Browsing the archives for the patience tag.
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Three Steps to Getting Paid for What You Love

Strategies and goals

I try to steer clear of posting a lot of personal theories here, but bear with me, because if I put together evidence from a variety of sources and make a leap of faith or two, I find myself faced with a pretty solid-looking explanation of how people succeed at making self-employment pay the bills, get new businesses to succeed, sell novels, and otherwise find ways to connect their passions with their paychecks.

It’s three fairly simple steps–though unfortunately, this is one of those cases where simple and easy don’t mean exactly the same thing. Are the steps readily understandable? Yes. Is there an excellent chance you and I can do them? Also yes. Would the process be quick and convenient? Hell no.

Step 1. Practice and get feedback
A huge body of solid research has been done on people who are exceptionally good at all kinds of things, from sports to music to business to law enforcement and beyond, and one of the conclusions that appears to be inescapable is this: people who get in tons of deliberate practice–that is, focused effort to improve with careful attention to results (see “Practice vs. Deliberate Practice” and “Do you have enough talent to become great at it?“) get very good, and people who don’t get in deliberate practice don’t. To keep this post short, I’ll let you investigate (or not) as you’re inclined to, but in case you haven’t already come across the information, I’d like to urge you to glance at the above articles and consider the books they point to if you are interested in being great at anything. Inborn talent is a misleading explanation we’ve come up with for a process that really isn’t that mysterious.

Feedback is even harder than practice, because while you can simply decide to practice something, you can’t force other people to carefully consider your work and give you their honest opinion of it. Too, most of the people who like you enough to do that are too biased to be able to provide an impartial opinion. However, feedback is essential in order to be sure you’re practicing the right things and to tell you how far you’re getting. It also makes the process of practicing much more compelling and fun (see “Flow: What It Feels Like to Be Perfectly Motivated” and “Some Steps for Getting into a State of Flow“).

It’s tempting to want to skip step 1. After all, it takes years to get really excellent at something. Fortunately, skipping is sometimes possible if your business or job doesn’t require any special skills for the entry level. If you want to excel in retail sales or to work your way up the ladder in a business that always needs new people, you may not need to practice anything before you start: you can learn on the job.

However, if you want to live by writing novels or making robots or coordinating a fleet of moped couriers, you probably have some real study ahead of you–or if you’ve been practicing for years, already behind you.

Step 2. Choose something you love
If you’re doing something for its own sake, then there will be rewards regardless of whether or not you’re financially successful any time soon. You’ll have reasons to keep with it through the hard times, you’ll think about it more often (and therefore come up with better and deeper ideas about it), and you’ll enjoy yourself even when no one is paying you. Since very often becoming successful enough to get paid at something means doing it for nothing or next-to-nothing for a quite a while first, this is a major advantage.

For one practical example of this idea (though applied to fitness rather than income), see “Finding Exercise You Love: The Taekwondo Example.”

Step 3. Be willing to work at it for a long time
This may be the hardest part: say you’ve become really terrific at something and have found a way to combine a passion with an income opportunity. Many times, at this point, the money does not flow at the beginning. Sometimes it doesn’t flow for years. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected a dozen times before Bloomsbury bought it. (See accounts of other multiply-rejected successful authors at this link.) Founders of new businesses, unless they already have control over a lot of money, often have to work for a long time with no income to get to the point of viability, to say nothing of profitability. Artists, like musicians and novelists, often have even longer to wait.

In 1983, actor Jim Carey reportedly wrote a check to himself for ten million dollars–and postdated it ten years in the future. This is the kind of commitment and long-term thinking that tends to foster a certain amount of success. Doing a very good James T. Kirk impression also doesn’t hurt.

Yes those who don’t persist hardly ever triumph. Business is difficult. Writing a good novel is difficult. Convincing people that you should be their massage therapist is difficult. Those who don’t continue to believe in themselves and what they’re doing, persisting because they love their work and knowing they have something worthwhile because they’ve gotten feedback on their practice efforts, can stay in the game long enough to actually make it work.

It’s true, of course, that some people get discovered in Hollywood the week after they roll into town; some novelists get big deals from publishers as soon as they finish their first books; and some businesses start making real money right out of the gate. Sometimes time isn’t necessary. However, those are the exceptions: the Steve Jobs and Stephen Kings of the world didn’t find instant success, and we’re not likely to either. But if we’re doing something well, something we love, then we can afford to wait.

Photo by eszter

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What Are Your Mental Schemas? A Quiz, Part 3

Handling negative emotions

Here’s part 3 of the quiz on mental schemas. See Part 1 for more information about what this quiz might be able to tell you and why mental schemas are worth understanding, along with the first set of questions. You’ll find the second set of question in Part 2.

Do you feel as though you are set apart from the rest of the world in the sense of being superior?
Do you often feel as though you should be able to have certain things despite those things being impractical, harmful, or unavailable?
Does it sometimes seem to you that the rules that should apply to other people shouldn’t apply to you?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may be struggling with an Entitlement Schema.

Do you often find yourself making impulsive decisions you later regret?
Do you notice yourself making choices that you know at the time are bad ones?
Do you have trouble suffering through boredom or frustration, even for a worthy end?

These kinds of experiences may point to a Lack of Self-Control Schema.

Do you find you prefer to be told what to do rather than having to decide yourself?
Would you have trouble feeling loved and valuable if important people in your life did not approve of your actions, even though you felt your actions were right?
Do you often feel controlled or rebellious?

Feelings like these may suggest a Subjugation Schema is at work.

Do you tend to feel that meeting your own needs is less important than meeting the needs of others who are close to you?
Do you feel guilty when you spend time, effort, or resources taking care of your own needs?
Do you find it very hard to ask for or receive help?

If so, you may want to read about the Self-Sacrifice Schema.

Do you find you aren’t happy unless other people are happy with you?
Are you constantly working to win other people’s love?
Do you find rejection extremely painful?

These kinds of attitudes are common in people who have the Need for Approval Schema.

That completes the quiz. Did you find one or more schemas that you felt were descriptive of you? Seeing these schemas clearly can be the first step in overcoming them once and for all.

Photo by meddygarnet

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Good Intentions Are Fine, But They’re Not the Same as Commitment

States of mind

Over time I’ve noticed a clear difference between the goals I consistently follow through on and the ones I don’t: commitment. I might have the same intention to repot my long-suffering ficus as I do to wash the dishes, for instance, but my dishes get washed while my ficus languishes uncomplainingly (though if potted plants could talk, I imagine I’d get quite an earful). The difference is that I’ve faced the question of living in a house full of filthy dishes and decided absolutely that I don’t want to do it, while I haven’t made the same commitment to my ficus.

Here’s what I mean by committing to something instead of just intending to do it:

  • If I’m committed to something, I’m willing to hold off on other things in order to get it done. Many of us have a lot more we’d like to do in a day than 24 hours can actually hold, so if we don’t make a special effort not to try to do everything, then the things that are most important to us can be lost in the shuffle.
  • If I’m committed to something that isn’t a habit yet, I’ll think about it practically every day and find time to work on it regularly–not just in big pushes every once in a while.
  • Being committed to a goal means that I’ve decided to look for ways to do more toward that goal rather than excuses to not do it. For instance, if I’m committed to exercising, then when I go on vacation I’ll think “What are some special opportunities I’ll have to exercise?” and not “Well, this is going to totally disrupt my exercise routine–I guess I’ll just start up again when I get back.”
  • Being committed means that I’ll want to pay attention when it’s time to make choices about my goal. If an opportunity to make a choice comes up, I’ll want to take the extra time to be mindful of what’s going on and to use all of the abilities at my disposal to make a good choice.
  • If I’m committed to building a habit, then that means I’ve decided ahead of time that I’m OK working on that habit virtually every day for a couple of months or longer. Factors like how complicated the behavior is and whether I’ll be doing it in about same environment every day can make the period of time longer or shorter until the habit develops. (See How Long Does It Take to Form a Habit?)
  • Finally, a commitment means that I’m willing to at least some of the time to prioritize my goal over things like relaxation, entertainment, and less important tasks (even if those less important tasks are right in my face and insisting on being done right away). I don’t have to give up all enjoyment, but I do have to get comfortable with the idea that pursuing my goal may not always be convenient.

These thoughts and practices aren’t all that complicated, but it’s easy to come up with an intention and not think through what it would really mean to commit to it. Pursuing a goal takes time, effort, and attention. Yes following through in this way with a well-chosen goal can make an enormous difference in our happiness, self-confidence, and success.

Photo by darkmatter

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Willpower as Caring About Lasting Happiness

States of mind

Another way to look at willpower is to think of it as focusing on lasting happiness over short-term pleasure. It’s tempting to think of pleasure and happiness as the same thing, but happiness, which comes from living in a way that satisfies our real needs, is not the same thing as gratifying a momentary urge (for more on this, see “The difference between pleasure and happiness“).

So for instance, willpower to clean up a junk room at home means caring more about how we’ll feel once that room is reclaimed–or even how we’ll feel once we’ve gotten over the initial hump and are making exciting progress–than about the potential discomfort or annoyance of getting started. Willpower to stop smoking means caring more about having good health than about quelling a momentary urge or giving in to a craving to smoke. Willpower to work harder on schoolwork or at a job means caring more about the satisfaction of getting the most out of our daily efforts than about the great number of whims and distractions we’re presented with from moment to moment that sometimes seem more appealing than working.

Looking at willpower in this way doesn’t mean postponing the benefits for months or years: lasting happiness can start surprisingly soon. For instance, with the junk room example, within ten minutes we can start to experience pride and elation at finally making progress on a long-postponed job. The nagging concern about getting that work done also lifts, providing almost immediate relief.

It’s strange that things like a doughnut, which will be gone and maybe regretted in just five minutes, or avoiding a task, which skips the trouble of getting involved in the work but often ignores the fact that the work can be interesting and satisfying once we’re in the groove, can tempt us. After all, temptations and indulgences offer an obvious but very limited kind of enjoyment not at the time that we think of them, but a short time in the future, typically, while focusing on longer-term happiness often offers a less flamboyant but still meaningful kind enjoyment in only a slightly longer period of time. Why do we sometimes fall for satisfying the imbalanced needs of ourselves a few minutes in the future instead of taking care of the versions of ourselves that will exist only a few minutes after that? Why do we so often go for pleasure in five minutes when it’s going to lead to regret in ten?

Regardless, thinking about willpower in this way gives us a simple practice we can use to improve our self-motivation: when faced with a short-term choice that we know we’d like to make a certain way, whether it’s a temptation we want to avoid or a task we want to face, focusing our attention on lasting happiness and how we’ll feel about a good choice will make us more likely to choose the option we really want, while focusing on short-term pleasure will make us more likely to follow paths we won’t be glad we took.

Photo by h.koppdelaney


Immediate Willpower?


I’ve often pictured a sudden mental transformation, fantasized that some particular idea would click into place and immediately, some behavior I’d been wanting to change for a long time would change without any further great effort required from me. Can willpower really work that way?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Habits are ingrained over a long period of time: neural connections in our brains don’t change in large ways all of a sudden except in the case of brain damage. Habits reflect repeatedly strengthened neural connections–basically, we’ve done something over and over so much that it becomes hardly any effort to keep doing it.

There are exceptions, but they’re special cases. For instance, if I go to the doctor and find out that I will drop dead the next time I have a bite of ice cream (fortunately, not a very likely diagnosis), then I can pretty much guarantee you I will never have a bite of ice cream again. But these kinds of changes in behavior are fueled by drastic, unavoidable consequences based on clear-cut behaviors. Most goals don’t fit that description.

But even though we usually can’t experience immediate habit change, we can experience immediate behavior change. If we adopt tactics that help us be mindful of what we’re doing and that keep us in close touch with the consequences, we can see progress right away. While this isn’t the kind of dramatic change many of us would like, it does yield immediate benefits and lead to the end we have in mind, even as it gets easier and easier over time to repeat the good acts we’re learning.

Photo by Thomas Hawk


Mindfulness and Deer Flies

States of mind

One early morning recently I went running with a friend. The sun shone out of a blue sky onto woods and meadows showing twenty shades of green, the air was mild, and the breeze was soft. We jogged up a hilly dirt road between open fields, counting our blessings and waiting for our bodies to wake up and provide the power that we’d need as the slope began to rise more steeply a little further into the run. Then the deer flies came, in little, hovering groups of six or eight or ten.

Stand or panic?
Now, I’m usually a pretty calm guy. While I have my better and worse days, usually my reaction to trouble, perhaps after an initial few seconds of cussing, is “OK, what do I need to do?” Sometimes I even skip the cussing. But where groups of biting insects are concerned, I tend to lose my cool. I don’t want to get bitten, so I hop around and slap at any least sensation on my skin (real or imagined) and turn in circles to try to catch the little beasts in the act. It’s difficult to get running done under these circumstances, and with the flies circling and dodging, it’s also difficult to swat them.

My friend has a different approach. When she realized that the flies weren’t going to leave her alone, she stopped and waited. If one came very close she would sometimes clap her hands together (sometimes getting it, often not), but most of the time she stood there and held up her arms. The deer flies buzzed around her, but after a moment or two one would alight on her arm, getting ready to bite, and then she would swat it–and hold up her arms for the next one. Using this approach, and helping each other by watching for the flies that landed on backs or ears, we could wipe out a whole group of deer flies in just a couple of minutes–even though the first few times we did this, I did more hopping around than effective swatting.

We probably had to stop four or five times during our run to take care of deer flies, but as my paranoia about being bitten gradually relaxed, I found I was able to enjoy the run despite the insects.

Swatting worries
Using mindfulness to settle annoyances and figure things out is a lot like swatting deer flies. If, like me with the deer flies, you’re so worried about being being bitten that you spend all of your time flailing at circling troubles, you’re not likely to actually get rid of many of them, even with an occasional lucky clap. But if when you first notice that problems are circling, you wait for them to settle and watch them–that is, if instead of getting carried away with the worry you allow yourself to relax and see what it really is–then as the problems settle, you can take care of each individual one, then let the next settle.

It’s easier with a friend to watch your back and ears, but even alone, you can catch more flies by watching than you can by flapping your arms and turning in circles. And when you’re done, you can turn back to the road and focus once again on ascending that hill.

Photo by net_efekt

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How About a Little Later? Would a Little Later Work?

Strategies and goals

Breaking habits isn’t easy: it takes a lot of disruption to make a behavior we’re used to stop coming out automatically. Changing a behavior means coming up with many ways over time to stop ourselves from doing what comes naturally, by habit. For this purpose, the more tactics we have available to disrupt those undesired habits, the better–and one of those tactics, strangely enough, is a bit like procrastination. You could also call it “delayed gratification,” but regardless, the technique is to push things off a little further in time. For instance, if a person is hard at work at a home business and is tempted to stop working for a while to check Facebook, something they’re trying not to do doing working hours, one option is to say “How about I check Facebook a little later?” Chances are the idea of checking Facebook came up during a particularly boring or unappealing moment in work, and if things get more interesting as the work progresses, then not checking Facebook might be easier when the promised time comes than it was when it was first put off.

And if it isn’t easier to avoid when the delayed time comes, it can often be put off again. Enough delaying, and it might not happen at all, or else be saved to an appropriate moment–just as with someone who’s trying to stick to a healthier eating pattern putting off a snack until it’s meal time, when the snack is no longer necessary.

This is not a very sophisticated or especially powerful technique, but like the Just Don’t It technique, it can be pulled out at odd moments to interfere with a bad habit a person is trying to break. Even if ultimately the delays don’t prevent the undesired behavior, at least there has been some interruption of the normal state of things, which is an accomplishment and a bit of progress. And at their best, delaying tactics can be one of a set of tools that together can be employed to completely extinguish an undesired habit over time.

Photo by Stuart`Dootson

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Where Are All the Other Beginners?

States of mind

When I first started exercising seriously and consistently, in 2005, I chose to run: it was free, convenient, and uncomplicated. I had recently moved to Jacksonville, Florida, a place where you can run practically every day of the year if you avoid the afternoon deluges in summer, and I lived in a quiet neighborhood near the river. Mercifully, this being Florida, my potential routes were dead flat. So everything was lined up in my favor, but one thing did make me nervous: the lack of fat people. There I was with my 75 extra pounds (down to 14 extra now, thank you very much), and there were all the runners, who collectively looked like they ate nothing but skinless chicken breast and celery-flavored air. Why were there no out-of-shape people out there running with me? Did that mean that it wasn’t possible to do it if you were out of shape, that I was doomed to be a failure as a runner?

Before these thoughts got too far, however, math came to the rescue, a particularly handy bit of math that explains why, whenever we start something, it’s often really hard to find anyone who looks as incompetent or ill-suited as we are.

Being a Beginner Who Sucks Is Normal
Part of that effect is just the fact that, when we begin at things, we’re generally bad or not well-suited for them, since as we progress, we become better and more well-suited. Being a beginner means not looking as cool as the other kids, whether we’re talking about playing violin, studying Taekwondo, running, programming computers, or raising children.

The rest is that math we talk about. Let’s compare beginners to veterans with some made-up numbers that nonetheless show real and useful information.

First, how many people begin something and then soon give up? It varies a lot by area, but it’s a lot. Many of our fellow beginners are vanishing after just a few half-hearted attempts.

Veterans Do More of It
How much time do beginners spend at tasks compared to veterans? It’s unlikely that a beginning violin player will be able to spend six hours a day practicing like some advanced students and professionals. A beginning runner can’t run nearly as long a time, as quickly, or as far as a veteran runner. Beginners at the dojang (Taekwondo gym) where I study have access to up to 3 classes a week, while more advanced students have their pick of 8 of them (on average, I do about 4-5 classes per week).

Beginners Vanish
And what portion of a person’s total career at something are they a rank beginner? A person might run seriously for 10 years and only be a beginner for the first 6 months, and the numbers for many other activities are similar.

The Only Beginner In the Room
So beginners who stick with the activity they’re starting might on average do 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount of that activity each week that a veteran will do (let’s say 3/8 as an estimate), and they will spend perhaps 1/20 of their career as a beginner. All of which means that for every hour of a thing a beginner does, we might reasonably guess there are 53-1/3 veterans out there doing that same thing. If you walk into a gym as a beginner and there are 20 other people in that gym, by these odds it’s unlikely that any one of those 20 people will be as out-of-shape and inexperienced as you.

Although, of course …
With all that said, those numbers are just estimates, and there are complicating factors: for instance, a whole lot more people start going to a gym than keep going to the gym, so in fact the gym numbers may not be quite so daunting as 53-1/3 to 1.

Get ready to suck!
But the upshot of all this is that beginners stick out, look bad, and are often alone doing it–but this is all just a nerd gate (a term coined by cavers, who use it to describe an obstacle that only discourages people who aren’t committed–it’s one of the terms in my book Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures). While there are sometimes ways around standing out as a beginner (for instance, taking a beginners-only class), the fact of the matter is that beginners often look silly and may tend to feel they won’t belong.

This is just a phase to push through. However awkward or difficult something is at the beginning, the only way to get really good at anything is to keep working at it (and there’s good science to support that statement!). Some runners started out skinny, and some violinists started out as four-year olds, when playing a barely-recognizable, ear-torturing rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is considered proof of utter genius, but the rest of us poor slobs will just need to suck for a while whenever we start something. And then, magically, we’ll get better and not suck, and people will look at us and say “Man, they must have always been that great at it!”

Photo by Martineric


Everything Sucks. Reboot? Y/N

Handling negative emotions

Every once in a while, I have a day where enough seems to have gone wrong that I’m lodged deep in a lousy mood. Sometimes I’m not clever enough to be aware of this right away, so it persists until mindfulness finally kicks in with something to the effect of “You’re in a bad mood, and there is no reason for it unless it’s somehow helping you. Is it helping?”

It generally isn not helping. So I try to find my way out of that lousy mood using one of the techniques in this post.

The human brain is not very much like a computer. It changes its own structure constantly, stores information in locations scattered throughout the brain, and even runs two different systems (one neural and mostly cognitive, the other chemical and mostly emotional) at the same time. There’s more on this in my article about science fiction and the human brain at Clarkesworld.

But even though the brain doesn’t work the way computers do in many respects, it is capable of reboots: shutting down everything that’s currently running–including bad moods–and starting from scratch. However, reboots are not always easy. There are at least two things that get in the way.

The first is called “mood congruity”: this is the tendency of human beings to have trouble really imagining any emotional situation other than the one they’re already in. If you’re in a bad mood and you picture enjoying a nice walk outside, chances are it will be difficult for you to believe in your gut that the walk will be enjoyable–even if you have every reason to think it will be, and even if it generally has been under similar circumstances in the past. Whatever mood we’re in, we tend to imagine the future fitting the same mood. This is one reason the advice “Cheer up! Things will get better” often sounds so hollow. Mood congruity can be overcome, but it’s helpful to realize that the way our brians work, they’re a little limited at imagining an emotion while experiencing a contrary emotion.

Another barrier is that generally speaking, any mental control we have over our emotions happens by thinking (cognition), but cognition can change much more quickly than emotion, because so much of emotion has to do with chemicals like dopamine, cortisol, oxytocin, adrenaline, and others. The chemical states that influence our brains aren’t capable of changing nearly as quickly as our thoughts. We can go from thinking about a horrible tragedy to thinking about a really funny joke and back all within seconds, but our emotional state would not be able to keep up. This means that any mental effort to change mood needs to be kept up for a minute or two at least to allow emotions to catch up with cognition. It also means that idea repair doesn’t have its full effect right away, a subject I’ll be tackling in another article soon.

Knowing the obstacles, what are the techniques we can use to reboot our brains? Well, computers can go through a “warm boot” (rebooting through software only) or a “cold boot” (physically restarting the computer), and the same is true of our brains. A mental cold boot can be accomplished with techniques that completely clear out what’s going on in our minds. Two excellent approaches for this are meditation (which narrows focus to a very specific subject while letting everything else kind of float away) and exercise (which creates a physiological state that tends to help us cut back to a minimum of thinking).

Techniques for warm boots change attention, immediate experience, and/or thinking. Idea repair is one very useful means to do a warm boot. Other methods include emotional antidotes; visualization; and getting into a flow state (or at least distracted by something interesting for a bit).

Regardless of which method you use, rebooting takes attention, effort, and a little time. However, it often doesn’t take any more than that, and while not every bad mood can be banished in minutes, many of them can.

Photo by rofreg

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Why I’m Proud to Have Been an Unoriginal, Talentless Hack

Handling negative emotions

Here’s a pretty easy way to see me rail against injustice: introduce me to someone who was turned off to music in childhood by some music teacher, “expert,” or know-it-all family member who said that person didn’t have the talent for it. These kinds of judgments drive me a little crazy, because even though music is just a spare time activity for me, I get enormous pleasure out of it, and I think a lot of people who don’t consider themselves musical would probably love to do the same if they had the “talent.” The thing is, they always had all the talent they needed.

If you’ve read my article “Do you have enough talent to become great at it?,” one of my first posts on this site, you already know that there’s an avalanche of scientific evidence that talent as it’s usually thought of simply doesn’t exist. (If you find yourself scoffing at this claim, go read the article and judge for yourself! Better yet, read Geoffrey Colvin’s excellent book Talent is Overrated or Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.) When we see someone for whom playing the violin is as natural as drinking water or who can reconstruct entire chess games move by move, we may naturally imagine that their skill is a gift–but this isn’t the case. What we’re seeing is the result of tons and tons of good practice.

So if people are only good at things after a lot of quality practice, then that means that everyone who is really good at something went through a long period when they really weren’t that good at all. Oh sure, they might have been told they were good because they were screeching out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on a 1/4 size violin at the age of 4, but the fact of the matter is that “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” was being beaten to death, and that just because it was still struggling weakly and hadn’t yet succumbed, that doesn’t mean it was beautifully played.

I mean to say that every current genius or virtuouso was once a talentless hack. If they were clever enough to get through the talentless hack phase while they were still so young that nobody criticized them, they were lucky, but it doesn’t mean they were any less of a talentless hack at the time.

Similarly, the early work of great writers and composers is rarely original or good. Even Mozart’s first works were all just rearranging other composer’s themes. (Pretty clever, actually, since that means that he’d be learning quickly and his music would sound good even though he hadn’t yet learned how to reliably assemble a decent theme of his own.) Certainly my early writing efforts were derivative, painful drivel–although I thought at the time that they were genius, and I undertook them early enough that they at least came across as a little precocious.

If you are an artist of some stripe, you’re probably hoping even at the early stages of your development that you have some originality, and in fact you might: we all have different backgrounds and sensibilities, and possibly yours is different enough from others who have come before you that you start out with something unusual to say or an unusual way to say it. But even if you later find some of your early works weren’t as singular as they seemed, keep in mind that the road to originality and genius is paved, as it were, with hackwork.

Photo by nathanrussell. The kid in the photo might be really good by now for all I know, but you get the idea.

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