Wait, what? I Can? Seriously?

Yes, ANYONE. Anyone capable of holding a crayon, humming a tune, or spelling “cat.” Any creative being on the planet

The degree to which we’re able to pull it off depends in part on talent. But it takes more than raw talent to pull it off.

Talent will only take you so far. You’ll also have to work hard, commit to some kind of routine, and stick with your project to the bitter end.

Okay — how many of you did I lose right there?

Honestly, these three factors will determine your success:

  • strength — the effort you’re willing to put in and the drive to keep going in the face of opposition and adversity, to keep creating when things don’t go your way, to stretch yourself and grow and keep climbing — to struggle on when it’s hard to keep going, and you’re ready to give up
  • purpose — your ability to find your path, to figure out what works for you instead of blindly following the well-trodden route others have laid, to understand some of what works for others may help you along but you can’t force yourself into their mold
  • character — the mental and physical stamina to support our aspirations and finding ways to promote our strength stamina. 

You can have all the talent in the world and never succeed. You can be overflowing with creativity. But without these fundamental building blocks, you’re just never going to be able to finish what you start. Well, except maybe through divine intervention, but “network reception” can be spotty, and hey — maybe the lines were busy when you called…

Part of supporting these three basics — strength, purpose and character — is finding a routine which works and allows you to create — even if it’s fifteen minutes a day before the kids wake up, or taking notes on the bus. 

Yes, the daily routine again…Stop fussing — it’s important:

Your routine will become your bedrock. Make your bed, have a coffee, journal, go for a walk — whatever — your daily routine is the one constant you’ll use to stay grounded even on days when you don’t feel like being productive. 

Along with knowing when you need to take a break — an important and often overlooked part of self-care. 

Yes, I said self-care! Now, just stop that — listen up! This is just as important as the dreaded daily routine. 

We all know taking a break may feel counterproductive, but you will eventually need to take a break. Go have a coffee. Go for a walk. Anything. Just take a break. 

Go get a KitKat or a Snickers bar — well, almost any chocolate will do, though I have heard Snickers really satisfies.

But before you decide you’re not cut out for the creative life and run away screaming in panic, remember this — nobody starts out as Wonder Woman or Superman.

We may aspire to be. We may want desperately to be strong, powerful, successful — but nobody really starts at the top. And, though some may start from a position of privilege, even they eventually have to put themselves out there. Where we start from doesn’t matter as much as where we choose to go from there.

“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — J. K Rowling

When I say anybody can sing, I speak from experience

When I was in my teens, I started teaching kids how to play the guitar. Nothing fancy — how to tune their instrument, learn the most common chords, strum in basic 4/4 and 3/4 time, and do a bit of picking — so they could sing and play their favourite songs. 

We learned everything from “On Top of Old Smokey” to “Smoke on the Water”, classic Beatles tunes and old folk songs. 

And there was one little boy who loved his guitar. His face lit up during our lessons. But I despaired of ever teaching him much— he was the first person I had ever met who was almost tone deaf. 

No matter how hard he practiced or how much ear training we did, he simply could not recognize the difference between a low D from a high G. And you need to tell the difference between the frequency (pitch) of one note and another to tune your instrument, even with an electronic tuner. 

Photo by Thiago Borrere Alvim on Unsplash

So, every lesson, I would tune his guitar. And he would play and sing his little heart out. And as long as we sang together, he stayed in tune— more or less. 

But his love of music drove him to play. 

Will he ever play like Segovia or Leona Boyd? Probably not. But he loved his music every bit as as much — maybe more. It filled his soul and shone from his eyes. 

And I hope he still plays.

Because as his teacher, I almost blew it—  

I did a terrible thing — well, it could have turned out to be terrible. I explained to his dad that the boy was beyond my ability to help. I didn’t have the skills or training to take him any further and didn’t want his parents to waste money on his lessons in hopes of any improvement.

I know, I can hear you screaming, “Waste their money? Are you nuts? How can you measure a few dollars against a child’s love of music?”

Fortunately, his dad was much smarter than my teenage self. He smiled and told me if his son was enjoying the lessons, that was all that mattered. I am so grateful now for his wisdom and his love for his little boy.

As a kid in school, I’ve had my drawings pinned to the board as wonderful Art. I’ve also had them crumpled up in the wastebasket as unworthy, or rejected because they didn’t fit the exact parameters of the project.

I get it — following instructions is a valuable skill. Ask any writer whose submissions have been rejected. The first thing you do is check you hit all the requirements.

It’s like the people we follow on Medium — the writers and artists, the coders and marketers, the other creatives with something valuable to say. Some of us aren’t quite as adept at putting words together. Especially when we first start out.

Basher Eyre via Wikimedia Commons

We may feel like a fish out of water. 

We may feel our voice is not needed in the mix any more than a fish needs a bicycle (to paraphrase Irina Dunn 1970).

We think we’re just not good enough — nobody needs to hear anything we have to say…But we’d be wrong. 

As those brave souls who start out here with little more than a dream and a desire, but who continue to write and draw and improve, we, too, can improve and grow. Find our musical voices, our images, our words.

Our work may never grace the salons of Europe or hang in the Smithsonian, except, perhaps, as the curious artifacts of some long-lost civilization. Our songs or podcasts may never draw a million views on YouTube. We may never receive a Pulitzer Prize for our incisive rants. 

But we will still have sung our hearts out, painted our own rainbows, and, one word at a time; with a single sentence followed by another, leading to a paragraph, which turns into a chapter; page after page, we will have written our novel.

Can anybody sing, draw, and write a novel? 

Hell, yes. Just watch us. We do it here every day.

Writer-songwriter-poet, educator, with thirty plus years directing and designing for the theatre, Elle recently completed her second novel and is working on a series of short stories. Visit Ellie at ElleFredine.com.
Writer-songwriter-poet, educator, with thirty plus years directing and designing for the theatre, Elle recently completed her second novel and is working on a series of short stories. Visit Ellie at ElleFredine.com.

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