Bardic Skills: focus or diversify?

It’s impressive to do something well, and it is more impressive to do many things well. Thus the temptation can be to try and develop a vast array of skills, to write and recite poetry, and tell stories, and sing, and play four different musical instruments… Over time, having a broad skills base is a wholly realistic aim, but how much and how soon is worth pondering.

There are more advantages to diversifying than just looking good. If you just sing, a cold can wipe you out. Musical instruments do not benefit from going out in the rain. If there are four storytellers and you, choosing not to be a storyteller that day will help you stand out.

One significant risk of diversifying is that you end up being the sort of person who is forever starting new things, but never getting any of them anywhere. Picking up a new skill can be a way of not risking exposing yourself. You throw everything at the new thing, but never take it out because before you do, another new thing has come along. It can be a means for being really self-defeating while feeling like you’re making lots of progress and doing good work.

There are lots of very good reasons to focus on just one thing – not least being if you love that thing above all else. The person who invests all the time at their disposal in one discipline will move further and faster than a person with a more scattered approach. However, not all of us are psychologically cut out for that sort of focus and devotion – I’m not, I get bored easily, and so I can play several instruments passably, I can sing well enough, I’m an adequate sort of poet and a mediocre storyteller. But, I can usually find something to suit the situation, and I mostly get away with it.

It’s important to know who you are – obsessive or procrastinating, a one trick pony, an old dog with a hunger for new tricks… Who you are is the single biggest factor in deciding how much to focus and how much to diversify. That said, I recommend having one thing you’re invested enough in to feel confident and relaxed about, and at least one thing up your sleeve to cover for the times when what you normally do won’t really work.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Bardic Skills: focus or diversify?

  • janeycolbourne

    Some very good points there. Having a main occupation and some side interests can mean that you bring fresh ideas, style or skills into your main occupation from the new things you try out. Can help to keep things fresh, as well as being a backup.

  • Bard Judith

    I’m an artistic, bardic, creative, designer – so I can switch ponies at a moment’s notice. Being a gifted speedreading Aspien HSP means that I can actually absorb and process at a much higher rate as well – but, as you wisely comment, it can mean one gets bored more quickly 🙂 I’ve found diversifying and ‘spiral-learning’ helps, so that I come back around to each skill in turn and deepen it each time I invest, each project I complete, each level I add to. It keeps me current in my design field while still being able to make therapeutic art for myself, selling wearable art jewelry, performing music, or practicing being a ‘maker’ in other fields from baking to homeschooling. Whether it’s wordsmithery or piano, having diverse abilities allows me to make multi-media connections, holistic leaps of insight, and cross-cultural relationships – all rather useful bardic gifts, I think you’d agree!

    Thank you for this piece, Nimue!

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