"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...." It's not uncommon for me to adapt these lines from Finding Nemo to whatever repetitive, difficult task I'm doing, or for me to chant them to Rowan when I'm trying to keep her walking, pedaling, snowshoeing, or whatever. They were brought to mind again today while I was pondering a recent blog post by Maria Shell.
Maria had written about mantras she uses when teaching quilting to help her students remember that they can't expect to be perfect when they're just beginning to learn a new skill. It's really not fair for them to compare their first machine quilting attempt to what she's produced after thousands of hours of practice.
To be honest, I find myself doing this all the time. Not comparing myself to Maria, of course, but often to a vast variety of other artists and writers whose work I would love to claim as my own. I easily forget that I am a relative novice in most of the media in which I work, and worse, I really don't practice all that much. I need to regularly steal these mantras from Maria: "practice, practice, practice," "start where you are," and "begin again."
I've noticed a trend "out there" in choosing words or phrases on which one chooses to focus for the upcoming year. For instance, one might want to focus on creativity, adventure, or patience in all aspects of ones life. The idea is to keep this word/idea in mind as one makes decisions about what to do, how to react, and what choices to make.
Maria followed this trend in stating that she is going to focus on trying to "be tidy, be techy, be fit, be fearless, be kind." I commented on her blog post and said that I liked that she was going to "try" to be all of those things.
It's really easy to feel like a failure and condemn yourself if you state absolutely that you're going to be anything. For instance, I want to be published as a writer, but realistically, I have no control over that. Yes, I have control over whether I write and submit my writing to editors, but I have no control whatsoever over whether or not an editor chooses my piece for publication. If I were to say that I will be published this year, I'm setting myself up for probable failure. Instead, I can help ensure my success by saying that I will try to be published this year. I can try by writing, submitting, writing some more, submitting again.... The harder I work, the more successful I'll be at trying, and the more likely I'll be to get published.
Boy, that sure sounds easy. Sometimes, even trying is hard. It's hard to put hours and hours into something that may never be "successful." It's hard to keep practicing when improvement is imperceptible. I admit it, I want instant gratification in all things. I don't want to keep trying. I want to be and to have.
But I need to. I need to just keep trying, just keep trying.... And as I try, I need to be kind to myself and remember that success is in the trying, not in the winning. Help me remember that, will you please?