Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life Doesn't Have a Montage Or a Magic Pill

We're going to make a bit of an assumption here that we all agree on something: life isn't the movies. No huge protests over that? Okay, good.

So life is not the movies, and we probably wouldn't want it that way. Why? Well, we'd be exhausted all the time if life was that exciting - you know, with all the infiltration of ex-CIA spy rings, escaping from zombies and chainsaw-wielding cannibals, and going to weddings four times a week where something dramatic and shocking happens every single time.

However, there is a type of movie (and television show) that you probably either love or hate (we love 'em): The Underdog genre. You know the story - some total underdog has a dream and manages to gain some sort of trait/advantage/knowledge from their tragic past/current situation and then is able to beat out the seemingly impossible odds to reach their dream. Slumdog Millionaire, One Piece, Paul Potts and Susan Boyle (and now Jonathan Antoine) are all such great entertainment because they tell the story of someone who society says should not succeed but fight for their dream and in the end, come out on top. It makes you feel all inspired and warm and fuzzy inside.

The thing about movies though, is that all the hardship, the long hours, the grueling work - it's all abridged. We usually get to see the training ala-Rocky in the classic montage scene or in the occasional flashback. It's all nicely packages to make you feel good. But when you're done watching, how long does that inspiration last?

More often than not, real life quickly takes over, and you find your canvas untouched, rehearsal seems like such a long bus-ride away, the little cursor blinks over and over again on your blank "Untitled document." We turn to distractions, chores, anything else to keep us from having to sit down and do the work.

We get it: doing the work is hard. Showing up everyday, even if you're tired, is hard. Pushing through the painful/ugly/tedious/annoying stage isn't fun. Playing a concert in a bar with two people watching you is tough. Not selling anything, again, at your gallery show while people snatch up other artists' work is difficult. This is the reason why films have montages. No one wants to watch someone slowly get better over long periods of time. We want to see some action!

But life doesn't have montages. To get better, we have to put in the practice. A lot of people also fall into what we call "The Trap of Beginner's Luck." Chances are, at some point in your life you'll probably find something that comes easy to you. Maybe it's bowling, or painting, or surfing, or singing, or making sculptures out of mashed potatoes. People will tell you that you're really good at it, and that'll make you feel good and want to pursue it more. However, if you do decide to pursue it more and more, you'll find that you're no longer around people who are novices. Suddenly you're around people who practice at their craft, and practice often. Then you realize that you are going to actually have to work at this, and then you get discouraged since you thought that this was going to be easy.

Even if you have decided that "Yes, the hard work is worth it" (and we sincerely hope that you have found something worth working hard for), the challenge to keep up that momentum is still there. Feeling like you're not doing enough? Frustrated that you haven't "made it" (whatever that means) yet? Well, you can't magically make stuff happen over night, and you have so many hours in a day, so there really is only one thing to do: Get over it.

Not to be jerks, but really, that's all you can do. You have to just keep working hard and keep on keeping on. Just keep on practicing, keep on hustling, and keep on chasing your dream, and you will (we promise) slowly get closer and closer.

For a practical solution, keep a journal, or samples of your old work. Seriously. It may sound stupid and a waste of time and space, but make a habit of revisiting your old work at least once a year, and you'll be surprised at the results. We look at stuff we did in our freshman classes (holy crap, that's five year ago!) and the difference to what we do now is amazing. Because we are living our own lives, the changes are imperceptible - we gradually learn more techniques and get more experience under our belt; we put in our 10,000 hours. However, when you compare old work with new work (especially after five years), you'll see how much you've improved.

So while we can't promise a magic pill that'll suddenly find you success, all we can tell you is to keep on fighting the good fight, and before you know it, you'll be leaps and bounds closer to your dream than you would have ever imagined.