One of pressures the working world puts on us is the desire to be right, or to be knowledgeable about all things, all of the time. We purport to know exactly what we’re doing—to have convictions and to feel like our opinions are immovable. To know the best path forward. We come with our arms shackled to our identities, as though the only way to be good at something is to pretend we haven’t stumbled along the way. It’s a shield that makes improvement very difficult—and it causes our work to suffer.
What if we looked at our work as something more fluid? Something that births us anew, unhinging us from our past selves? There’d be no clutter at the start, and hardly any anxiety about whether or not the finished product will live up to our hard-and-fast concept of ourselves. We wouldn’t have to be “good” all of the time… we’d just have to be.
With that attitude comes some humility, I think. It takes a strong person to realize that she can learn new skills, and that she can consider technique (in the name of quality) as a force outside of herself—a force that she must hone without being emotional about any personal triggers that come up because of it. I’ve been thinking about this because it applies not only to writing, but to yoga, to my clarinet playing, to dance, to art, and even to life. Technical practice in any creative endeavor is essential for everyone—not just beginners—because it establishes self-control and it helps us acknowledge the impossibility of perfection. Moreover, it enables us to banish what we once were in favor of what we can be… without any drama attached to the process.
Is being a creative person evolutionarily advantageous, then? I would think so, but maybe not for the reasons this article suggests. I’d be inclined to guess that musicality or expressivity are desired traits because a person who is able to see herself as being in constant flux—and who experiences that flux through the necessary detachment that comes with learning an art (already laden with emotions)—is more capable of evolving throughout her life and bettering herself. She’s not afraid to let go of unproductive ways of seeing, and her memory is no longer anchored to unhelpful mantras. She’s willing to stay true to herself and simultaneously add on new layers of thought and being. With that mindset, we don’t have to be good. We just have to be ever-ready to fling ourselves at opportunities for growth.