Thoughts On Sunday: Don't try it, just do it.

Sunday, 14 September 2014
Welcome to what I hope to make a weekly feature: ‘Thoughts on Sunday’. For me, and for many others, Sunday is a day for thought and reflecting. I usually have brunch with my mother on Sundays and we have a tendency to go on existentialist tangents, or discuss our current reading material and consequent inspired thoughts, so I wanted to share with you my own thoughts. Just what I’ve been thinking about, what’s inspired me and hopefully it might get you thinking too. I find that Sunday is the perfect time for getting your head in order for the coming week. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve felt lost on a Sunday and read something inspirational that has sparked an enthusiastic Monday. Sometimes what I read doesn’t click and other times, I read it at the right moment and it makes so much sense that it feels like I could have written it myself.

This week’s Thoughts on Sunday is on the subject of trying. 

“Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Master Yoda.

I’ve never seen this episode of Star Wars, but it’s a well-known quote, and one that has been on my mind for the past week or so as I geared myself up to start this blog and the start of another year at university. I never really understood this quote, maybe because I haven’t watched the film, and maybe because I just couldn’t see how I could apply it to my life. How could there be no try?

From a young age, I was told that it didn’t matter if I failed, what mattered was that I at least tried. People will often say ‘You should at least try’ especially when you’re faced with an activity that you’re afraid of or don’t particularly want to do. Encouraging you to try, is encouraging you to at least attempt to do something, which isn’t inherently bad. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try things, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s the right thing to be saying. When you’re trying something, you’re not doing it.

It took me awhile to understand the difference between ‘trying to do something’ and ‘doing something’. Trying allows for a reserve of doubt, a reserve of failure that you were sort of sure was going to happen, and when it does happen, it doesn’t really matter because you knew there was a chance that it was going to happen. When you try, you hope for success but at the same time set up a safety net in case you don't quite make it to what you were aiming. However, in the realms of motivation, it is a widely held belief that if you anticipate failure chances are you’re going to fail.

Nike doesn’t say ‘just try it’ because it’s doesn’t have the same hard determination as ‘just do it’. ‘Just try it’ would incite just as much curiosity, but it doesn’t evoke the same sort of dedication to what you’re doing as ‘just do it’. When you do something you can’t back out. If you run every day, you run every day – you’re not trying to be a runner, you’re out there come rain or shine, and hopefully (for the marketing department at least) kitted out head to toe in Nike.

It took me awhile to apply the same logic to blogging. I’ve wanted to ‘be a blogger’ since the first bloggers emerged on the scene and we were enthralled with the likes of Susie Bubble, Tavi Gevinson, and The Sartorialist. Except I never got round to blogging, for many, many reasons, including comparing myself to other, letting fear rule me and wanting to do it so much that I talked myself out of it because I didn’t want to find out that I sucked at something I wanted desperately to be good at. (These are things I shall no doubt cover in later Thoughts on Sunday). In hindsight, the thing that ended up being my downfall was that I stayed in the ‘just try it’ phase. Oh, I tried blogging. I racked up a thousand first posts, and usually ended up calling it quits by the third post.

With just a few posts and a blog name, I could say that I had tried blogging. It didn’t matter that it hadn’t worked out, but at least I had tried. I forgot the part where I had to ‘try my best’ and that basically translates to ‘just doing it’. Trying doesn’t involve pushing through the writer’s block and bashing out a couple of hundred words that you hate but you’ve scheduled a post for the next day and you know that you have to get it out there nonetheless. Trying doesn’t even involve a blogging schedule because you’re not a blogger yet, you’re just trying to figure it out. Trying doesn’t really involve a hundred percent, and when it does, it’s synonymous to doing it.

And so that’s when Master Yoda’s quote begun to make more sense:  
You can’t try to blog. Blog. Or don’t blog. There is no try.

In the end, I think the biggest bone I have to pick with the concept of trying is the assumption that trying engenders in some people (I don’t think I’m alone in thinking like this!) that when you do something, it has to be perfect. All the other times you’re doing it, you’re just trying – trying to reach some unattainable perfection. As an aspiring writer, I’ve noticed it’s what established writers try to get the newbies to understand over and over again: a writer is one who writes. Not one who tries to write. One who writes every day, and even if it’s utter rubbish, it doesn’t matter because they’re engaging in their activity, and with each attempt they improve their craft, find their style and are never short of inspiration.

I now believe that when we stop trying to do something, and we just do it, it becomes a whole lot easier. As a consequence, instead of it being a case of ‘I tried and I failed’ it becomes ‘I did it, and I wasn’t that great at it, but I still did it’. Do you see a difference?

What do you think? Am I being to harsh on trying?

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