Mediocrity Is Still On The Spectrum

“The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act. On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.” – Clay Shirky in his book Cognitive Surplus.

As a child I practised playing the piano and electronic organ most days. The way I remember, some days it was a voluntary act to take myself to the keyboard but on others my parents would remind and coax me to sit down and practise.

At some point, the reward of doing the work each day started to become apparent. My musicianship and technique had developed to a point where I could play quite effortlessly. I don’t remember any particular moment of realisation, but gradually playing keyboard became something that came easily to me and that I was good at.

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” – Photorealist Chuck Close.


The day I started I was as bad at the piano as anyone who’s ever played. Thirty seven years later of doing it almost every day, I’m not the best, but I’m an elite musician.

The thing is, somewhere along the way I got used to the idea that I was a good pianist. I got cozy with that idea. But it seems that at the same time as I was getting comfortable with being good, I felt more uncomfortable with the thought of things I was ‘bad’ at.

I’d enjoy trying things that were new, but my patience with them would grow thin if I couldn’t master them almost immediately. Looking back I see it with projects I took on as a kid (sorry to anyone who ever had to hear to me saw away at the viola) and new projects I attempt today (cough, cough “gym”).

Animator Chuck Jones says “All of you here have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone.”

But I can’t expect my knowledge and skills of something I’ve been working on three months to match my mastery of playing piano (I did the math so you don’t have to…15 330+ days and counting).

So as I wrap up day fifteen of my daily blog, I am still learning to be okay with sitting on the mediocre end of the blogging spectrum. I’m a firm believer that being deliberate and professional about your creativity is essential. Publishing a post per day keeps me accountable. Thanks for stopping by to see how I’m doing.

Share This