A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
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“Be brave enough to suck at something new.”
The quote is attributed to business book author Jon Acuff, the great Greek god Pinterest, or that Etsy shop that printed it on a baby onesie.
As near as I can tell, anyway… after inching my way along a very deep research rabbit hole, one useless click at a time.
It belongs to everyone and no one. Like the Internet itself.
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A few weeks ago I signed up for an online drawing class. The instructor is an artist based in Berlin.
I met her on her Instagram account, Farbe und Fabeln, and I fell in love with her images. One in particular:
(The slightly perturbed expression on the bird’s face. The toes clutching for dear life. Life’s an uphill battle, little friend! Keep your footing! Relatable.)
The artist and I became friends, of sorts. And when she invited me to take her online class, I felt both fear and intrigue.
Sure, I like to doodle with Sharpies (meetings, notes to friends). But an art class? Like… an artist? Me?
But… on the other hand: Why not me? *Could* I…?
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I thought about it over the weekend.
“Whatever scares you, go do it,” Pinterest told me. The onesie from Etsy nodded in agreement. (Jon Acuff was silent on this one.)
“You don’t have to be good at drawing,” Farbe said over Instagram messenger. “You just have to have a love for drawing and be curious about what you can create with your hands.”
“Curious about what you can create.”
Let go of the result, Farbe willed it from Berlin. Don’t worry about what you create—just explore for the fun of it.
I could suck! I probably would suck! Could I be brave enough to suck at something?
The root of curious is cura, meaning care. The decision isn’t, Would I be any good? But, rather, Do I care enough to try?
On Monday I went to the art store and spent an hour choosing colored pencils.
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The industry of the modern work world can feel intense. Each new quarter shows up like a Gatorade-fueled Extreme eSports Avatar, suited up and ready to Get Stuff Done and Check All The Lists.
All in! Let’s do this! Annnnddd… BREAK.
Inboxes fill up; calendars bulge.
The rush of Autumn Adrenaline can be exhilarating, this re-entry when everyone’s back.
But after the slower, liquid days of summer… September can also feel like an abrupt about-face.
September loves outcomes, performance, getting stuff done. Which is satisfying. And good.
But, at the same time, it can be empowering to do something completely unrelated to anything. Totally out of left field. Just for fun. Just out of curiosity. (Could I…?)
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And a bonus: It turns out… it wasn’t out of left field.
Working in pencil on the fur of a skunk during one class, Farbe said: “Each hair on his back has a personality, doesn’t it? Each one is different. What does each hair want to say? Where does it want to go?”
You might first look at the fur of a skunk and see “pelt” not “hairs.”
But then the monolith of black and white skunk fur became something else. A collection of individual hairs, all arranging themselves in formation, each one in relation to the other.
Like fruit in a still life.
Like a marching band on a fall football field.
Like… words on a page?
You might read something and not notice each word or each sentence. You might read it and see story or action. Not “words.”
But as a writer, you’re aware of the way each word carries a tiny bit of momentum. The way each earns its spot in the larger paragraph.
You and I… we write the hairs.
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That last part was a bit of a tangent LOL.
But anyway… We’re all back! You’re back! Me, too.
But in the midst of Autumn Adrenaline: Leave some room to suck at something new. It’s curious how satisfying that can be.