I’ve hit a strange point where I feel like I am plateauing. There is still plenty of room for me to improve in my hobbies, and while I am unsatisfied with my current ability, there’s some mysterious blockage preventing me from going further.
I first noticed it with my essay-writing. I was working on my literature review on contemporary tea history when I realized that I was wholly unhappy with how I was framing the entire piece. It didn’t rake me very long to realize that in fact, I had no idea how I wanted to frame it. As a result, nothing I came up was appealing. I knew I could do it better, but my goal was vague. I set it aside.
Then, while practicing calligraphy one night, I realized that—like my essays—nothing I wrote appealed to me. I had started learning seal script, and while that came with its own harsh learning curve, but when I tried to switch back to the standard script and semi-cursive I was so fond of before, I was critical of every stroke I made.
Then, I noticed the same thing with guqin. While I had amassed a large repertoire of songs, I was unhappy with my inability to play a certain piece with full proficiency. As I was practicing, I noticed that there was a larger issue—could it be that I had actually gotten worse? I stopped and listened to a recording I took of myself playing the same piece just one month prior.
It wasn’t that I had gotten worse, but I had realized how poorly I was playing.
Curious, I looked at my past calligraphy—I hadn’t gotten worse. Phew. But while I was more-or-less content with my calligraphy in the past (at least, content enough to post it on Instagram and Facebook), I wanted to delete everything at that very moment.
I sighed in relief. It wasn’t that I had forgotten all I had learned. That would have been disastrous. Instead, I had gradually developed enough discernment to see my mistakes.
My discernment had outpaced my skills, and now I needed to catch up. Rather than be discouraged by my new realizations, I decided that this would be my impetus to improve. After all, now that I knew exactly I needed to change, I could progress a lot quicker.
I started with more reading and writing, trying to identify a cleaner and clearer writing style. With calligraphy, I returned to the most basic strokes, producing pages and pages of horizontal strokes as I aimed to produce a consistent page of quality strokes. I returned to the most basic guqin pieces, refreshing my memory of them while also refining each movement.
This recent challenge led me to think about the process of our growth as humans. Overtime, we begin to realize our faults, and while this can be disconcerting and lead to thoughts such as “wow, I did some really terrible things” or “I’m not good enough”, this can also lead to a motivation to change—a newfound resolve to not do terrible things anymore and a renewed vigor to do even better.