Friday, August 24, 2012

On being mediocre in a world full of talented people

I'm struggling with writing every day this month. I knew the summer month would be the hardest. Summer is when I come alive, when I feel the most passion for life, and while one of my most important passions is writing, summer makes me want to cram as much into my life as I can .... probably before schools starts, historically.

As I  told you last night, school won't be starting for me this fall, but several people sent me excellent ideas for ways to make money through writing and teaching writing. I'll be talking more about some of those ideas in the future.

I have a list of topics I want to write about this month, but when I sit down to write, I almost always realize I've waited until too late to delve into them. And they're really good topics too!

But, for example, today Elvira and Coraline came over in the afternoon. We went for a walk, ate dinner, talked to Melvin a little while (until he invited himself in for some wine that he definitely didn't need); Elvira even got some time at the piano while I entertained Coraline. Mundane really, and yet our time together is so precious and passes so fast. 

When Rock Dad came to pick them up (One car. Remember those days?), I asked him to show me how to play the lead for a song Chicken Grrrl and I are working on, "No Rain" by Blind Melon. Rock Dad and I performed it once when we played a gig together, but I shook an egg that time. Now I have to step up and play it on my guitar. (Not familiar? Here it is. Ignore that obnoxious girl who introduces it.)

I've got some work to do. Rock Dad can play anything on the guitar from jazz to classical to rock. He made it sound easy, but I'm not him.

Before long Elvira was back at the piano. She played some Evenescence, and I sang along with Coraline on my hip while Rock Dad noodled along on the guitar. They're both so fucking talented.

Coraline got bored and hungry though, so I cut up a peach and we sat out on the porch swing listening through the open window while her parents jammed on some Queen. I loved listening to Elvira and Rock Dad playing through the open windows tonight. I will admit I hoped the neighbors or anybody walking by would think it was me.

 As we sat in the warm dark, rocking and listening, the taste of summer on our tongues, I was struck by how many really talented people I know.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to a film festival where a movie a friend wrote, directed, and produced is being shown. I think the side of my face is even in one scene. What a huge commitment and risk to make your own movie! And what a lot of work he's done promoting it. It's called The Wonderland Express. Here's a trailer. Go see it if you get a chance.

Tomorrow night, Chicken Grrrl, who is pretty slutty when it comes to music, is cheating on me performing with her brothers-in-law and a couple of other people at a local music venue. They're playing REM's Document album, and I expect it will be amazing. I know it will be.

It's just a sample of the weekend, but the point is that there are so many hard-working, talented people out there living their creative dreams, and I'm proud and blessed to know bunches of them. They inspire me to work harder and get better at the things I do.

One reason I feel so lucky to rub up against truly talented people is because I know my own limitations. Even though I'm a pretty decent faker, I'm truly, at best, mediocre at many things I do. I love making music, and I play several instruments ..... but I'm not good at any of them. Not really. At best, I'm adequate. I act and sing; I've dabbled in various arts and crafts; I can cook pretty well. In fact, I can do a lot of things -- too many to mention -- but in every area I know people who are truly talented and accomplished and can kick my ass.

What I do best is inspire other people to take the risk and follow their creative dreams. I've jammed with, or urged up on stage, many musicians -- singers, guitar players, other players -- who had previously only performed for themselves in their own basements. I would say the count is over 25 now in the past 5 years, and some of them are much better than I am.

A few people have auditioned for plays and ended up happily on stage fulfilling a hidden dream. I went and saw one of them in her first play last Friday, and the joy on her face as she sang on stage was priceless.

I've encouraged unpublished poets to read their poetry, and new writers to share their prose. I'm much better at getting other people to do things than I am at doing those things myself. (Beware if you come to karaoke with me.)

While I'd love to be as talented and accomplished as other people around me, there is an advantage to being mediocre. I'm not intimidating. People see me getting up there doing whatever it is I do, and they figure if I can do it, so can they. They don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be the best. They just have to bring their own best, wherever they are in their creative journey, and have the courage to share it with their little part of the world. It's more about the courage and the joy of doing the things you love than it is the perfection.

And that's why I'm OK with being mediocre, in spite of my disease of perfectionism. OK, I confess I still hope the neighbors thought that was me playing in here tonight. Just because sometimes I'd like to be better than mediocre for a few minutes. I'm pretty sure nobody thought I was playing the piano and the guitar at the same time though.

Are there times when you're happy with being mediocre? Are there times when it's an advantage? Can you believe summer is almost over?


  1. I love to craft but my artistic abilities are distinctly mediocre. I'm okay with that though, and I very deliberately use that in my work with teens. I get up there and do my lousy thing and take joy in it and encourage them to do it too. Doesn't
    matter if it sucks, it's just for the maker anyway. It's just for fun, so have fun.

    I do kinda like having areas of my life where I feel more than competent though, I will admit. And I like being recognized for my skills. Gives me the confidence to be proudly mediocre elsewhere.

    1. I have areas where I'm more than competent too. And I think you're right. It helps let go of being mediocre in other areas.

  2. In the long run, I would much rather be better at encouraging/helping/supporting others than to be a world-class whatever. I personally see you as extremely talented...but my opinion is neither here nor there. Being a person who leaves their mark on the world by encouraging and supporting others - which is absolutely something that you do - is what matters the most. Not everyone has that talent and, while you might not be able to showcase your accomplishments in this area, it is a talent that is certainly felt and appreciated by many. <3