Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

the author's

the author’s

Recently I read a piece on integration of skills. (And yep, I read that kind of stuff…) It was taking the Malcolm Gladwell approach — that you need a heckuvva long time doing something before you master it. Gladwell’s assertion is that it’s a minimum of 10,000 hours. Again, a lotta practice…

One of my favourite musicians — Macklemore — did a song from this premise, ‘Ten Thousand Hours.’ It’s easier than reading the book, certainly, and has its own raw appeal. Because we all know this. Our grandmothers & mothers & fathers & teachers drummed it in to us: practice makes perfect. And apparently it really does.

But the kicker is what I read (and no, I can’t remember what or where!) — that to be a true master of a skill, you have to be able to let go. You have to be able to fall back on your internalized knowledge like a safety net, perhaps even falling. Because every project/ challenge/ problem isn’t the same, obviously. Each day of our lives calls for something new, cobbled together from the thousands of hours we’ve already lived.

Each of my poems, I discovered in grad school, held some germinal feeling or word that echoed another poem. Maybe even several poems. There were so many threads of connection that I picked the six most common words and made a sestina out of them: hunger, bones, word, breath, knowledge, blood. It isn’t the happiest of sestinas, but it accurately reflects a certain period of my life.

the author's

the author’s

So here’s my thoughts on practice, creativity, and beginner’s heart: I have a LOT of work to do! Practicing until I know beginner’s heart like I do poetry — not inside & out, certainly (I’m not THAT arrogant!), but well. Well enough to engage on most levels of discussion w/ knowledge & informed understanding. Poetry is something I’ve read/ studied/ taught & loved since I was much much younger — I’m, well, attached to it. And yet? I can let go of all that when I need to — a kind of code-switching from mastery to play.

Sigh. That’s a loooong way off from where I am w/ learning my beginner’s heart, I suspect… And then? When I get to that point? I have to be willing to let go of all I’ve learned and ‘create.’ Which is another word for letting go of that attachment, that mastery. Floating like some kind of feather pen in the wind, writing on leaves.

A lovely image, but not one to inspire confidence. Right now, I’m figuring I just need to get up outa the chair and go meditate. Kind of like doing journal exercises for writing. Nothing, in other words, to attach to. Just one more ding in the 10,000 hour surface.

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