Well, folks, it’s almost December. Can you believe it?
Since this is my last post of the year, I thought I’d start by congratulating everyone who accomplished everything you set out to do this year, perfectly and effortlessly, exactly as you envisioned. Bravo! (You can leave now.)
This post is for the rest of us—anyone who struggled with a manuscript, or illustrations, or architectural designs, or gardening projects, or diets and self-improvement plans. Anyone who felt frustrated that the things you produced weren’t nearly as fabulous as what you’d envisioned, despite the hours and effort invested. Anyone who felt anger, or self-loathing, or said “I quit!” once or twice along the way.
If, like me, you fall into the latter group, here’s a charming little dose of encouragement.
In Ashley Spire’s The Most Magnificent Thing (Kids Can Press, 2014), we meet a creative (and unnamed) young girl and her canine assistant who set out to make something, well . . . magnificent. When they’re done,
They are shocked to discover that the thing isn’t magnificent. Or good. It isn’t even kind-of-sort-of okay. It is all WRONG.
They keep trying—tweaking, adjusting, examining, starting over. And it still doesn’t work. The girl gets frustrated. Then mad.
The angrier she gets, the faster she works. She SMASHES pieces into shapes. She JAMS parts together. She PUMMELS the little bits in.
All that angry smashing and pummeling leads to a crushed finger. And a tantrum. And this:
Boy, do I relate to this child.
Luckily, her wise companion responds with a leash. She reluctantly joins him on a walk, and—lo and behold—her anger dissipates, her head begins to clear, and she realizes maybe her project isn’t ENTIRELY worthless. So she takes what’s good and keeps working on it.
She works carefully and slowly, tinkering, hammering, twisting, fiddling, gluing, painting . . . Her assistant makes sure there are no distractions.
And, what do you know? She creates something that works. It isn’t perfect, exactly, but it IS magnificent.
(By the way, two things jump out at from those lines: She works slowly, with no distractions. Anyone else find that challenging?)
After picking up this book, I discovered it’s quite popular with teachers, as it nicely encapsulates the educational concepts of grit and the growth mindset (if you’re interested, you can find several lesson plans online from Kids Can Press, Scholastic, and The NED Show).
But it’s a valuable reminder to adults, as well, especially those of us involved in any sort of creative endeavor. So here’s to the creative slog—and to patience, perseverance, and long, head-clearing walks. May they lead to something magnificent.
Thanks for reading, and see you next year!
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P.S. The winner of This Is Not a Cat! from the David LaRochelle post giveaway is Marilyn Garcia. Congratulations, Marilyn!