The Secret to Rapid Improvement

How would you like to accelerate your progress in an area of weakness? My 23-year-old son, Chris and I discussed this a few days ago. He reminded me of how he stretched himself by being in several lead roles in musicals. “I hated that but it was good for me,” he told me. He is a naturally shy creative who can draw, paint, write articles, write and arrange music, write lyrics and produce music. He rapidly advanced as an actor because he did what he didn’t want to do.

Chris confirms what I just listened to on this podcast hosted by Ray Edwards. He interviewed bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins who is releasing a new book about creativity. Jeff researched leading successful artists such as Michaelangelo who was one of the wealthiest artists of his time during a period when artists were considered paid laborers. Goins revealed a key to rapidly growing in your craft – going public with your process, especially when you’re uncomfortable with this.

Goins discovered that Chris Rock, one of my favorite comedians, would test his jokes on audiences before adding the jokes to his show. Chris would show up at a club with a pad of paper and just start telling jokes to see which ones worked. The jokes that didn’t get any laughs didn’t make the cut. By going public with his creative process, Chris was building his fan base and testing his ideas.

Goins shared his own story of playing in a band and how he rapidly improved as a musician by doing several shows a week. My other son, Alex, has been literally leading worship for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week while he has been in India. I’ve been watching him via Facebook live broadcasts. I asked him why is he always on the keyboard. He responded, “Because I’m the band leader.” That’s 15 to 20 hours of leading and working with other singers and musicians.

These worship sessions have been broadcast live over a Facebook page with opportunities for people to instantly comment. This means that every song that’s off key or pitchy can’t be edited. Awkward transitions are live for everyone around the world to see but the heart and spontaneous singing have been amazingly fresh.

Alex told me that he has noticed an amazing improvement in his singing and playing piano because he has been doing this for many hours. If you want to rapidly advance in an area, then do it for hours at a time and go public with your process. I’m trying to do this right now as I go public with my attempt to do more writing.

I spend hours writing headlines, teasers, and curating hundreds of articles a week. Now I need to carve time out to do my own original writing. Look for more writing in days to come as I go public with my own creative process.

What would you like to improve in?

Don’t be Afraid of the Words “You Suck”

I met with an aspiring writer who told me that he was afraid to show his work because someone might tell him, “You suck.” I told him that this is the only way that you’re going to improve as a writer. I shared with him my own experiences at being told that “you suck” at writing.

Well my first editor didn’t say that exactly but the fact that he marked out half of what I wrote in red ink made the statement. I remember crying and asking the editor if I had a future in journalism. He smiled and said, “Leilani, you got great quotes and you have access to these people in the story. The rest of the stuff just needs to be tweaked.” I studied his edits, made the changes and then got paid for my first newspaper story. Today the editor is a lawyer and I’ve managed to make a living from writing as well as win some awards along the way.

I was told that “I suck” a lot during my early years starting out. But I took the criticism, made the corrections and learned the craft that has fed me for many years. I encouraged this young writer to show his work to his target audience because that’s the only way he is going to know if his stories will sell. “Ultimately you want someone to pay you for what you wrote,” I told them. “If your friends think your stories need work, that’s the best time to tweak your work before you submit your work to paying publications.”

And if you really suck, I told the writer, then learn now how you can improve the art of writing stories. Don’t be afraid of those words. Take them as seed for empowerment towards learning to get better so someday you’ll get paid for writing.