My Neighbour Errol: Fears and Failures
This one’s a bit more serious :D. Again. Man, I’ve got to stop reflecting so much.
There’s a bit of a joke we have amongst ourselves about Errol: he wins everything. Whether it’s board games, creative endeavors or arguments, the man simply cannot be beat. Okay, that’s not 100% true, I’m pretty certain that if Errol were to be plunked into a football game or swimming race he would flail about helplessly. Also, I beat him at 7 Wonders once. It was the greatest day of my life.
But for the most part, it is true. Especially when it comes to creative projects. Most anything Errol tries out, he seems to become almost expert in within a few months of taking it up. He’s done stop motion animation, graphic design, web design, social media and comics. He plays piano, drums, sings, writes music, and has a band. He writes stories, films his own music videos, edits those videos, animates logos, performs in sketch videos (avec moi) and more! And he’s known all over for his projects on the internet. The man is an unstoppable force!
Take knitting, for example. He has become a knitting machine. When did he start? December. He started out by knitting this in a day:
And immediately moved on to this:
He even started a blog about it! Most of us by this point would have just finished maybe our first generic scarf. He’s now knitting cosies for his shakers.
With that pile of evidence, it’s hard not to assume that Errol is simply an incredibly talented genius who will never fail at anything. And…yeah, part of that is true. He IS incredibly talented and that certainly helps when trying out new things. And he DOES get obsessive to the point of being OCD. But it’s not the only reason he picks up new hobbies so quickly. It only really occurred to me last week.
Errol lacks fear.
Specifically, I’m talking about the fear of failure, of “not being good”. Almost every creative experiences fear and doubt. Heck, what am I saying, EVERY creative experiences it. When we’re writing a new story, or rehearsing a play, or trying out a new instrument, that fear hangs over our heads. Will we fail? What if it doesn’t meet up to our expectations? What will our friends say? Will we be a disappointment?
Now, this fear isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Like I said, we all experience it, and yet we still manage to churn out some pretty fantastic art. For the most part, we learn to live with it. We find ways of dealing with it. We don’t lie catatonic in our beds waiting for death to take us because of our inability to play scales. Fear doesn’t always stop us.
But it does slow us down.
Half of my battle when taking on any creative project is simply quelling the nagging inner voice that tells me what I’m doing is incredibly foolish and that I should just leave it to the professionals. That takes energy and time. When that fear is present, things slow down. We have to spend most of our time convincing ourselves that what we’re doing is fine, that it’s okay that we aren’t Mozart or DaVinci. It doesn’t mean that we don’t finish what we start, but it does mean that our process takes a lot longer.
Errol doesn’t have these doubts. It’s not that he thinks he’s going to be amazing at whatever he tries out. It’s simply that he’s completely comfortable with his own limitations and he’s not afraid to push them. It never occurs to him not to try something, or that what he’s doing will be too far out of his comfort zone. He knows that he could fail. And he’s perfectly fine with that.
And without that nagging voice, without those doubts cutting into his time, he’s able to learn a lot faster. 100% of his energy goes towards practicing and perfecting. It doesn’t matter what the results are (although he does hope, like all of us, that they will be good), as long as he’s enjoying it, he’s quite happy to spend as long as possible practicing.
That’s another thing, actually. Our society tends to only focus on quick results. There’s this belief that if we don’t learn a new skill within a few months, then it’s not worth taking up. When we look at our insanely talented friends, we tend not to see the sheer amount of work that went on behind the scenes. Musical instruments take years to perfect. Finding your writing voice takes years. Yes, some skills will come more naturally to others, but for the most part any sort of creative endeavor takes a LOT of practice.
I was talking to a friend the other day, who was lamenting that he was not nearly as natural on camera as some of us were. I had to remind him that this was really his first time on camera. I might be more natural, but that’s because I’ve got over fifteen years of practice behind me. I first stepped onto a stage when I was thirteen years old. I was chronically shy, to the point where my parents were terribly worried about me. It’s taken years of training and practicing to get to the point where performing is instinctive. And there is still a LOT of fear that I have to push through and a lot of my colleagues witness nervous Manda. But all the audience sees is the result.
So while it is true that some people just are more talented at certain skills and will pick it up more quickly, it’s also true that a lot of what slows us down is ourselves and our doubts. It’s okay to take time on something because we want to produce a good product. It’s not okay when it’s because we’re too afraid to go on. Many envy Errol for his skills. I envy him for his lack of fear and filters…okay, sometimes I wish he’d have more filters.
Since I’ve made friends with Errol, a couple of my friends have noted that I’m now trying new things because he forces me to be braver. It does bother me a bit when they tell me this. The thing is, I’ve always been trying new things. Even when I’ve been terrified, even when every instinct tells me to go and crawl into a dark, lonely hole, I will push forward. I may doubt, I may fear, but I still do it because it’s something I want to, and that is also a sort of bravery.
The main difference between then and now is that I’m doing things a lot faster. That IS because of Errol. He simply doesn’t give me the time to doubt. He presses and pushes for results, and when I voice doubt or fear he simply says an infuriating “You’ll figure it out” and leaves me to it. Before I would steel myself for as long as three months to make a decision or attempt a new project. Heck, it took that long just to ask Errol if he’d like to write a song with me. Now I’m writing weekly.
It isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s never easy. The fear is still there after all. It’s been there my entire life. Training myself to ignore it more effectively is a grueling chore. But I’m slowly getting there. It may take years. I may drive Errol insane with my nerves. But I’ll get there. I can’t be thankful enough for Errol’s help. And I can’t help but wonder what sort of stuff we could get done if we we were a little less afraid (note: yes, I am saying we should follow Errol’s example…the world is truly topsy turvy).