*8Things: You Need to Practice to Get Good At

8things from Magpie Girl

So yesterday I was chatting with my friend Margretha. Margretha is from the Faroe Islands, but lives the ex-pat life with me here in Copenhagen. We both have husbands, kids, and not enough time for our creative pursuits. Recently I bought a real camera, a Nikkon D5000. Truly, it’s too much camera for me, and I am just beginning to figure out – say- the menu screen. I was feeling kind of overwhelmed by it when Margretha told me that she had hers for almost 2 years before she really got the hang of it. “I thought it was something you could just do,” she said, “but it takes practice.”

Ah, practice. The natural enemy of the moderately talented.

Perhaps you are someone like me, or Margretha, or my talented daughter Eden to whom many things come easily. Perhaps you are a math wiz, or a naturally gifted writer, or have a voice like an angel. You excel at these things in part because you have natural talent, and that talent gets you a long way. Plus, you love these things, so you practice – naturally and without really thinking about it. But then…then there are the other things. The stuff that doesn’t come so easily, like being organized, or playing the guitar, or quantum physics. When natural achievers hit these not-so-easy things they are often stunned. “What?! I can’t be good at this instantly, what gives?”

What gives is practice. Most things require it. It’s just, if a lot of things come easily to you, you might not have ever realized this. I’m pretty sure I was at least 30 before the concept of practice came across my desk. (She’s a little slow, that one.)

So my gifted little wunderkind, if you like it, or you want it, or you really need it in your life, you have to buckle down and put in the time.

What are *8Things You Need To Practice to Get Good At? Here’s a few that come to mind:

  1. Sex: You know what, you may be a whiz in bed now (buffs her finger nails on her shoulder) but once upon a time…let’s face it, you were a little lost. Even now, when a new lover comes along things can be a little bumpy. Thank goodness practice makes perfect, and I think we can all agree this is one of the best things to practice at! What are you waiting for? Get to it!
  2. Photography: As mentioned above taking a great photo takes time. Aperture? Light settings? Bokeh? Amazing shutterbugs like Vivienne, Silvia, and Abbi didn’t get there overnight and neither will you. But you can get better. Click away.
  3. Guitar: I may have a longing for the stage, but I’m not going to get anywhere further than my living room if I don’t practice. Even open mics require a modicum of skill and discipline. And those calluses on your fingers? Damn! They wear off fast if you don’t keep up the conversation with the strings. But little by little you’ll learn. Even two chords can make a song. Play.
  4. Bravery: Speaking of stages, risks, and new things…bravery itself takes practice. My kids are afraid a lot these days. They have to do new things often, in a strange culture and in a foreign tongue.  Paul and I keep reminding them, “If you are never afraid, you can never be brave.” So practice. Try to squish the spider. Order one thing in a foreign language. Climb up two steps of the ladder. You can do it.
  5. Cooking: My housemate once watched me make soup and whispered, “Look at that. It’s like alchemy.” Actually, it’s just cooking. But it is in fact a learned skill. One which you may or may not want to acquire. (She decided not to – after all, there is Trader Joes.) If you practice cooking you will make over-cooked eggs, burnt cookies, and pancakes as heavy as lead. But eventually, you’ll get it right. (And if you want to learn from my cooking, try Food Hero for yum.)
  6. Writing: I always thought I was a pretty good writer. But when I look back from my early blogging days until now, I can certainly see that my work has improved. Why? Well, when we took our now 19yo year old into our home, after a few days of life together he said, “Wow. You really write a lot.” Yep. All the time. On screens, in notebooks, in the margins of those brochures they hand out at art museums (especially on those.) Practice. Practice. Practice.
  7. Yoga: There’s a reason why yoginis call it yoga practice – it takes a lot of it. The more you do it the deeper the meaning becomes. Yoga has loosened up my body, managed my pain, taught me what it means to be present, and kept me centered and preserved my soul. But it couldn’t have done any of that without practice. (My favorite way to practice right now is right here.)
  8. Making Friends: I never realized until recently how much making new friends is like dating. Phew! It’s a lot of work, and not an un-small amount of risk. Meeting new people and making connections is a skill, and one most people can acquire. In my experience it takes a couple of things:  the willingness to take risks; the ability to “let it go” when an attempt doesn’t work out; and the stick-to-it-ivness to try again and again.

What are your *8Things You Need to Practice to Get Good At? Are they things you’ve already gotten good at, or things you are trying new now?  Grab a button and play along, or make your quick list in the comments below. Thanks for being here!

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robyn August 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm

it takes practice to be a good knitter, for sure. everything from simple stitches to the more complex knitting techniques!

it takes practice to pare down and live with less. i used to try and fail and try and fail, and i’m learning that the baby steps were being made, i just couldn’t always see them. it’s gotten easier, and i know that with time it will be moreso.

it takes practice to do home improvements. my husband has seen this in spades as we redo our home room by room. we’re learning as we go, tackling even greater challenges (installing windows ourselves! redoing the stairs!) and learning so much along the way. each room gets easier and easier!

rowena August 27, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Wow. I laughed outloud. “Practice. The enemy of the moderately talented.”

My 8 things I need to practice.

1. Writing. You’re write. I don’t do much practice right now, but that’s only because I’ve been practicing for almost 30 years, and I have 60 journals, 3 unpublished novels and Hundreds of poems to show for it.

2. Drawing. Really. Hard to do. People see what I do now and think it’s so effortless. No. Been working at it since I was 5. You know what’s hard? drawing self portraits. HARD. Lots of practice necessary.

3. Working. Is this crazy? I need to practice at working productively. I need to make lists and start slow and work up to where I can get things done and not be lazy all day. Like running a marathon. I need to train.

4. The guitar or any other musical instrument. They aren’t easy like singing. I have to train my fingers to do things and train my eyes to read music and train my ears to hear the right things. Bah. I usually give up.

5. Cleaning. I suck. Seriously. Anyone want to give me lessons?

6. Being nice to myself. Too easy to beat myself up. Being a recovering perfectionist takes a lot of work sometimes.

7. Being positive. Need to consciously train my brain and habits to look at the posibilities instead of the failures.

8. This may be similar to the last one, but living in the moment, being zen. How not to worry? How to enjoy the present? Practice.

Sidney August 28, 2009 at 12:22 am

Great *8Things topic! This is my first time joining in, and I really enjoyed it!

Heather August 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I love your list, but I ESPECIALLY agree with #8. After I got married and had kids, I suddenly hit a point where I wondered “what the heck?! Don’t I remember how to make friends any more?” It shook me up a little to realize it didn’t come as naturally as I remembered from the past.

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