1000 hours and the myth of mistakes

At some point in the distant past, I made a post about the economic cost of screwing up.  Making mistakes.  It’s a subject I think about a lot.  The long and short of it is that the ability to make mistakes is a socioeconomic privilege.  It’s a necessary part of growth and development, but after a certain point, making one single mistake can ruin you financially.  And it’s really difficult (at least, it is for me) to discern which mistakes will be fun, ha-ha learning experiences, and which ones will lead to bigger, cascading consequences.

It really sort of makes getting through life kind of difficult, because you start to doubt your own ability to take risks, to evaluate the possible outcomes of said risks with any kind of certainty, to trust your instincts.  And it hobbles you creatively, because you really can’t grow as an artist without screwing things up a few times.  Artists have sketchbooks full of gesture drawings and half-finished ideas, but it’s really difficult to make new work if you’re counting how many pages are left in the notebook, because you know you can’t afford a new one.  It really sucks all the enjoyment out of the pursuit of skill.

I think about this subject so often, I think, because it’s ruined my life.  I’m not being hyperbolic.  Not really, anyway.  I’ve spent years sketching and re-sketching the same ideas, listening to the same five songs, and slowly eroding my own instincts, questioning and re-questioning and re-re-questioning whether the thing that I’m doing right now is really the best possible thing I could be doing at this moment.  Because every single thing I do feels like it has to be the absolute pinnacle of what I should be doing, every single moment of the day.  If I’m not operating with absolute, infallible, 100% efficiency, I’m going to die in the gutter and every bad thing that ever happens to me is not only deserved, but asked for by my failure.  The end result of this is, predictably, existential paralysis.  Punctuated by the fervent desire to purposefully make the one singular same mistake that I’ve been making over and over since I was in college.  The one single mistake that I know with absolute certainty that I can make and not end up in financial despair.

This year has maybe been the first year where it has become completely obvious to me that the path I am currently on is not working.  By which I mean, existential paralysis, spending 7+ hours scrolling social media every single day**, giving in to executive dysfunction and staring hopelessly at the piles of things I could be doing, none of those things are working.  They’re not serving me.  Avoiding making choices in an effort to not make the wrong choice isn’t working.  At this point, making the wrong choice would actually make more economic sense for me than to make no choice, because I’m not doing anything.  That’s right, me, I, the one that looks like she’s always working, the one who does so much isn’t actually doing anything.  I accomplish all those things I do in… about 16-20 hours of work every week.  Imagine what I could do if I put down the phone for two seconds and made that 25-30 hours every week?  (And also, I’m making $20,000+ a year averaging 18 hours of work a week, so… )

So… I’m making a goal for 2020.  It’s kind of a lofty goal, actually.  In the past, I’ve made goals like “sew 100 things this year” and “finish X number of projects” and, while that’s all well and good, I discovered that I was just ripping through the work that I do for myself, the clothes I make myself, etc.  and the quality ends up sucking and I hate it.  So this year, I’m not focusing on how quickly I can pump out X number of projects.  This year, I’m aiming to clock 1000 hours of sewing (or sewing-adjacent things, like patternmaking, cutting, surface embellishment, etc… working on my craft), and, in point of fact, 1000 hours of dancing.  That’s 20 hours of each per week on average.  Some of those hours can (and are going to) come from things people pay me to do.  But some of them are going to just have to be my own personal sandbox time, time to fuck it up and do it again (only my V! friends will get this joke).

This entire post is partially inspired by my randomly googling “How many hours does it take to master something?” and this resultant blog post at zenhabits.net

Photos are a pretty distraction and a dream of summertime, courtesy of Erica McKeehen and Secret Mermaid.


**I averaged 5 hours and 29 minutes per day last week, and that was a 24% improvement over the past week.

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