural talent. Natural talent is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.

I’ve been thinking on this and realized the best way to teach Amira the truth of how it takes work to become good at something… was to demonstrate it in my own life and practices.

I can’t draw. So I’m going to just show up and get to work.