Becoming an Expert of Not Being an Expert

In the past many months, I almost forgot I was working on a book. It was still there, popping into my thoughts every so often; but not as something I was excited about. It came up as an example of how I never finish anything and stay as a constant beginner in anything I do. But last week, I decided to actually take another look at it.

It’s interesting to me that part of why I put off working on the book or even opening the file is because I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed that I never finished it, that I don’t seem to stick with anything for very long and always change my mind. Different things will set my creativity on fire at different times and I have a hard time once it gets down to really building skills. I’d rather dabble. Is there anything wrong with this?

Benefits and Downsides of Dabbling

Today I’m in a good mood, so I see it all through that lens. I am noticing that as I work on songs today and contemplate the book, the two types of writing feed into each other. It’s enjoyable to work on one and then the other, and go back and forth as I please. I feel like maybe both forms of writing are turning out better for it.

It is now officially impossible for me to say “Here’s this craft I’ve been working on diligently for fifteen years.”  I have played guitar, made jewelry, and written for at least that long. But none of those things became a regular practice that I truly devoted attention and energy to. I would forget about some of them for years at a time, except writing in my journal. Chances are that I’ll forget about one of them soon again, as other things spark up my interest.

Acknowledging Patterns

I realize that next week, I may feel very hard on myself for not having a well-practiced art form. I’ll tell myself that the reason everything I do is so mediocre is that I don’t put enough energy into it, and then I’ll probably zone out on Facebook and numb out that feeling.  Why is it so easy to enjoy the dabbling right now? One answer could be hormones. Another could be the focus of where I perceive value to be coming from.

If I’m thinking about how I should be making a living from my jewelry or writing, it’s easy to get mad at myself for not putting more devoted effort into those things over the years. “If you had worked at writing since high school, you’d be better at it now.” 

But if I’m thinking about having fun and living a life that I find enjoyable and fulfilling, then the dabbling seems fine because it has led to just that. Nobody else gets to determine whether I enjoy doing something, they just get to determine if I get their positive feedback or not.

Who Gets to Decide You’re Doing it Wrong?

Maybe part of the key is to remember where value lies. It is always up to us to live according to our values and to feel worthy, but when we start making comparisons or judging our value through the eyes of real or imaginary others, it feels like it is up to them.

“You aren’t making money with your art, therefore, it’s not valuable” can come up for me and other artists. That can be true of to you “value” means “making money by selling art”.  But if “value” means that you are engaged with the process of creating it or with the final result, that’s a whole different thing. Maybe your money has to come from elsewhere, or maybe you have to make certain things that are valuable to the world so that they will pay you for them if that’s what matters most to you.

The bottom line is- I can safely say that I have fun dabbling, even if it doesn’t lead to me becoming an expert who blows other people’s minds with my skills.  Maybe I am my own type of expert.

I hope that I can remember this the next time my anger and frustration towards myself kicks in. As I look back at recent rough days, I realize that the self-critical feeling is always based on the eyes of others and not my own. Whether it’s about dabbling in general or about a specific story or song, when I feel like I suck it is always feeling like I suck in the eyes of others or the world. Not in my own eyes. When I feel the air on my skin and the breath in my lungs, I am never dissatisfied with that experience. When I pump out a song or story or post to try and get positive feedback without enjoying the process or actually feeling the creativity, it usually backfires because the whole action was based on other people telling me I’m worthy instead of feeling worthy and engaged in the moment.

How about you, do these things ever come up in this way for you and your writing?

Do you feel like you always look through your own eyes at your work, or through the eyes of others, or through a mixture of both?

Did you feel the wind on your face today and enjoy it for a few seconds?