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The Joys of Competent Ignorance

Dive into 2024 with the bombastic hubris of eight-year-old me.

By Addison HornerPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 3 min read
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The Joys of Competent Ignorance
Photo by Dave Sherrill on Unsplash

When I joined this platform, I had no idea what I was doing.

Two years, eight Vocal achievements, and a successful Kickstarter campaign later, I'm happy to report that nothing has changed.

Okay, some things have changed. I'm a more confident writer. I share my work with marginally less shame and fewer apologies. And I've had to explain the plot of my fantasy novel from the audience of an improv comedy show because I had the audacity to wear a shirt that says "write on" and someone on stage noticed.

But if you could ask my ego what I've learned in the past two years—as it sits sandwiched between an obnoxiously inconsistent id and an oppressively critical superego—it would only shrug.

The (Metaphorical) Playground

I spent my college years in recording studios and rehearsal rooms. My classmates and I churned out concert repertoire and original songs like our careers depended on them, because it felt like they did. Striving was the name of the game, and though Elon University's music program was no Whiplash, it was still professional development. Our professors wanted us to succeed, and success in our vernacular came in verified forms—record deals, sync placements, Spotify streams, and social media clout.

Only now, eight years removed from my degree, have I recognized that being an amateur is underrated.

I love my Music Production & Recording Arts degree. I admire the professors who poured their passion into musicians whose brains hadn't finished cooking. My friends have made careers out of performing, teaching, and living musical lives, and so have I.

But how often do I sit down and play piano because I just feel like it?

If you're not a musician, imagine going to a playground as a kid. Every slide, staircase, and rubber-coated risk factor is interesting enough on its own. But when you play, you turn those stale, brightly painted plastics and polymers into a limitless canvas for your imagination. Maybe you'll sail on a pirate ship or soar between the stars! Maybe you'll hog the slide for twenty minutes. Whatever your choice, you'll spend your emotional and physical energy on something truly wonderful.

That's what piano feels like.

I started playing when I was four years old. At twenty-nine, it's still one of my favorite things to do.

So why don't I do it more?

As much as I love teaching piano lessons, performing on stage, and turning motifs into masterpieces, I've become a professional. Outside of that sphere, I've forgotten how to be a musician.

The (Literal) Playground

"You know no one likes you, right?"

I don't remember what precipitated those words. It was the end of recess, third grade, and somehow I'd ended up talking to another boy with whom I didn't get along. Maybe I'd said something annoying (a gift of mine) or something mean (more of a curse).

When he responded with those words, they cut deep. More deeply than eight-year-old me could process.

To be fair to the antagonist, he was a kid. He spoke from his own lack of processing power. I've been teaching music students since 2015, and even the brightest and most self-aware children are still children.

But kudos to him, because he struck at one of my deepest insecurities. I want people to like me. No, I want them to adore me, to think I'm wonderful, perfect, righteous, kind, clever, brilliant, and uniquely, un-alliteratively special.

When you're ranking yourself against everyone else, you only have eyes for yourself.

When you're playing for musical dominance, you forget to listen to the music.

When you engage the lust for clout, you eschew the love for creation.

The Point

Why, in an article for Vocal's 200th challenge, am I waxing reminiscent?

Because, when Vocal asked us to share our aspirations and creative goals for ourselves in 2024, I had nothing to say.

I looked at my journey on this site—my first clumsy attempt to serialize a superhero story, my visceral surprise at earning my first runner-up badge, my public attempts to cope with mortality—and felt dry.

So I decided to write about it.

And that's the beauty of this platform. I sat down this morning in my Vocal shirt with nothing but a pretentious title and typed my heart out. I explored my emotions, my fears, my hopes, all in the safe white glow of Vocal's text editor.

Yes, I've changed since I started writing here. I'm publishing my first novel in 11 days. I've found creators I admire. I can say, with only a modicum of imposter syndrome, "I'm a writer."

But I wasn't really sure how to say that.

So, true to its name, Vocal helped me find my voice.

In 2024, I'll keep writing. I'll keep exploring. And I'll remember every moment, every reader, every comment that stokes the creative fire in me. And it'll be fun.

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About the Creator

Addison Horner

I love fantasy epics, action thrillers, and those blurbs about farmers on boxes of organic mac and cheese. MARROW AND SOUL (YA fantasy) available February 5, 2024.

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Comments (2)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock4 months ago

    I remember a Christmas movie I watched on tv as a child (no, I've never been able to recall the name or rediscover it), which was about a local choir rehearsing for a Christmas pageant. At one point, a prima donna storms out of a rehearsal after calling everyone else there a bunch of amateurs. After she had left with her epithet still hanging in the air, the director turned to the members of the choir & told them, "She called you all amateurs, & so you are. All that means is that you're doing this because you love it, not to attain some recognition or reward." (paraphrased, of course) I loved these ruminations of yours, Addison. I hope you did & do too.

  • Marysol Ramos4 months ago

    Congratulations on the upcoming Published book !!! Loved reading this, you’re full of greatness and I’m sure there’s more greatness to come over the years.

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