They say for any art form, there is a period of time where an artist's taste is more advanced than her ability. A time gap where skill is not equal to desired outcome. An artist can be crippled by his own taste if each failure to live up to that taste becomes too devastating.
I’ve seen many actors (including myself) read a scene and know how it should look, but lack the tools to execute it. It comes out looking like crap. I’ve done a lot of crappy scenes. Then slowly but surely, little moments land. You start to trust your skill. More miniscule moments land. One day, you actually do a scene that isn’t crap. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always room for self-loathing. But you arrive at a place where you’re in the vicinity of meeting your own discerning taste. Sometimes, just for a moment, you can even go to a place above and beyond what you imagined. That is when the magic happens. But you have to get past a lot of failure to find it.
I'm struggling with this as an editor right now. My grand visions fall flat on their face with my current limited abilities. It’s a learning curve. After my first pass at editing my last project I wanted to stab an ice pick through my eyeballs. Luckily I don’t own an ice pick. Luckily two experienced editor friends gave me a few pointers. In addition to all the luck, I’m trying to log in those ten thousand hours so each project has fewer crappy parts than the last one. By the way Malcolm Gladwell, ten thousand is A LOT of hours. Clearly anyone who actually has ten thousand hours to do anything is not the mother of a toddler...I'm not your demographic, but I'm doing it anyway.
Speaking of my toddler, the art form he’s struggling with is talking. His level of understanding amazes me. But when it comes to executing words…well, let’s just say as his parent I understand every nuanced grunt, but they wouldn’t get him far with anyone else. This morning on our walk, he pointed to every single bicycle (we live in Brooklyn, so there were many bicycles) and said "thibick," “buckly,” “bickel,” “bithick.” But instead of getting frustrated each time he was wrong, he giggled and tried again. I'd like to think he didn't inherit my self-loathing gene. But more likely, mother nature protects us from self-loathing long enough to ensure we make it through all the failures that come from learning to walk and talk.
On the way home we said at least a hundred and thirty seven versions of the word bicycle. He still didn't get it. But he had a blast trying. It has now become my goal to share that enthusiasm for trying with my students (and myself).