I once dated a very talented musician from Los Angeles, and when I asked him for advice on how to be a great sax player, he had just two words for me: just play.
They say that when you’re uninspired, to go forth anyway. They say that if you want to make the transition from mediocre to good and then from good to great, and all the way to that coveted adjective of excellent, that you must put in the time. We all know this as surely as we know the sun will rise tomorrow (or hide behind a thick blanket of Dutch clouds), but for some reason we get stuck along the way when it comes to our own passions and dreams.
I always said to my knew-what-they-wanted-to-be-when-they-grew-up friends that I was jealous. They wanted to be architects and they became architects. They wanted to be marine biologists, and low and behold, they became marine biologists. I didn’t want to be any of those grown up things, and thus, although I knew in my heart I wanted to be a writer, I rarely vocalized it, as it sounded childish in comparison. This was confirmed by people who said something to the effect of, well, yeah, we all want to write the Great American Novel, but you have to do something real to pay the bills along the way.
On the back of my brother’s red Toyota truck that has seen better days is a bumper sticker that says “Yes. As a matter of fact, we do call it art.” I love that bumper sticker, and I love that it is on the back of an old pick up truck. My brother is an artist and always knew he wanted to be an artist. Sure, he could have made more money doing something else, but he’s a damned fine artist who gets invited to be in shows, paints with passion and he’s happy.
So even though my brother became an artist, which quite often falls into that “not a real career” category, his sister’s idea of becoming a writer got shelved along the way. I do want my passion to get shelved, but not on that proverbial dust covered plank of wood, but on a shelf in a bookstore next to other best sellers.
Tonight I attended Connecting Women, a networking group in Den Haag. I went because I’m still a relative newby in this land of bicycles and beautiful old buildings and have yet to develop a network of friends. Yet, when I left the meeting tonight, I wasn’t thinking about friends, but about Kristin the writer.
Strangely everything felt staged, like a set up. I arrived slightly late and took the first empty chair I saw. I sat next to a woman who just published a book on living sustainably (my other passion) and soon found out the two women sitting behind me were also authors, and one was a publisher. You’d think I was at a writer’s convention based on my seating choice.
Moreover, Jacinta Noonan, the keynote speaker that evening gave a presentation on Finding Your Passion. It was like the universe came down for a little session of woop ass–kicking my butt and telling me to get back to the keyboard.
The speaker took us through a series of questions, which we answered quite similarly to all of the other people whom she’s asked: How do you feel when you’re doing something you love? Time flies, we said. We feel happy, fulfilled, alive, energetic.
What gets in the way? Everyday life could have been the refrain from the Greek chorus, along with fear, putting others first, hearing we suck.
What can we do to follow through on what we believe in? The answers are of course very personalized to our different situations, but the bottom line is “just do it.” Just play. Just write. Just paint. Whatever it is, put in your 10,000 hours, the magic number presented in Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” and achieve mastery. And the first step to all of those hours, is to give yourself the permission to follow your dreams.
Oh God, time has flown! It’s past midnight and Why yes, as a matter of fact, I would like to write a novel.