Black sheets of white paper layered over each other at angles.
Academic life

Trust the craft

As a gymnast sprints toward a vault at breakneck speed, ready to hurtle herself into the air and perform a skill so complex the naked eye can barely catch it, she needs trust. There isn’t (or so I imagine, from my couch) any time for worry or even conscious thought. The gymnast must simply trust in her muscle memory, her training, her skill. She has to trust the craft.

Trust the craft has been a powerful motto for me over the last year. As both my coaching practice and my writing work have expanded into new areas, I’ve had lots of opportunities to doubt myself. I can give myself a pep talk, sure. But I can also remind myself to relax and rely on the skills that are, after decades of preparation, second nature.

I love a good positive self-affirmation, but sometimes a person just needs to work. Saying “trust the craft” to myself when I feel stressed about the deadline, word count, or general quality of my writing calms me down right away. It takes me outside myself. The success and completion of my piece aren’t solely reliant on my belief in my abilities. They’re in the hands of something more powerful: the craft itself.

As academics, our crafts come in many forms. Skills in the classroom. Technical work in the lab. Listening and observing in the field. Presenting our research. Communicating in writing. When I say “trust the craft,” I’m allowing for a little bit of magic to move me in the right direction. Knowing when to pause and spend a little extra time on something with my students. Intuiting the right words to end an essay. Losing myself in the flow of a presentation.

Just as the gymnast must not overthink her leap if she wants to make it over the vault safely, so too do we have to let go a little in order to let our preparation and practice take over. Why not see if you can give yourself a little grace to trust your craft?