J.K. Riki

Everything Sucks (At First)

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Two or three years ago, I bought a guitar so my wife and I could learn to play. Since then, I’ve messed around with it once or twice, but as anyone who has ever learned to play the guitar will tell you:

When you first try to play a guitar, it sucks.

Not only do the chord fingerings feel impossible to switch between, the steel strings eat into your fingertips much in the same way I expect someone would torture a prisoner of war. Two minutes in and you really want to quit forever.

The people who already know how to play the guitar will say “Don’t worry, it gets better and less painful.” Which doesn’t help much while your fingers are still gushing blood like the Nile river (an exaggeration) but is definitely true.

In the past month or so I’ve returned for a third attempt at learning the guitar, and I must say, it’s been going much more smoothly. I’ve reached a point where I can almost squeak out a tune that sounds similar to what I’m attempting to play, and it’s definitely moved closer to the land of Fun than ever before.

As I was awkwardly rocking out to “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane (not related to Glen Keane, as far as I know) I had a beautiful moment where I realized I had made the transition from the awful “Suck State” of learning something new to being comfortable enough that I actually wanted to keep going.

It’s a beautiful realization to have, and often we pass it by without being conscious of it. Anytime you start learning a new skill, it’s a lot harder at the beginning than it gets after a good deal of practice. Like the first two guitar attempts, sometimes we walk away because it isn’t going well. Stick with it, though, and it becomes incorporated into us. It becomes fun.

My recommendation is this: The next time you begin something new, be aware of the crummy, difficult time that generally happens at the start. It will allow you to push past it much more easily if you keep reminding yourself “it gets better and less painful,” no matter what the activity is.

Now is also a great opportunity to look back at skills you’ve built to the level of being comfortable (or at least “reasonably competent”) and remember that you made that transition. When you’re fighting through the hard part of beginning to learn, it’s really beneficial to look back at things that now seem like second nature.

And if you’re learning the guitar, the calloused fingertips on your left hand will be a constant reminder of your ability to overcome.


  1. Heather @ Buried in Books

    I always remind my kids when they are learning a new skill, especially a sport or something similar that they didn’t just stand up and start running one day. They had to learn to crawl, then walk then run. They get so frustrated when they can’t do things perfectly right away and want to give up. I’m glad you’re picking up the guitar again. And writing and cooking.

    I think we can find a lot of negative on the internet, but we can choose to ignore it. Or even better just don’t even subscribe to whatever brings those stories your way. I’ve had to surround myself with positive things, positive stories just so I can get up some days. I limit my exposure to social media. I blog very little and do what I need to do. I hope you can find a way to limit your exposure to the negative and be on the internet for the amount of time you need.

    Kudos to the new projects! I’m now subscribed to your mailing list!
    I’ll be ordering your book soon when I feel I can devote my time to doing it rather than let it sit on my shelf.

    1. JK Riki (Post author)

      Thanks Heather! 🙂

      I do try to avoid the negative aspects of the Internet, but sometimes I feel called to interact with some folks who might just need a kind word, and then there’s not a lot one can do to avoid what’s going on around! You’re right, though, surrounding yourself with positive things helps a lot.

      Definitely reserve the book for when you have a bit of time (about 15-20 minutes a day for 15 days, hence 15 Day Creativity Boot Camp) because it’s a very “doing” book, not just for reading. And the next newsletter should be going out in a few days, so keep an eye out for that! Hopefully it’s helpful.

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  5. Jimmy

    I hope the guitar learning is going well. Its one of those things you got to stick with or else it falls apart. Fingers hurt until they don’t.

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