S is for Skill

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Creativity is vital to the artist. But creativity is the starting point. In order to achieve your artistic goals, you are going to need skill.

To be skillful is to do something well. No one is born with skills; they are acquired through practice. So, the good news is that you can become more skillful at anything. The bad news is it’s going to take work. There are no shortcuts. But there are strategies:

  1. Focus on one skill at a time. Add another only after you’ve made progress on the first and know that you can maintain your pace.
  2. Lofty goals are good, but realize they will take time, as in years, even decades. Set realistic intermediate goals, and raise the bar as you go. You may want to be the best xylophone player in the world, but maybe start out by learning how to play smooth scales.
  3. If you can, take a class or private lessons. Go to workshops and conferences. If that’s not possible, you might be able to find some good lessons on YouTube for whatever skill you’re trying to learn.
  4. Find other people who can already do what you want to do, and cultivate them as friends. (Caveat: famous people probably will not want to be your friend, so do not stalk them.) Hang out where people who do what you want to do hang out. If you want to be an author, google writers groups in your zip code. If you want to be a comedian, look for open mike nights. Go and watch a few times, and see if you can talk to some of the participants. Ask them for advice, like how they come up with their material or handle stage fright.
  5. Practice is paramount. Every day is optimal. Even if you think you don’t have time except on weekends, try to get in some practice every day, even if it’s only a few minutes. Maybe there is one tricky passage in your dance routine. Do some stretches and try just that pattern ten times after dinner. Do that Monday through Friday, and when Saturday comes and you can really devote some time to it, it will be that much easier.
  6. Practice smart. If you want to draw people but the hands always look wonky, then just draw hands for a week or two. I once embroidered an angel, and her hair was supposed to be made of French knots. At the time, French knots were my least favorite stitch, and I always messed them up. But by the time I finished the angel’s hair, I’d made several hundred of them, and I could do them blindfolded.
Embroidered Christmas angel

It’s never too late to try something new and develop new skills. Don’t sell yourself short—practice.

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