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Being Lousy
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Dennis Jerz writes about his son's first chess tournament. The lad did great (second place) and enjoyed the experience. I played competitive chess once, at the weekly chess club meeting in the high school cafeteria, did terribly and decided I never again wanted to feel such an inadequate fool. (Of course then I would go and submit stories to magazines for years...) The article made me wonder how much we can enjoy activities we're lousy at.

Well, that article in conjunction with the United States Orienteering Federation rankings for 2004, made me wonder.

My abilities as an orienteer are similar to my chess skills (which can best be summed up as, "knows all the rules except isn't quite sure about castling."). If you doubt that, check out my ranking on the Orange course, which is not even an expert course and a level below what I should be running. It isn't an "official" ranking, luckily, since I only "competed" in one A-Meet last year, but, to be honest, the result was consistent with my usual efforts. As an orienteer I...let's see...what is a polite word for stink? Yet I still orienteer whenever I can.

I enjoy other things for which I have no talent whatsoever. Writing computer text adventures, for example. I can't program and, worse, don't have an adequate grasp of the proper way to structure such games. I'll never manage anything more than a passable effort. Just like I'll never cover an orienteering course in anything beyond an average time.

In both cases I enjoy the process far more than the results. I love being out in the woods, trying to find my way with a map. I find it exciting to puzzle out coding and occasionally see it work on my monitor. Both activities are stretches for a liberal arts non-athlete. I can take some satisfaction in being able to do either thing, no matter how poorly, like the dog that stands on its hind legs. If I can exceed my own expectations, I'm satisfied.

Writing is another matter. I have always expected to do well, albeit for a long time on very little evidence. Although I love the process, failure to achieve a desired result ruins the experience for me.

I think it's beneficial to give yourself permission to do things you're not good at. It broadens your horizons. Whether someone should be wandering around the woods lost or writing bad computer games when the time might be spent writing publishable fiction is a trickier question, to which the only answer I can give is to remind myself that I like to keep blog entries short.

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