The Internet has been having difficulties of late. At least that has been my observation.
But not mine alone. A dear blogging mentor, who keeps several blogs going herself, mentioned today that two of her blogs had inexplicably disappeared for an entire twenty four hours leading up to this afternoon. And then? With no explanation, there they were again—as if nothing had ever happened.
Blogs airlifted by aliens?
In my own case, I could hardly point a finger of blame at my blogging vehicle of choice (currently Blogspot). It was my Internet service provider which seemed to be having the difficulties. After having experienced the unexpected for two nights in a row, I’m nearly hyperventilating in anticipation of encountering the same problem again as I approach zero hour for publishing again.
In frustration, on a whim, I jotted down the title for yesterday’s belated post: The Trials and Tribulations of the Everyday Blogger. I know that sounds melodramatic, but that was just how I felt at the time. Pretty powerless. Disconnected. Disenfranchised.
Thinking the whole thing over later in the day, I realized I had gotten one little detail wrong: when you manage to consistently deliver the goods every day, you are not being an “everyday” anything.
There is nothing “everyday” about doing this every day.
If you happen to be someone who has put a lot of effort into doing something—anything—consistently, I’d like to dedicate the following few thoughts to you. This is not really about just genealogy or research or even writing. It is about being there. Regularly. Step by step. On a journey toward excellence.
When I pushed the “Publish” button on Blogspot to send yesterday’s post out there, live, I had just completed that same maneuver for the seven hundred ninety first consecutive time.
You may think that’s a lot of times to do that, consistently, day after day, but let me tell you: that’s really not much. Consider blogger James Tanner, who just asked yesterday, “Who will be my millionth page view?” Now, that’s exceptional.
Perhaps that seems so exceptional now, because not many people have followed through on following through. You’ve probably noticed examples of that, just as I have. Here’s a few I recall, for instance, over the course of our family’s homeschooling journey.
The first time I noticed that consistency isn’t necessary a commonplace virtue was years ago, when we enrolled our daughter in ballet lessons. What little girl doesn’t see herself as a graceful dancer, wafting across stage in an elegant costume? We thought that would be motivation enough for the stickability factor. But evidently not for some: after about a month of doing our parental duty of sitting out lessons in the waiting room, we kept noticing an ever-new stream of faces. Parents we’d gotten to know from the last month’s weekly visits were gone, and replaced by other moms and dads of eager young students. Where did all these people go? The discipline required for excellence in dance is not the result of participation in the hobby du jour.
This lesson imprinted itself on my consciousness again a few years later, when we enrolled our daughter in a wonderful art school in town. Because “enrichment” like art and music classes had been stripped from the budget of many neighboring school districts, a retired art teacher had opened up her own studio to train young students interested in pursuing the discipline. Again, we as parents went through the same routine: dropping off our daughter for classes, getting to know the parents of other students—and then seeing them leave for other fancies after dabbling here for a short while.
High school was no different—although you’d think the additional maturity of age would boost students’ focus. Our daughter became involved in speech and debate during her junior high school years. Let me tell you, that became a painful journey full of losses at tournament after tournament—until the skill sets necessary for success were gained and mastered. This necessary growth takes time, and—you guessed it—that time was spent saying hello and goodbye to a large number of fellow participants.
Meanwhile, for those students who stayed on in dance, art and debate, consistency in application yielded predictable results: improvement in skills, maturity in delivery, a flowering of what people would dub as “talent.”
In our daughter’s case, though some of these scenarios ended with brighter pictures than others, all ended in great benefit to the one who exerted the regular effort. Those ballet lessons continued for years—including participation in Nutcracker performances, a coveted highlight for any ballet student—until an intractable case of plantar fasciitis caused lessons to come to an abrupt halt. The art lessons went on for years, also, ending only when that beloved art teacher had to close her studio and move to a different city. After losing those other favorite opportunities, all energy poured into debate. By the end of her high school career, our daughter was able to compete at the national level in five different speech and debate events.
I’ve spoken often of the Malcolm Gladwell concept of the ten thousand hours that separate the wannabes from the virtuosos. Any musician can tell you about how much practice it takes to make it in the professional world. I remember reading classical guitarist Christopher Parkening’s story and marveling at the cost of excellence.
Those of us whose life story is a mix of dabblings in this and that cannot comprehend the price that must be paid to achieve that level of finesse.
The ones who work on their art—their calling—every day become something so spectacular, it could hardly ever be considered “everyday” in its qualifications.
In other words, it takes a lot to become something more than the everyday writer. Or artist. Or speaker.
But it starts with the commitment to do what it takes every day.
You and I may never become the kind of virtuoso we see in someone like Christopher Parkening on guitar—or even the star players we see in the Olympics, or the artist whose canvases command astronomical bids at auction.
But we can seek to discipline ourselves to strive for that regular application of our craft without which we will never attain our best.
For me, that craft is writing and research—and right now, its focus is on family history. Some time in the future, there may be a different focus, but right now, that is what is calling me.
For you, it may be writing, as it is for me. Or it may be something entirely different, as you address the call that urges you on to your own excellence. Photography? Quilting? Teaching? Exhortation? Interpersonal relationships? Whatever it is, I hope you take that first small step of committing to the regular pursuit of that dream.
And keep walking.