When I started martial arts, watching it was like trying to read a foreign language. I had no idea what was happening. But I remember the exact moment when I started to be able to tell what people were doing – when I could recognize and parse moves, and then accurately predict what was going to happen. I remember the exact thrill of leaning against a cinderblock wall and being able to truly see for the first time the sparring match that was going on in front of me.
(And what is all of life but sparring, really? What is life but relationships, and what are relationships – or sparring – except understanding our interactions with others?)
The problem is – as Ira Glass says in that quote above – that when you’re able to appreciate what others are doing, you still aren’t able to do it yourself.
That’s more uncomfortable than knowing nothing at all. You know just enough to want to give up.
This is a scary place. Not just in creativity, or in sports, but in work, in relationships, in any place we are learning and being vulnerable. It’s a dangerous place because it’s an easy, logical out. Steven Pressfield would label it a place of Resistance.
It’s on us as writers to be vulnerable through that gap: to resist the urge to hide our ignorance and ask all the questions so that our work is informed.
It’s on us as professionals to mentor others through the gap: to resist being frustrated, and encourage them to press through.
It’s on us as humans in relationship with other humans to keep going through the gap: to resist protecting ourselves, and admit when we are scared and confused.
We have to ask stupid questions. We have to look awkward. We have to screw up. We have to try, and risk, and fail, and practice. We have to resist. Over and over and over, all the way through the gap.