Day 5 Prompt: What is something you wish you knew how to do?
I wish I knew how to do a lot of things. I wish I spoke at least five languages, Japanese and Russian included; when I was a child I wanted to learn Arabic. I can knit but I’m not an advanced knitter. I want to learn how to crochet, how to sew, how to do all sorts of crafts. I want to learn guitar. I want to play flute better.
I am a hobby person but I am more of a jack of all trades than an expert in any one. I’m always learning something, trying to master a new skill, got my nose in a book. This year I want to learn script writing and write plays and comics. It builds on my current skill foundation in writing fiction. I am always studying, but never finishing a project. I start, then stop. I go strong for a month or two and then I give up for three.
But really, the skill I wish I knew how to do that I don’t think I would master even with hours of practice is drawing. I just don’t have an artistic eye. Maybe if I had done it for countless hours every day since I was six, like I have with writing, I would have a passable talent with it. But whatever the gift for drawing is, I just don’t got it.
There will always be people who say it is never too late to learn an art, that talent can always be practiced and learned. Believe me, I’ve tried off and on, but the most I can really manage with any success is filling in the lines on coloring books. If I really put the hours in my sketching sometimes shows promise with the way I shade or shape things. But then I’d need to put the hours in. And an incredible amount of hours for something I’m no good at to begin with.
It would make things so much easier, if I were only artistic. I feel like artistic people have a much more colorful imagination; I’m often struggling for ideas. I come from the field of journalism, where documenting what you see is more important than creating it from whole cloth. When I photograph models, I’m not good at conceptual art, organizing a creative team, and coming up with a finished product that doesn’t just look like a copy of someone else’s shoot on Pinterest. I am much better at documenting what is there, about organizing the constituent parts of an existing scene into a story.
Same too with my other skills. I think that is my weakness in writing. Storytelling. I’m excellent at character development, emotional responses and descriptions, but my plots are weak. My ideas tend to be concepts for settings and characters rather than “George is flawed. Stuff happens to George. George saves the day and changes as a person.” My sense of humor is similar. I laugh easily and I’m good at one-liners but I can’t tell jokes for the life of me. Telling jokes is really about constructing a story.
Same with my other hobbies. Music takes practice to become proficient but you are reading music or part of a band. With knitting, I am following a pattern. With baking, I am following instructions. With coloring, I have to stay within the lines. I’m good at routine. I’m good at following rules. Probably a little too good. I do not like change. I don’t take enough risks.
Instead I have projects that I never finish and skills that I dabble in but never master. My craft boxes are mausoleums of yarn, fabric, scissors and three inches of project. I have sketchbooks with three pages drawn and drawing tutorial books of which I’ve read a few pages. But I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. They just sit on the shelf. Waiting for me to develop some discipline and commitment.
Knowing how to draw would make things much easier. After I learn script writing I wouldn’t have to either hire an artist or find a fresh art school graduate to collaborate with in order to pitch a comic book project to a publisher. I could write and draw the whole thing myself. It would help with so many other things too, like graphic design for marketing. I’m okay at graphic design but I often can’t execute the ideas that I dream up in my head.
But I still keep learning, keep trying, keep dabbling. Maybe it won’t be drawing, but maybe I’ll finally finish more than one knitting project a year this year. Maybe I’ll bake bread. Maybe I will finally learn French or run a 5K or learn karate. Maybe I will finally get good at something. Maybe I’ll finally write a book.
But those are just skills. Just interests. They don’t say anything about who you are as a person. People who spend the single-minded attention to get good at certain things, insane professional-level good, are often very boring people. All they think about is that one thing. All they do is that one thing. All they can talk about is that one thing. They’re really good. But what else do you do? How do you live? Are you kind to others? You are more than your paycheck, your skill level or your productivity.
Because really, being a good human is hard enough.