A teacher at school thought I could sculpt and sent me to a weekend workshop for high school aged artists of every type. Graphic arts, musicians, dancers. We stayed the weekend at Fort Worden. My roommate was a pale thin ballerina whom I dreamed about. I sculpted a girl dancing. It was done in wax to be bronzed and was really quite nice but bronzing is expensive and the foot high figure stayed in our extra freezer in the utility porch until it finally broke into pieces among the fish and strawberry freezer jam. I was sent also to check out Cornish,a school of arts in Seattle which I assume was a gentle nudge. For reasons now mysterious I never had enough fire about any of it to go.
I had several kind piano teachers over the years and practiced through junior high at the scrolled heirloom oak upright my mother learned on. I sight read quite nicely but never learned enough to jam with other musicians.
I had a writing teacher in college who “thought I could write” which flattered me but evidently did not inspire me to make a career of that either.
I have read recently a book called “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell in which the thousands of hours and days the geniuses of music, business and athletics spend to achieve their levels of brilliance. Make no mistake. It IS talent, it IS work, it IS being at the right place at the right time. in the case of sports, even having the right birthday gives compounding advantage.
I have sometimes had regrets that I didn’t see or pursue opportunities that I might have, that I fooled around so much enjoying almost anything as opposed to getting Very good at one or two things. but reading that book only confirmed that My voice Will not be on the stage or radio. But I do ENJOY singing.
I exchanged my piano for a guitar when we began to travel and forget chords as quickly as I learn them.
I train my dog to ride the paddleboard and motorcycle while childhood friends have made entire careers with their animal training talents.
And, I write. never with a thought to sell or publish, just to share with the interested few.
They talk about doing art for arts sake, yet there is a book “addicted to mediocrity” by Frank Schaeffer and the title somehow haunts me. I should do better. I should do more. I should want more, I should suffer for my art.
Do you know anybody that does ten to twenty minute tutorials in four different subjects nearly every day and calls it good? NO, friends, the patient teachers of my youth will not be boasting about the student who made good.
But perhaps mediocrity is a particular calling, a load that only those with very little pride or ego can manage? If so, I have heard the call and have followed the footsteps I suppose of that Jack of all trades and Master of none.
Every so often, however, when I am moved by a story, a song, a painting, a graceful strong movement, I want it more than anything. Not just competence but mastery. Some kind of expressive excellence so profound that time stops as you hear it, you feel it in your gut as truth as you behold it, relieving me the author or artist of a secret revelation that has been boiling inside me and is pressing to flow free.