If You Always Said to Yourself, “If Things Were Different I’d…”
I have always loved art. Great paintings blow my mind. And I always told myself if I had any talent, I’d paint. I draw badly, to put it mildly. So I put that dream of painting away.
The interesting thing is how I became a musician. Like drawing, I had no real feel for playing music as a kid, though I always owned guitars growing up. Actually, I was a passionate music fan, everything from Jimi Hendrix to John Coltrane. But I was a lame guitar player.
Punk came along in the seventies. I was working in a record store with a bunch of fans. When I first heard the Sex Pistols I thought it was garbage. But it grew on me. These were people my age who didn’t let a lack of talent or chops get in their way.
I met some new friends who shared this passion and also had dabbled in music. We had a drunken conversation at a party that led to starting a band. And we worked really hard at it. I took up bass because we needed a bass player.
Ten years later we had seven records, played big clubs, and had a record deal with a label owned by Capitol. We did not get famous but every musical fantasy I had came to be. Because we had passion. The need for ‘talent’ was forgotten.
Passion is more important than talent
These days a lot of people are reevaluating their lives. For good reason. If we are healthy, we have dodged numerous bullets over the past year. If you are reevaluating, and I am pretty certain you are, on some level, ask yourself this: what have I always wanted to be or do, but didn’t think I was good enough?
Good enough comes from passion and practice. Yes, I do believe there are people with real talent but it cannot come to fruition without passion and practice. We all know someone who could dash off a great sketch but never pursued that ability. Which is a terrible thing.
However, the reality of things is that great work is done by people who never considered themselves at that level. It simply was something they had to do and they, unlike many, did it.
My passion was always there but I had to wait
I no longer play music, no regrets. The stuff we were doing was a younger person’s game. And I never pursued that dream of being a painter. I really cannot draw, not that you need to these days (actually, the most famous abstract expressionist painters all had traditional arts training in their backgrounds; they could draw well!).
But there was another passion in my head. Writing. Novels, specifically. But when I was younger and tried, I realized I did not have enough life experience. But I doggedly went after becoming a professional writer doing ad copy, articles, nonfiction books, and marketing content.
Meanwhile, experience started adding up.
And finally a novel started growing. I started with a seed, a scene, and watched it unfold, never knowing exactly where it was going. This was, and still is, a fascinating experience, one that you cannot train for. I’ve written two now, not a body of work by any means, but a start. It is my passion.
A lot of us are looking for that passion right now
It’s easy to generalize about a post Covid life, so-called ‘normal’. That is wishful thinking. But, as I talk to friends and strangers, I am finding a great reevaluation going on. The need to find meaning in everyday life, a yearning we are particularly aware of after a year of deprivation. But many don’t know how to find that passion they are seeking.
As I learned from both my music and my writing, sometimes you have to start by just working at something, without concern for whether it, or you, are good. Who cares? The answer is, no one. Except you. If you care you are 99% there.
My real point here is that what we do today, right now, that makes us happy, is the real deal. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s a long walk. Or an empty canvas and those tubes of paint you bought but never opened.
Open them. Squeeze them out. Grab a big brush and just push that paint around. Don’t think. Just do it.