I was picking up my daughter at a comic book drawing club and over heard an older boy acclaim “wow, that’s really good! I could never draw like that.” And it struck me how many times I have heard that mantra repeated by countless others, including myself, when we are amazed by someone else’s work.
“I could never __________ like that”.
For a few, seeing or hearing something that is so far above their current ability level will be inspiring. It will make them work harder, be more dedicated, invest more time in their craft. But for most people, it is like a license to give up. They will look in the mirror and say “I am not ever going to be that good” and little by little they stop.
Usually by the time I see kids in 6th grade (11 and 12 years old), they have already come to some conclusions about their own abilities. I hear things like “I’m not good at sports, I can’t sing, draw, play an instrument, I am not good at math, I can’t writing stories, I am not creative……”
I think this is an incredibly young age to have already decided what you are good or not good at.
It happened to me. In 3rd grade, I was told by my music teacher to NOT SING in Concerts – just mouth the words. The same person told my parents to NEVER let me go into Music because I had no sense of rhythm or pitch.
So when I was in 6th grade I believed I couldn’t sing and dove into sports.
I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 14 and with it writing, performing, and teaching music entered my life and sports quickly left. Luckily, I had almost no concept of what “good” meant in terms of playing music. If I had, I probably would not have explored the instrument the way I did. Most parents buy their child an instrument and immediately sign them up for lessons. Not Mine and I am so glad!! My father gave me a 4 page pamphlet that contained information on how to tune, play folk style chords, and the names of the natural notes on the first 5 frets of the instrument and said “here is everything you need to know”. From this, I learned to tune and quickly discovered that I didn’t like the sound of folk chords played with distortion. I liked distortion and it turned out the open D and G strings played together sounded cool. Little did I know that this is essentially a “power chord”. More importantly, the guitar was mine. It was my voice, and I knew if I played it enough I could make it do whatever I wanted.
That thinking is a little naïve, but a sign of a very healthy beginner’s mind.
It is healthy to think what you are creating is good. It fuels the creative fire to believe you are making something worthwhile. It isn’t until you release your work to the world that you really understand how vast and nasty a landscape it is to be creating in. You may have spent months or years writing a novel or making an album only to release it to lack luster sales, negative critiques, or no notice what-so-ever. A thumbs down or a negative comment on a social network post could deflate your entire ego and throw you into a depression. And it is in those moments that you really have to decide why you create. Because for a young musician or artist that critique could be the thing that stops you from believing in yourself.
When I was 14, my friends and I started a little band and made a 10 original song Tape 6 months into our playing together. We were definitely laughed at by the “more skilled” musicians who were playing songs like “Seek and Destroy” by Metallica but for some reason that didn’t phase me.
It still doesn’t, even when no one listened to or liked what I was writing except me.
That has been the key, the reason I wake up every morning and play is because I like what I make up. I enjoy the act of creating so much that to not create is unthinkable.
When we create for purely external reasons (fame, money, social status) then limited success and criticism by others will definitely shut us down. However, when we feed our passion to create by our own internal need then our audience (no matter how big or small) will find us. Your songs can only be written by you and others may not like it, but that is not important. You need to keep creating.
You never know what kind of impact you could be having on someone else. Your song, story, art, video, invention could be the thing that helps another person get through the day with a smile on their face.
Write songs even if no one is listening,
Release them to the world even if no one buys them,
Continue to develop your capacity to make amazing art.
The world needs YOU.