I believe that to be good at something, anything at all, you just need to have practice. Like a lot of practice. I read a book a few years ago, Outliers: A Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell, he told the stories of the top of the top in their fields and how they could have gotten there. He talked about Mozart, the Beatles, and Picasso, these uber successful people who attained true mastery in their talents. The pattern that Gladwell points out is the practice, lots and lots and lots of it. Gladwell calculated that is was around 10,000 hours that these people started to become known as mastery level talents. I quote this all the time and I am sure most people have heard this statistic. When I was reading this book, this definitely clicked with my understanding of talent and I saw that it really did apply to me as an artist.
I obviously do think I have a innate talent for my chosen career as a graphic designer, as an artist. But I do recognize that I do not have the experience, just the pure hours of work under my belt to be extremely confident in my work or have the process be seamless. Those 10,000, which I am probably at less than a thousand, are that level of expertise that I want to become. This goal of Mastery is something that really appeals to me and I want that for myself, yet all of this to only say: I am really lazy. I do well in school projects with the structure of class and due dates and critiques, but by myself, like now during the summer, I really have little to no motivation to make art at all. So all that practice I know I should be doing is usually just a dream, except sometimes.
Sometimes, I am handed opportunities. I do believe thats why I am “successful” (relative) in any way, is because of the opportunities that God plopped in my lap. In high school, I remember in ninth grade I asked to be put in the fine arts class. They did not put me there, but some randomly selected class called digital design. I had never touched Photoshop in my life, but that’s were my journey as an artist began. Because of that opportunity I took all the computer based design classes my school had, and I ended up with 4 years of Adobe experience under my belt before I even got to college. I also was asked to make two t-shirts every year for my youth group, all throughout high school. Truly, I did not ask for it, I did not seek any of it out, but God put these chances, these experiences of practice right it my path for me. I am extremely grateful that I had those opportunities in high school and had a head start in graphic design so early.
Even in college, these random gifted opportunities still happen. Agape Latte, a faith sharing event on campus, asked me to make their posters, a couple each semester. I had a friend who leads Delight, a Christian women’s group on campus, who asked me to make a t-shirt design for them, because they knew I made t-shirt in high school. And the extremely random opportunities that happen when my family or friends ask me to make work for them. Like I made a Holy Family poster for my niece’s nursery and a friend of my sister asked me to make another one as a gift.
All of these small opportunities are God’s way of acknowledging that I am a super lazy person, and yet wanting me to succeed by giving me these bite sized ways to practice my craft. This is how I am shuffling along towards my 10,000 hours. I am not a work horse, or a super enterprising person, but this slow and steady has been working so me. I get there eventually.