There are at least two kinds of dreams, you know that, right? The first one is the kind I had years ago. I wanted to be a professional bass player, like Geddy Lee (Rush), Chris Squire (Yes) and all the others. There was just one problem. Those guys were virtuosos, they had spent years working to be who they are and they no doubt had tons of natural ability besides. I had neither. I used to say I wasn’t a very good bass player, but now I realize I might have been able to be at least passable, if I had been willing to put in the work, but I had other things that became more important than that dream and I put it aside.
Until last night, evidently, when I had the other kind of dream, the regular kind that comes from eating the wrong thing before bed, or maybe from God, I suspect this one may have been the latter, but the jury is still out. You see I dreamt I was invited to play bass for another 70s and 80s supergroup, another favorite of mine, Styx. I was getting ready. I was excited. I was talking to the guys from the band. I even was picking out the wardrobe I was going to wear on this huge stage, but as we got closer I had a nagging panic. You see, I came to the realization that I didn’t know the songs. I mean I know all their songs, but I didn’t know how to play their songs. Then I got relief, their bass player Chuck Panozzo, was there so I had some room. I asked James Young (guitar player, sometimes lead singer) if I could just observe for a while. I explained I needed to learn the music more. He said “Sure it was okay,” (remember, this was a dream) and then he said these words, “Don’t push the process.” From there I was inexplicably at a mall with some friends from church. They are in a choral group in real life and they wanted me to do some work with their group. (I think live painting but some details from this dream are a little sketchy.) I said I would love to, but I needed to see the group and rehearse and get ready. My friend said the same thing, “Sure you can do all that. Don’t push the process.” Then I woke up.
I knew I had to get up and write this down because there is a principle here for all creatives that needs to be addressed. Talent is one thing. I am of the belief that all of us have at least one. It’s a natural ability, something you just seem to be naturally good at and talent is great, but there is no substitute for hard work. Could I have been a great bass player? Maybe. Why didn’t I become one? Well I believe God had another plan, but there was something else at play. you see, I wanted to become a bass player because I had seen several of the best in the world (at least in the genre of rock music). I wanted to be like them, so I started out by trying to learn their music. The thing is they became the best in the world by being very, very good. I needed to start with easier material and work my way up. I needed to run about a billion scales and learn a lot of technique and put in ten thousand hours before I could scratch the surface of what they were doing. I didn’t do that. Instead I pushed the process, set myself up for failure and eventually gave up.
The second part of my dream showed growth. It would be a smaller venue. I was working in something where I have already put in a ton of hours, I probably could have faked my way through it cold and still come up with something that would have pleased many people, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to plan and prepare and bring my A-game to the table. I wasn’t pushing the process, instead I was willing to do the work.
In your creative dreams, don’t push the process and there is a process. There’s no substitute for for practice, hard work and preparation. Unless you’ve already done this, it is a mistake to compare yourself with people who are miles ahead of you. They got ahead of you by working the process. Start where you are and work the process. Find the venues that fit where you are in your journey and begin to put yourself out there, but keep working to get better. The best in the world keep working to get better. If your dream is worth the work to you, you will get there, if not it will fall by the wayside in favor of what God really has for you. Keep seeking Him and keep working to be the best you can be. Then share that with the world, allowing the venues to grow with you. That’s the process and it will take you to where you need to be, in due time.
Don’t push the process.