Wednesday, June 26, 2013

There and Back Again: A Creative's Journey

Hopefully, your metaphorical mountain
has less metaphorical dragons.
Yesterday, Kadie talked about NeilGaiman's method for finding your mountain. While this sounds fairly simple, much like identifying what you want to be when you grow up, it gets significantly harder to do once you've graduated.

We're here to tell you – it's okay to embrace the process.

In photography, sometimes you have to wait until the light is right. In painting, the canvas may need to dry before you can apply more color. In writing, you can go through drafts and drafts (and drafts) before you come up with something you want to share with anybody. Dance and theater and comedy and music all require hours of rehearsal and preparation.

Why should it be any different in life?

We have this narrative in our culture, that once you're an adult you need to have everything figured out – where you're going, who you are, why you're here. We've touched on it before in this blog, here and here. Artist after artist after artist has also challenged this assumption, from Jack Kerouac's On the Road to Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx's Avenue Q, to Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture, to every Adam Sandler movie ever. And that just covers a few of the works from American pop culture.

The reality is, finding your mountain takes time – sometimes a lot of time. I first tried my hand at Jackie Battenfield's exercise about four years ago – and my answers were dramatically different from what I'd say today. I was planning on going to grad school – NOPE – I was planning on becoming a professor (probably not), and I was planning on having all that stuff accomplished by the time I turned 28, so I could get to settling down and having one of those baby things my friends keep talking about, but still keep up with my thriving art career.

While none of those goals are on my horizon today, at least not in the form I originally anticipated (Would someone please tell my 22-year-old self that building a career takes more than a couple of years? Thanks), I'm still glad I travelled toward what I thought was my mountain – again, and again, and again. The reason? Each time I started working towards my then-goal, it brought me to a new perspective in my life – at which point I'd spot a goal that I wanted even more. At 16, I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I had no idea what that looked like. At 26, I still don't really know what that looks like, but I know that it involves having time for my family and friends and making enough money to support my foodie fine dining habits. This is the hill I'm on today, and I think I know what mountain I'm aiming for – but that might change at the next overlook.

And that's okay.

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