I suck at giving directions. At least, that’s what I’m told.
During a recent trip, I was sitting in the passenger’s seat trying to navigate the driver through a shortcut, and I kept getting engrossed in the conversation. I’d be in the middle of telling a story and suddenly blurt: “Wait, we need to turn here!” Which forced the driver to apply the brakes rather quickly – think whiplash — and make a sharp turn.
After this happened a couple of times, the driver turned toward me and said: “You know, you’re good at a lot of things, but you really suck at giving directions.”
I can’t argue that point. Giving directions is on the list of things I don’t do very well. And it’s a rather lengthy list. I suck at swimming. I suck at dancing. I suck at small talk. As much as I like to pretend otherwise, I often suck at things. I suspect we all do. That’s just how it is to be human.
And maybe that doesn’t suck as much as we think.
I was reminded of the whole sucking concept during spring training when the manager of the Chicago Cubs designed a shirt to raise money for his foundation. The manager wears thick-rimmed glasses. The logo has his frames with the inscription: Try Not To Suck. (That’s it at the top.)
The Cubs know a lot about sucking, seeing as how they haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Back then, the word “suck” had a totally different connotation. In our time, it’s come to define doing something badly, being horrible at something. And who wants that?
But there is a flip side. No matter what we do, we’re going to suck at it for a while. That’s how we learn and get better. There’s no getting around it.
We all suck at times.
Life is about learning from our experiences, especially the ones in which we really sucked. We have to learn as we go, and that involves making a lot of mistakes.
And those sucky moments become starting points for amazing things.
An artist friend recently mentioned on his Facebook page how it’s easy to become filled with self-doubt and worry that your next drawing will suck. He encouraged other artists to push through that moment, to go ahead and draw something that’s not very good and then step back and see where it points you. You’ll find a few features in the drawing that are really good, the starting point for something beautiful in the next version.
Writing is the same way. Every first draft sucks — every single one! But it’s a starting point, a place to set your feet and wrestle with the ideas and the words until you can form them into something that makes a little more sense and somewhat conveys what you’re trying to say. And if you don’t have the courage to write a sucky first draft – and a sucky second one and third one — you never get anywhere.
It takes great courage to suck.
And here’s an interesting thought: Maybe it’s part of some divine process.
One of the creation stories portrays God as beginning with a big bang of light and darkness swirling and intermingling and differentiating _ the first steps in our cosmic dance of life and love. And God keeps going, making this and that and stepping back and saying, “Hmmm, something’s missing. It needs something more.” And God tweaks it a little bit more each day and recreates everything, including us.
But instead of saying that creation is lacking at each step _ it sucks somehow – God sees is much differently. From the divine perspective, it’s all good, just as it is at this moment – very good, in fact. Even when it’s incomplete and needs more work. Even when something important is missing.
Perhaps it’s good to keep this in mind as we go along. It’s all part of the creative process, the human process, the divine process. Maybe we’ll become less afraid of making mistakes and getting it wrong. It’s all very good. Maybe we’ll pull back on judging others when they do something that sucks, remembering that we’ve all been there.
Maybe we should pray for the courage to suck – to suck frequently and grandly, to suck proudly and boldly and creatively. To remember that instead of beating ourselves up or throwing our hands up because of a flawed effort, we need to look closely and recognize what’s beautiful and use that as the starting point for the next step.
And then get back to work on that drawing. And that rough draft. And that relationship. And those directions …