Original question from Quora:

How can I tell my 15-year-old daughter she is awful at writing?

My Answer:

You don’t need to tell her she is awful at writing. You need to encourage her to practice. That is how you get good at a meaningful skill.

When I was 13 years old, I decided to learn to play guitar. I bought a used Squier Stratocaster and a cheap amp. I was terrible.

At the time I got some horrible tape that tried to teach me basic chords. I sort of learned them, but never could play a song.

For the next decade I kept playing sporadically, but never practiced much and never got good.

Then, at age 22 or 23, my wife and I joined a church. She always sang at church and I wanted to play guitar. The church had no band, so we volunteered.

It’s about ten years later and for the last decade I’ve had to play guitar every week at church and practice the songs beforehand. Most Christian worship songs aren’t complicated, but you know what, after ten years of playing every week I’m pretty capable.

I’m not Jimi Hendrix or anything. I can’t really solo, but I can make music. People like it well enough that I haven’t been kicked out of church yet.

My parents didn’t tell me I was awful at guitar when I clearly was. They didn’t really do anything. They let me be.

Eventually I was forced to practice and perform guitar until I didn’t suck at it.

If my parents told me how bad I was at guitar, I would have given up. I’m glad they didn’t say anything.

If writing is something your daughter loves, find ways to encourage her to practice. Tell her good job and comment on how she’s improving.

The most important skill you can have as an artist is the ability to practice and improve your craft every day. It doesn’t matter if she’s not very good yet, it matters that she puts herself into it and gets better.

-Brian

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