Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What If You're Just Not Good Enough?

It’s a question no one likes to face. But perhaps we all have at some point in our lives.

What if you’re just not good enough?

What I mean by that is, what if you simply don’t have the skills, the knowledge, the talent, or the acumen to do what it is that you are really passionate about?

To clarify, I’m not talking about those things that you feel God has “called” you to do. As far as I’m concerned, if God calls you to do something, you do it. Whether you’re terrible at it or not. That’s an obedience issue.

No, I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about that one thing that you’re passionate about. That one thing you want to do more than anything else in the world. (Yes, sometimes “calling” and “desire” intersect, and it's a beautiful thing when they do. But that's not what I'm referring to here.) What if you are simply not good enough to do what you love to do?

I wrestle with this question a lot. As most of you know, I’ve been passionate about making music for over 20 years now. I’ve recorded four albums in my life and a handful of singles. One could say I’m “successful” at music solely by the amount I’ve been able to create. But let’s be honest. I’m not topping any charts. No, let’s be even more honest. I’m not even ON any charts. Sometimes it seems I can't even give my music away. Does that mean I stink at it? I honestly don’t know. Maybe my music doesn’t sell because my friends don’t see me as a musician. Maybe they see it as my hobby and who wants to pour money into someone else’s hobby? Maybe I’m not on the radio airwaves because I don’t have the right “connections”, don’t grease the right palms or have a famous uncle to promote me. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’m not as good at it as I’d like to think I am.

Maybe my passion and my talent aren’t equal.

What do you do then?

And how do you comfort someone who has a desire to do something with their life when they just don’t have it? You’ve known that person. You know the girl in church who thinks she can sing but she honestly can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Or the boss who loves being the boss but is a terrible people manager. The wannabe dancer with clumsy feet and no coordination. The young man who dreams of being a professional athlete but just doesn’t have the physicality. You know him. You know her. How do you encourage those people?

True, success is about more than being on charts, getting a hit single or a record deal. I know that. I'm not simply talking about worldly success, I'm talking about affirmation. I'm talking about the ability to do what you really love and make a life out of it. Not having to tuck it away to an occasional weekend because your "real job" has to pay the bills. I have a lot of musician friends in this same position, by the way. Those who would love to make a living at it but just haven't been able to.

Is it supposed to be enough to say you've "stayed true" to your passion regardless of your ability to make a living at it?

Let me be clear: I’m not writing this looking for people to respond and say, “Tim, you’re a great songwriter.” That’s not what I’m looking for here. I’ve already come to terms with the possibility that I may not be very good at this. And I’m okay with that. To some extent. But what I wrestle with is why the passion doesn’t subside when it becomes evident that the ability to fulfill it isn’t there.

Have you ever wrestled with this? Is there something you have always wanted to do or be but you just don’t have it? How do you deal with it?


mittens said...

late to the dance, and maybe you don't bother with this any longer, but what you say resonates, big time.
I'm a poet. Like you, i love what I do and it's how I define myself, waking and sleeping. I've been a poet since I was probably 17, gotten pretty good at it. Now and then I've had things published, but when someone rejected my work but was generous enough to say, "you have the makings of a fine poet. Don't give up on this". I realized that if all I was at 50 was potential, well, maybe I'd better start saving my money on postage and envelopes.
I wrestle with it every day. It doesnt consume me, but its a lot like having a visible ugly birthmark; you don't like it, but its part of you, who you are. So I write to please myself, and treat the work I do have as possibly good enough to protect by not posting it online and spamming a blog with it.

Because, you see, there's a lot of people out there who are probably better than they think they are, just as I suspect we're better than we think we are, but by the time you wade through the processes of getting recognized and your thoughts grouped around possiblities and publicity and such, and seeing people that you really feel have barely enough talent to fit on the head of a pin actually Making It, that trickle of Maybe It's Me starts sliding down your back like beads of sweat.

A hundred years ago the world was a much less populated place, and the spaces for talented people were much more visible. The opportunties for musicians and poets and writers and even painters were vast--the public was still in the Arts Appreciation mode, and you could still suceed without having to elbow your way to the counter. I think the "no one really cares" has a lot to with it these days.

I go to local Art Shows now and then and see work that is amazingly good; museum quality, Sculpture that almost breathes at you. Watercolors that make you ache inside when you see them. What museums take is abstracts of black boxes on white parchment, or blobs of red slashed with blue streaks.

What sells is chutzpah. An MFA. Who you know in the literary world or the music world, an ability to schmooze, to convince people that what you have is a lot better than it really is.

Bitter? Only a bit. You still play, and sing and write . I still write. We do what we do, because we have to. I think its that simple.

Maybe some day when we are dead and maundering (or is it moldering) in our graves someone will discover what we do, or did, and think, tsk tsk. what a waste. =)

And sometimes I pull down the shades, turn up the radio, and dance, as hard as I can.

Mehwish hayat said...
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