It's OK To Drop the Ball but Pick it Back Up
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! Hope you’re all happy and feeling loved up- either with someone else, or with yourself!
You may have noticed there wasn’t a blog post yesterday. I was working late on my major project for university and by the time I remembered the blog post I was meant to have written, it was 11:30pm and I was well past writing my best. “No!” I thought. “I’ve dropped it! The consistency is gone! That’s it! I’m a failure!”
Usually at this point I’d throw in the towel, tell myself I’ve ruined everything, and forget the whole thing. I’m terrible at giving up at the first point of perceived failure. If I miss a day in anything, I tell myself it’s pointless to carry on because nobody will ever forget that One Day I Missed A Post.
Except nobody is reading this blog, as far as I know! And that really takes the pressure of performative perfection off. This blog isn’t a punishment to myself, it’s a project. It’s not something I need to beat myself up for if, for whatever reason, I miss a day. Or two. Or three! Who cares? Performance and consistency are about the long-term, not the short-term, and nobody is going to remember the few days I happened to miss writing if I keep the motivation for this project going for a whole year. Focusing on the big picture- how much work I can do in one year, instead how much work I didn’t do today- is important to having a healthier relationship with my work ethic, creative output, self-confidence, and general wellbeing. Progress is a mountain, and stumbling once doesn’t mean you’re never going to make it to the top. Falling over a few times doesn’t mean you lie on the floor and swear you’ll never try walking again, so why are we so harsh with our creative output?
I used to ride horses, when I was a teenager. When I first started, I was terrified of falling off. What if I hurt myself? What if that proved I was a bad rider? For some reason, I felt that falling off meant somehow being barred from ever getting back on again. Someone would turn round to me and say, “Sorry, but you’ve broken everything and we’re going to have to keep you away from horses forever.”
When it finally happened, as it was bound to do at some point, it was much less dramatic than I thought. One moment I was on the horse and then I was…not. As I was lying on the floor, slightly winded, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why I was no longer sat on my pony, my riding instructor, an amazing woman of 79, strode over to me, gave me a withering but amused look, and said, “What did you do that for?!” like I’d somehow made the decision for us to part ways. Before I could protest or even think about it, she had me back on my horse and doing circuits around the school, because I needed to prove that I could do it to myself before I had the chance to lose my nerve and my confidence. Once I’d done it again, I was fine. This happened for every fall I ever had; before I could lose my nerve, I’d be back on the horse and doing whatever it was I was doing before I fell off (including one particularly daunting incident where I came off at the same jump twice). The important thing was not letting a perceived failure daunt me by overthinking it, because all riders fall at some point, and falling off a few times didn’t make me a worse rider.
I’m trying to apply the same mentality more to my art, and to my life. A small fall isn’t the end of the world, and though it can be disheartening, the important thing is to get right back up and do whatever it is again, just to prove that you can, before you have the time to tell yourself you can’t. Everyone makes mistakes or doesn’t have the time or forgets things- we’re all human. As long as you try again, and you keep trying and doing and keeping your confidence and trust in yourself up, no harm is ever done. If you drop the ball, whatever it is you’re doing, don’t beat yourself up over it- but make sure you pick it back up as fast as you can.