I’m something of a jack of all trades. Of course it’s difficult not to automatically finish the sentence – ‘and master of none’. It’s not a positive character trait is it? I have way too many interests and rarely stick to anything. Just focus, why don’t you?
Recently I’ve discovered there are other names for people like me and I’m not keen on any of them. Scanner is only a whisker away from scammer. Multipotentialite – I can see how it works but would I really introduce myself in this way? Nope. Polymath is attractive but lends itself to genius which I’m certainly not. Renaissance woman? Too grandiose. Dabbler? That seems lightweight, frivolous even, and I’m **always** serious about my projects. So, I’m going to go with the best of a bad bunch, scanner, thank you Barbara Sher.
Hello, I’m a scanner. If you haven’t heard of any of these terms they describe someone who has multiple interests and creative pursuits and is unable to decide on single direction for their life. I’m a typical scanner. I throw myself into a new interest, which could be learning to crochet, building a computer or making picture frames. I immerse myself, spending every waking hour watching YouTube videos, studying courses and researching every technique. This concentrated learning usually sees me reaching a standard that’s ‘good enough’, at least to my satisfaction. Not world class, but adequate. Then I become bored, move on to something else and feel guilty at all the time, energy and sometimes money poured into another abandoned project. Maybe there’s something wrong with me? I should just stick to one thing, focus and develop my niche particularly if I want to pursue it as a means to earn money.
There’s another aspect to this behaviour in our connected world. As a scanner social media is tricky because you either combine all your interests under one account or have multiple accounts for every interest. Neither of these options lead to consistency or a satisfactory experience, I’ve tried both and they go against all the ‘rules’ of social media, ie find your specialism, ‘niche down’ and share regularly. I find it impossible to do that. This week I’m digging deep into Obsidian, next week I may be researching a fantasy book for children.
One of my interests is writing and here, like many other creative pursuits the standard advice is to specialise. Find your genre, dig deep and stick to your niche. If you like cats then build your cat audience on social media, find ‘your people’ and only write books about cats. This is the key to ‘success’. The definition of success in this case is selling books and making money. Again, this is difficult for me. I’ve published several children’s books, a book about narcissism and more recently a historical novel. I like to mix it up but it’s not an avenue to commercial success.
However, it’s not all negative, and my personal definition of success is the rich, full life which includes loving the process of learning new skills. It’s both exciting and satisfying. Over the last few years I’ve learnt to embrace my butterfly brain that flits between projects. I can see the rewards that I gain from ‘new project endorphins’ as the next idea sparks, and then the the possibility of idea synthesis as two or more fields combine to create something new at the intersection For example, maybe I’ll start to crochet frames. Not a good example but you get the picture. Innovation is born at intersections. I’m a perpetual beginner at everything but I know how learning works and I’m not afraid to start at ground level when learning something new.
On a practical note I’ve learned not to get rid of equipment because I circle. So although I can play a half decent Prelude in C Major and really nothing much else on the piano, I know that in 6 months time I might be spending every waking moment learning a new piece. Don’t get rid of the piano or sewing machine, etc.
Do you recognise yourself? Are you a scanner? Check out the late Barbara Sher and her no-nonsense approach on YouTube. Many of her videos are ancient but amidst the talk of the strange new thing called the internet and bulletin boards there is wisdom and encouragement.
Also check out Emilie Wapnick’s Ted Talk and the community at Puttylike