One of the greatest lies we tell ourselves is that to enjoy something, we need to be good at it. You should strive to be good at your job and your friendships and perhaps a few other things, but as far as hobbies go, you do not need to succeed to have fun. You can find joy without finding expertise. You can run slowly and still love running. You can paint terribly and still love painting. You can write badly and still love writing. And in my case (this is how this whole idea came about), you can make terrible pots and mugs and vases and still love being a ceramic artist.
We get way too caught up in being good at things and I’m here today to remind you to take a step back and give yourself the permission to be terrible at things you find fun to do. I don’t mean that you should try to fail at them or encourage yourself to be bad at them, of course, but rather that you should completely take the pressure off. Sink into the thing that you love just because you love it. Stop focusing on the end result or where this might take you and instead cultivate the joy that you find in the process of the doing or the creating.
The magical thing about taking the pressure off is that the happier you are when you do something, the more often you seek to do that thing and feel that joy and, in the end, the better you get at it.
I started thinking about this when I started my new pottery class. I looked around at all of the beautiful things that members and other more experienced potters were making and I grew cranky with my own beginner attempts at something beautiful. They were not beautiful things, what I was making. They were lopsided and thick and rarely something I even wanted to follow through with. I grew frustrated and wanted to stop.
But that’s when I realized I was being utterly stupid. I stopped, laughed at my relentless drive towards “perfection” (or whatever it was that was haunting me and telling me I needed to be great at this immediately), and just gave into loving how the clay felt on my hands, enjoying the time away from my computer, imagining what I might make on my next attempt, etc. etc. And, magically, I loved it again. And as I began to love it again, I came in more often during open hours to practice. I loved what I was doing because it no longer seemed like practice or homework; It was simply PLAY. With this new outlook, I immediately got better at my art. Immediately. And that is the most magical thing.
I’m hooked on this idea and have tried to practice it in everything I do that’s not for work (roughly). When I feel like running, I just give myself the permission to go as far and as hard as is fun. When I’m reading, I don’t make myself pick up anything (we aren’t in school anymore, Dorothy), and I’ve been flipping through more pages than usual. I’m taking the time to pursue hobbies without imagining they are something to put on my résumé and I’m having FUN doing it. And, frankly, who cares how good you are at something when you’re just there to have a good time?!