“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
— Nelson Mandela
This year hasn’t been what I expected it to be so far – pretty much not at all.
I’m not sure if this is good or bad. It’s certainly turned out to be a more complex, more question-filled time than I was expecting.
What I was expecting was that this would be a period of accomplishing things – tangible things. I expected “less thinking, more doing.”
Like, I’d expected to really plow through a bunch of the writing-related projects I have in my queue, and pursue (hopefully with success!) several more. And what am I doing instead? I’m finding myself more and more dissatisfied with everything I write. I’m feeling more and more limited by language, and most particularly by the writing styles I’ve previously had success with.
And it’s not the kind of frustration that spurs you on to be better. It’s the I’m-not-interested-in-this-and-feel-like-it’s-a-waste-of-my-time kind of frustration.
I’m finding myself drawn more and more forcefully toward alternative modes of expression. Text-based mixed media work, for example. And most especially photography. I’m like a magnet for this stuff – particularly with projects that utilize imagery + text. I’m finding myself suddenly remembering, strongly, how attracted I was years ago as an undergrad to the work of Barbara Kruger and especially Jenny Holzer. And to Cindy Sherman and even Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt – and others (particularly women artists) who were making visual statements.
It’s like I’ve opened up some kind of door – and now I can’t close it again. And it’s altering my perception of everything I’m doing.
And yes…this is a problem. Because time spent on this stuff is time spent away from the writing projects that have a much better chance of actually, say, earning me money. Not to mention showing that sort of tangible progress that gives one some sort of standing in the world. (I’m trying not to worry so much about that last one…but it’s hard.)
And it’s a problem because I’m a huge novice when it comes to actually producing visual art – and this isn’t comfortable. I do have a degree in Art History, so it’s not as if I know NOTHING about the visual arts – even if I’m engaging in them in a way that’s new. I actually technically have two Art History degrees (though my M.A. was more of a history degree in practice.) But the truth is, I do know something about the historical cycles of art. I know something about composition and form. I have a general understanding of style and media.
But the fact remains that there’s a HUGE difference between intellectually understanding these things and actually PRODUCING them. I’m totally new at this – and clumsy and ignorant and all of those other things that come with the territory when you’re a beginner.
What am I supposed to do with this? Should I be doing anything at all? Do I follow my nose and jump in to new things – like I want to? Or do I try to stay to the course I’d outlined last year – which is very writing-centric?
Maybe there’s not an either-or situation here; maybe there’s a balance that can be found. But where should the lines be drawn?
This is all very perplexing to me. And I wasn’t expecting to have to be figuring out this sort of thing right now. (As I said: “less thinking, more doing” was what I was anticipating.
That quote, when I came across it, provided a useful bridge for thinking through some of this stuff.
I realized for one thing how much I’ve been judging myself. And I started questioning if that was something I should be doing. Am I just unfocused, and in need of getting my act together? Or is something else at play here?
I don’t feel unfocused. I don’t think that’s it. It’s more that I’m feeling like I thought I understood what my situation was – and I’m now facing the fact that it’s actually MORE than what I’d thought.
Kind of like in the quote: I fought my way over one gigantic hill for a couple of years and DID truly get over it by the end of 2013. That’s all valid. My mistake was in assuming it would follow that the terrain on the other side was going to be predictable – or familiar at all.
That’s what I’m grappling with now: the reality that the landscape ahead is full of a whole new host of challenges.
But that also means adventures, right? And unexpected beauties.
And maybe that’s not something to be stressing about. Maybe that’s something to embrace – and be grateful for. Even if it’s a little daunting…a little intimidating.
Kind of like this video is terrifying – but also AMAZING
I was actually, literally, shaking watching this! But…WOW:
I don’t mind unexpected mountains. I don’t mind challenges. I don’t mind being a little intimidated or even getting a little scraped up traveling new terrain. Because there are things like this out there. And this. And if you plan too much and stick too much to what you’ve planned, you close yourself off from opportunities to explore. And I don’t want to do that!
Not that I want to flail around unfocused (and I don’t think I’m doing that), but I want to be free to go with the flow of things – to experience, to explore, to try things, to experiment. And you can only fully do that if you’re open to the idea of change and flux – to surprise twists and turns.
I need to work on not worrying so much when that flux and change actually occur.
I seem to say this a lot when I blog (so maybe I should do a better job of remembering it??), but it all comes down to just putting one foot in front of the other, breathing, and savoring the moment – all the moments, as they come. Putting my energies toward living consciously and thoughtfully – and not getting hung up on things like “what people say” or “what that looks like.” That’s my challenge. That’s what I want. That’s what I have to have, to live the kind of life I want to live. I know this.
Maybe 2014 is really about working on that.
And so maybe 2014 is going exactly the way it’s supposed to go, after all!
(A comforting thought!)