Sometimes it’s not about failure or success

Try new things, even if you fail. How many times have you heard that? Then, people like to follow it up with a motivational story. One of my favorites is how the Toll House cookie lady discovered chocolate chip cookies because she wanted to add candy bars to her cookies, and they ended up melting. Someone very famous whose name I can’t remember said that Edward Hopper wouldn’t be half so great an artist if he were better at painting.

An example of someone not-failing. Edward Hopper, New York Interior

An example of someone not-failing. Edward Hopper, New York Interior

But–ladies and gents, this isn’t one of those stories. This is about failing, and continuing to fail, and enjoying the hell out of it.

In a previous life (like, two weeks ago), I only pursued hobbies that I actually had some talent in, or that don’t actually require talent. Want to go toe-to-toe in Mass Effect 3 or compare Fable II achievements? You may win, but you’ll be forced to acknowledge that I’m fairly decent, too. We could also compare eyeliner techniques. Comics are easy–you don’t actually need skills other than literacy to enjoy them.

But, I had always shied away from things that require skills I just don’t have. My fingers were  too clumsy to take up knitting long-term, art was only for the artists, and my cello eventually ended up sitting next to the closet, since it doesn’t actually fit in the closet. I detest failing, so I didn’t try. I know, I know. It’s a greeting card gone wrong.

Sadly, all of the hobbies I loved most (hello, video game controller!) also made my hands hurt after awhile. I needed new hobbies, and chances were good that I wouldn’t have natural talent in them.

One day, I walked around the discount books section at Barnes and Noble and looked at the hobby section. I’ve tried calligraphy before, so I passed those up. Belly dancing was out. Learning how to give a hot stone massage was out, because I’m not nice enough to do that for other people.

Painting was on the table. I had messed around with watercolors when I was in high school (secretly, of course), and they were fun, but took a lot to set up. I really wanted something to fill an hour or two when I got home at night and was feeling lazy.

So–my choices were basically sketching, and giving knitting another go. I had a little experience in both. I took art classes in elementary school, but my teacher was constantly frustrated by my refusal to draw anything other than birds. It’s just another example of me doing the safe thing. Once I learned to sketch a cardinal, I didn’t want to try to draw a horse in case I sucked at it.

I had also dabbled in photography. Here's the obligatory flower close-up.

I had also dabbled in photography. Here’s the obligatory flower close-up.

But, let’s face it. Knitting requires patience. Ha. I don’t have that. Sketching is relatively quick. I bought the cheapest of the cheap sets, and here we are.

After a couple weeks sketching, I can officially report that I still suck at it. I’m not even sure that I’m getting better at it with practice. I think I’m pretty much stagnant. But, on the bright side, it’s hella fun!

I’ve been taking my pencil, eraser and sharpener to work to draw during lunch. Since I have a shiny new cubicle, no one has to see my terrible drawings. It’s beyond relaxing. I fancied up and bought a set of colored pencils for when I really wanted to go nuts.

Something I’ve always admired about the Victorians was their ability to have a semi-large amount of hobbies. Let’s face it–they couldn’t have all been great artists and pianists and singers, right? They had to have just gotten over it and done their best anyway. One day I might take up embroidery just to stitch that on a pillow.

Seriously–try something you’re awful at. It’ll be more fun than you think!


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