How is it that we can love doing something, yet fall away from doing it? Why is it that when we grow up, many of us do not make the time for those things that bring us joy?
When I was a girl, I remember spending hours in the back yard, singing selections from The Sound of Music. I sang about alpine flowers. I sang about goatherds. When I could get someone to sing with me, I harmonized about alphine flowers and goatherds. Either way, I sang loudly. I sang proudly.
As I got older, I started badgering my parents for instruments and music lessons - first the piano (though an ill fated twist involving my dad and a smooth talking organ salesman, ended up with me getting an organ instead), then it was the violin, then guitar, then, finally, voice. I sang in choirs and talent shows and harbored a secret, childish dream of being a musician, diligently practicing singing into my hairbrush every night.
Then something happened. I started to grow up, and suddenly it wasn't enough to just sing. It had to be good. Somehow, like Salieri in Amadeus, I became consumed by the idea that perhaps I was just a mediocrity. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to distance myself ever further from being a participant in the music that I had once so loved, leaving it to the people who really were good at it.
Oh, sure, I did my share of shower concerts and duets with Toby the dog (in case you were wondering, he prefers to howl along to songs sung loudly with his name as the lyrics, most notably The Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Macarena, and the Habanera aka the L'Amour est un oiseau rebelle song from Carmen). I am also always up for some good belting on a road trip, but the idea of seriously participating as anything but a listener to anything musical left me somewhere back in my early college years.
Then, last year, I made the acquaintance of a choir director, who gently nagged and cajoled me for a number of months before I finally showed up for one of her projects - a performance of the Missa Luba designed to raise money for hurricane victims in the Gulf states. I ended up in the soprano section. Immediately my thought was "This is too high. I can't do this." For some reason, though, I decided to stay in that section. After weeks of rehearsal (and vocal exercises at home), I actually managed to bring my range back to where I could reach those notes. I'm not saying anyone would want to hear me do a solo on them, but I could reach them respectably enough for group singing.
In the end, the performance went off well (except for one train wreck section during the Credo, but we managed to recover in the end. It wasn't perfect, but it was exhilerating. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed it. I can't wait until we do it again next year (and at a bigger venue, I might add)! Now I want to sing wherever I go. Since this could potentially cause problems, I will probably just end up joining a choir or something. Whatever I do, I do know that I want to hold on to that good feeling.
I realized in participating in the concert that the good feeling comes from somewhere other than acheiving perfection. So often when we engage in creative pursuits as adults, we want the product to be too perfect. When they're not, we berate ourselves not being good enough writers, artists, poets, photographers, musicians etc. The fear of not being perfect drives us ever further away from perfection. The truth is that creative endeavors only have a chance of transcending the mundane, if we don't lose our sense of play. You can't worry about the note you just flubbed or the really hard passage coming up on page 10. You can only live in the now (oh, clown of life, how wise you are!). Enjoy and feel the note you're on. Sure you have to practice and learn and even refine, but ultimately, it's the ability to let go and just put whatever song, words, picture, idea one has out there and develop it that makes the whole process rewarding.
Anyone who wants to produce something, needs to hone his or her craft. But the more I think about it, it's not the technical honing that makes greatness. It's the ability to build on that honing by letting go and putting one's heart into the act of creation that creates greatness. But perhaps I'm becoming too esoteric. My point really is simply that creative endeavors should be fun.
So, my advice for everyone is this: Find something that you used to love (or always wanted to try) and just do it. Don't worry about being perfect, just throw yourself into it. Take the time to learn, take the time to enjoy. It will make you feel SO good, and ultimately you'll find with time that you do get better at it. Sometimes you might even come as close to perfect as humanly possible, but mostly you'll have fun.