When acclaimed poet Dorothy Parker was asked about the writing process, she said the following:
“I hate writing but I love having written.” – Dorothy Parker
It’s something Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray Love, explores in the brilliant ‘Big Magic’:
“Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege… So please calm down now and get back to work, okay?” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Many of us have passions and dreams. Often the dreams centre around the passions. One day I’ll write a novel. One day I’ll open a shop. One day I’ll record a song. Etc. etc.
There is a pain point that often comes in moments of reflection. On Birthdays, Year Ends, Sundays… when you realise another chunk of time has passed and you’re no closer to your dream. While your mind has been active, you haven’t managed to set the time aside to write that first chapter or email that potential mentor.
We’re all familiar with procrastination. The temptation to put things off again and again
One of the reasons we get plagued by procrastination so much is that there is a societal expectation that if we have a passion, we’re supposed to enjoy every minute we’re engaging in it. Therefore if we’re “not in the mood”, we shouldn’t be doing it.
If you want to play guitar professionally, you must love playing guitar all the time. If you don’t then maybe you don’t actually like it that much. This concept is part of the reason we wind up bouncing from passion to passion, one idea onto another. We move on quickly, as soon as we don’t enjoy something. But I don’t know where we ever got this idea that the things that give you the greatest pleasure do so consistently? That if you love something, you enjoy it all the time.
I love sunshine, but when my legs are sweating uncomfortably against a chair and my fan isn’t working, do I love it then? Nah. I love working out, but when my legs ache and I’m exhausted, is that fun? Absolutely not! The things you love most in life, aren’t just an unrelenting supply of joy. But you ride out the tough bits because you know the highs are worth it.
I often think about actors performing in Musical Theatre. They go through years of training, months of relentless auditions, chasing a dream that was probably planted at a young age as they gazed up at a West End stage. Then, once the dream is realised, the ambition achieved and they’ve been cast, they then perform the same play, same songs, same lines, night after night, sometimes twice in a day. That can’t be that fun. Surely sometimes the adrenaline of being onstage is watered down by the repetition? I imagine though, that when there are moments of ecstasy, it makes it all worth it.
So my message is this: if you’re chasing something, don’t expect to enjoy it all the time. Instead accept that sometimes you’ll find it a chore, but you do it anyway for the view at the top.