Beginning poorly

Listening to an interview with Joel Salatin recently, he wrapped it up with some words of advice:  Your grandma used to always say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”  But that isn’t correct.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly… at first.  Anything worth doing has to be started somewhere, and when you are just beginning, you will inevitably do things incorrectly.  But if you never begin, you will never learn.

I find this idea incredibly relevant not only for striking out into a new skill or endeavor you have not previously engaged in, but for how well it mirrors not only the long-term process of being a sculptor but also the act of beginning a specific piece.

I made my first serious attempt at making a substantial sculpture when I was 16 or 17.  I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.  I knew how to weld and use the necessary tools well enough, but I had no idea what made for a good sculpture, what made for a poor one, and how to choose the one over the other.  But through sheer ambition and ignorance, I finished it… and it wasn’t half bad.

But even now, each individual sculpture begins much the same way.  Though I have much more experience, and believe I generally know what makes for a good and poor piece, the act of beginning is just as difficult as ever.  Where you can envision a sculpture only empty space stares back at you.

So how do you begin?  You read as many books as you can, you study past examples of what is you want to do, perhaps find someone already doing the activity and learn what you can from them.   You give it much thought, you ponder, you reflect.  And eventually, you come to the conclusion that you will never know everything, that people smarter than yourself have spent their entire life learning and yet do not know everything, and so you are left with two options:  Begin or Not.

Choose begin.