By Isabelle Scott
Louisa May Alcott once wrote “…because talent isn’t genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing.”
Many new writers understand this sentiment perfectly. The desire to be great, or to create something incredible, is a dream for many of us. But what happens when a writer feels so concerned about creating the perfect story that they end up unable to write at all? What happens when a poet wants to design such a perfect, moving poem that it stops them from ever putting pen to the page? Or when a writer wants to craft the perfect blog post 😉 and it keeps them from sitting down and typing out anything at all?
This common struggle for many artists extends to practically everyone at some point in their lives. Sometimes our hopes for being great or doing something really well make us too afraid to even try in the first place. Maybe it is the fear that we won’t be as good as we hope, maybe it’s the fear that we’ll make fools of ourselves, but whatever it is, these fears and worries can stop us from trying new things or doing the things we love.
I am all too familiar with this struggle.
I’ve always loved art, but in junior high art class I quickly found out that I couldn’t compete with the talented students in my class. Due to these fears and comparisons, I stopped drawing and painting.
In college, I needed to fulfill one of my generals with a science credit. I’d had many conversations with my dad while camping about the Milky Way galaxy and space, and I wanted to know more. But I was scared (as other students had told me) that taking classes that sound fun or are different from what the majority pick to knock out their generals end up being some of the hardest classes. So, I avoided a possible interest and instead selected the basic intro chemistry class that most students take in college.
Recently, I wanted to learn how to ski, but the one time I had gone skiing was over ten years ago and I had flown down the mountain completely out of control, only stopping when I had crashed in a tangled mess. I considered taking a ski class, but I didn’t know what it would be like. What if I couldn’t figure it out? What if all the other skiers in my class and even my instructor gracefully ski down the hill and I am left behind struggling at the top, alone?
I am often initially fearful of the unknown and that I won’t be good enough. And then, one day, I thought to myself that I didn’t care, and I was going to do what made me happy. And I did it.
I started painting again. As I did, I remembered how much I love art. I recognized that I wasn’t an expert painter and probably would never be, but that the joy it brings me is reason enough to continue. And as I spent time sketching and using watercolor or acrylics, I found myself getting better.
My dad talked to me about how college was the time to try new things, to study things that I find interesting. He convinced me to register for an astronomy class. And I loved it! My mind was expanded again and again at the beauty and vastness of the universe.
I also decided to sign up for a skiing class. When I first started, I could barely put on my ski boots. However, after seven weeks, I was able to ski on almost every green or blue trail at Beaver Mountain. I was so much better than when I started, and I loved the class!
It all boils down to something my grandpa used to say. My grandpa, Larry Scott, was once a scrawny little boy from Idaho who became a world-famous bodybuilder who won the Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe awards. One thing he used to say in our family was, “It’s just mileage. That’s all it is.”
If you want to learn how to do something, or if you want to become an expert, it’s just mileage. It just takes practice and time. Most people who are skilled in a specific area are the same people who have spent hours and hours practicing.
So, if you want to be great at something, just do it. Do it over and over again, practice, spend time on the road racking up that mileage. Don’t let your worries about being great stop you from ever becoming good. And if you want to try something new, then just do it. Just try it out. Be nervous, be scared, be terrified, but just do it! If you want to be a painter, then paint; if you want to be a skier, then ski; if you want to be a writer, then write.
As Suzy Kassem once wrote, “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
So, face your fears. It’s just mileage!