The Curse of the Serial Dabbler

Ah, the curse of the serial dabbler. I know it well.

No, it’s not a B-grade 70s horror movie, although that would be interesting. It’s a term I’ve come to use to describe myself, and you may find it relates to you too.

When asked “So what do you do?”, I never really know what to say. I do lots of things. By trade (and degree) I’m a graphic designer — which is actually a fairly broad term and covers a lot — but it’s not all I do, even in just my day job. I’m also a web designer, although I don’t hold any sort of certification. I help theme events and I’ve styled photoshoots, and I’ve never been trained in these either. I love to write, but I would never call myself a writer. I adore taking photos, but I hesitate to call myself a photographer. I’m not a drawer, or a painter, or an illustrator, but I dabble.

So what am I? I’m a freakin’ serial dabbler. I can’t help myself.

“Ah!” I hear you exclaim, “Lucky you! You’re excellent at many things! You can do anything!”

I’m afraid not, hypothetical and excitable reader.

The curse of the serial dabbler is the reason you feel unable to ever master anything. You’re okay at things. You might even be good at things. Multiple things! But becoming super amazing at something takes a lot of passion and a lot of practice, which is very hard if you’re running between specialties like a hyperactive puppy.

My job allows me to connect with a whole range of different creative people, photographers in particular, and this is the reason I’m hesitant to define myself by a single title. I’ve met so many people who are just bursting with passion; who live their craft; that have given so much to be where they are that it feels almost disrespectful to think of myself as one of them.

“For the longest time I felt frustrated by what I felt wasn’t, and would never be, good enough.”

For the longest time I felt frustrated by what I felt wasn’t, and would never be, good enough. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Internet exists (curse you, Internet!) — I’m sure even the most skilful and insanely talented people look at the work of others and feel inferior at times. They probably also have secret Pinterest boards titled “I wish I could do this”, and spend hours pinning gorgeous things and sobbing when they should be working and honing their craft. No? Just me?

This may sound a little sad and depressing, but I’m actually extremely happy with being okay at a bunch of things. I love feeling passionate about multiple things, and while I’d also love to devote my time to becoming an amazing, world-renowned designer, or photographer, or illustrator (or stylist, typographer, florist…) I enjoy all of these things too much to let the rest go. Who knows? Maybe I just haven’t found my one true calling yet, or maybe I’m destined to be a serial dabbler forever. That’s cool.

So, what am I? I’m a serial dabbler! I like lots of things! I’m a polymath*! I’m a “creative”! Are you one too? That’s awesome!

And if you haven’t been lucky enough to find a day job like mine where you can dabble to your heart’s content… maybe try starting a blog. It’s a good creative outlet ;)

x

*Fancy word for someone who does lots of different stuff.

October 9, 2015

20 Comments

  1. Reply

    Snappystreet

    October 12, 2015

    I honestly feel exactly the same way! My profession is an audio engineer, but my passion is any thing creative! I love photography, and do that quite regularly but I still call myself a fraud while doing it! I think it’s the fact that we love exploring new creative ways and ideas so often that sticking to one media or medium would get a little tiresome. It does make things very difficult though, as I don’t feel like I can really say I’m good at anything!

    • Jemima
      Reply

      Jemima

      October 13, 2015

      Yup, yup, 100% yup! Isn’t it funny how we can do something so regularly — almost every day, like photography — and still feel like frauds! What the hell is that!

      I’m pretty happy calling myself a dabbler for now, helps me express my love for something without feeling too much like an impostor ;) In some ways though (and I probably should have made a point about this in the post above!) it can almost seem like a cop-out — it’s like I’m giving myself an excuse to fall back on if I try but fail. “Oh, that’s not a very good photo/drawing/painting. That’s okay though, I’m just dabbling! It’s not like it’s for realsies!”

  2. Reply

    andrewxxtofer

    October 12, 2015

    this is so good. I have never heard anyone else address this before, but I relate so hard core. jack of all trades master of none. 👌👌

    • Jemima
      Reply

      Jemima

      October 13, 2015

      Yessss, the perfect expression! That’s it exactly. Glad you can relate, you’re awesome!! 👍👍

  3. Reply

    Rachel

    October 12, 2015

    Uh huh, uh huh and uh huh a third time! I am frustrated i dont ooze this thing people call ‘passion’ and that really makes me feel like a fraud. And I still don’t have the confidence to call myself a “_ _ _ _ _ _er”, as much as I would like to. I THINK I may feel satisfied if i was confident that I was good ENOUGH at things, though :)

    • Jemima
      Reply

      Jemima

      October 13, 2015

      Ahh, I remember discussing this very post concept a few months ago with you ;)! Passion is such a tricky thing because it’s so different for everyone, too. One person’s passion will feel totally different to another’s. And that feeling of not being good ENOUGH is totally relatable x

  4. Reply

    Teresa

    October 13, 2015

    Same! My preference, though.

    • Jemima
      Reply

      Jemima

      October 13, 2015

      You are most definitely a serial dabbler, and it suits you hardcore ;D x

  5. Reply

    Veggie Mama

    October 13, 2015

    I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that I’m mediocre at everything.

    • Jemima
      Reply

      Jemima

      October 13, 2015

      DUDE WHAT! Coming from my favourite photo-taking, recipe-making, story-telling blogger?! I’d love half your talent at everything! O.O

  6. Reply

    Chalsie

    October 16, 2015

    Ah, I feel you Jemima!! I really do dread the ‘so, what you do you do’ question. I kind of love the idea of answering, ‘I’m a creative!’, hands in air, jumping up and down, huge smile on my face. Because let’s face it, it’s a pretty damn amazing feeling being paid to create, don’t you think? I love it, and pinch myself most days. x

    • Jemima
      Reply

      Jemima

      October 21, 2015

      It absolutely is! I’m so surprised (and thankful) that I actually get to do something I love every day. How good is that!? Why not embrace it! x

  7. Reply

    kate

    October 20, 2015

    I know exactly what it is to dabble; to not be good at any one thing but semi-okay at lots of things. I have a friend and we describe it as “hover/dabbler”. See we even had to create a slashie out of dabbling. It’s like we hover over some things to check them out and dabble in other things. It’s a blessing and a curse.

    • Jemima
      Reply

      Jemima

      October 21, 2015

      Ha! That’s so fabulous, I love that; I’ve definitely been a hoverer at times. It’s like a stepping stone to dabbling ;) a gateway state.

  8. Reply

    sahra

    October 24, 2015

    YESSS OMG this is so ME! I work in marketing (law), I run my blog, I do freelance gigs. I do freelance marketing for a cat café, I help plan events, I take photos at events for friends and groups. I’m a master of nothing, which is unnerving at times, but I also am accepting and loving of the fact that I can do plenty.

    XO Sahra
    Que Sera Sahra

  9. Reply

    Kendall Barrett

    February 25, 2016

    I love this! This is so me! I am still in school but I am working towards graphic design. But it really does encompass so many things! Anyway, Thanks for your advice and making me feel like I’m not the only one who feels this way! I started my own blog with a friend at http://www.matterblog.com check it out if you’d like!

  10. Reply

    Neelam

    March 22, 2016

    I were into art school afterward I was into I.t and technical and now medical plz help me out 😪😭 I feel like I am mad or something

  11. Reply

    Allison

    April 12, 2016

    It’s always comforting to read stories I can relate to. I’ve always struggled reading people’s about me’s when they say things like, “I’m on fire for (insert incredibly specific thing here)” because I usually like that thing but then feel unworthy to engage in it.

    Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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