I came across this photo I captured eight years ago of the bridge at Snoqualmie Falls in WA. I was just starting on my photography journey, and Gerry and I were taking classes at the Green River Community College.
I don’t mind telling you I struggled in these classes—well, not so much in the classes as in the practice time during the week when we took photos based on a prompt to share at the next class. I got some reasonable images like this one, but I hadn’t yet learned that my style tended more toward nature photography—especially florals like this one.
It took the guidance and wisdom of a good teacher and lots (and lots!) of practice to get to the point where I felt reasonably good about the images I was creating.
Writing. I’ve always written, but when I joined the Story Circle Network 13 years ago, took some classes, and started writing with intention, I saw my natural ability improve. The wisdom and guidance of teachers and editors, 14 years of regular blogging, and two published books, have given me the confidence to call myself “writer”.
Now I’m dabbling with watercolour. I don’t consider myself to have much, if any, natural artistic talent. What I have is a good teacher. Jean Haines’ teaching style clicked with me. I need a lot of practice before I have any measure of confidence in my paintings, and before I’m brave enough to venture farther in creating from my own imagination, but I’m having fun practicing and taking in as much from my teacher as I can.
See the common theme?
A wise, competent teacher and hour upon hour, day after day, and year after year of practice to achieve even a small measure of competency is the way we improve our skills in a craft.
It is the same way with life skills, character growth, and, to a certain extent, even faith. We encounter a teacher, set intentions, and practice and fall and practice and fall, until eventually the things we wanted to become proficient in start to flow naturally.
Then we take a photograph where the exposure’s wrong, or write a paragraph that makes no sense, splash paint on paper and end up with a muddy mess, or respond to a person or a circumstance in a way that isn’t inline with the trajectory we want to follow. Basically we mess up.
So, we take a step back.
We recall the lessons our teachers taught us and keep practicing. Sometimes, we find the tools we need to turn that messed up thing into something amazing. Other times, we chalk it up to a lesson learned and move on. The point is, that we don’t stay in that state of messed-uppedness (Yes, that’s a word. For now, anyway. Trust me, I’m a writer. 🙂 )
So, who are your teachers? We have them whether we acknowledge them or not. What is the thing you want to learn to be more proficient at? Without practicing and falling and practicing and falling we won’t strengthen the muscles we need to do so.
Maybe it’s photography, writing or painting; or becoming more compassionate, learning to listen more than we speak, seeking to understand, granting grace, holding others and ourselves to account. Whatever it is, identify your teachers and mentors and be intentional with a plan. Practice and fall, get up and practice and fall, again and again for as long as it takes—which is likely the rest of your days.