As we become more practiced and experienced at our craft — whether we’re writers, artists, therapists, or bricklayers — we gradually develop our style and method. Some develop their identity quickly, but most of us have to work diligently and constantly refine our skills. Seldom do you hear of an accomplished professional who is 100% happy with their final product. Always room for improvement and never enough time to practice.
I leave my old blog posts on Psychology Today because, however unpolished some of them now seem, I want to recall how my writing has grown. Striving for better but not expecting perfection, because that’s an unrealistic and disappointing pursuit. That’s a message I have to tell myself over and over when the instinct is to only publish a perfect piece. Here’s what I was writing about two years ago:
If you’re an aspiring creative or any kind of professional who is just getting started, remember the top piece of advice from those who’ve come before you: you don’t necessarily need innate talent to be successful– it’s consistent time and effort paired with a willingness to learn from your mistakes that yields the best results. That’s probably not news to you.
Putting it into practice is a different matter altogether. Yet it’s practice that sets successful people apart. I doubt I could list all of the hobbies and interests that I dropped quickly because I didn’t want to put in the time to practice. Piano, drums, 35-mm photography, fly tying… I guess I did become skilled at something: buying supplies and selling them a few months later.
So how do we become better at practicing? How do we stay consistently interested and motivated? These topics are why I love studying the lives of successful creatives. From the writers who put in hours of word time every single morning to the painters who didn’t have a public exhibit until after retirement, from them I take lessons that I can incorporate into my coaching with other creatives. There is a science to motivation and success, but it’s not a perfect science. We learn what works and then we try it on for size. Everyone’s process of practice and growth is different.
So I encourage you aspiring creatives out there to look to those who’ve come before you. Learn their habits and keep practicing until you find a system that works for you. If you’re a writer, read and write. If you’re an artist, draw and visit galleries. Maybe you need to find an accountability partner who will hold you to reporting on your progress. Maybe you need to make a commitment to go public with your work so that you have a deadline to meet and an audience waiting.
Of course I might be biased, but I also suggest hiring a coach! And if you do work with a coach, make a commitment to allow that coach to lead you into action rather than getting stuck in the discussion. Coaching is a wonderful environment for brainstorming and exploration, but talking can become a comfortable place where we get stuck because we’re not willing to start acting.