I’ve recently realised something incredibly important as I contemplate the long road ahead from where I am to where I want to be.
Wherever you and I are in our creative journeys, this stage is not preparation, it is not a prelude before things get real.
This is reality.
If this part is not enjoyable, it’s not going to be possible to sustain the effort in the long term. Our profile, circumstances or wealth might change as we grow, but the basic process of creation and communication will not.
Writing will always look like this. Me, sitting here alone, setting down one word after another. Music will always be made by playing one note after another.
I love these acts for their own sake, and that’s essential, because whilst the circumstances of creation might change, the process never does.
When I used to teach piano, I would get students to watch me practice a challenging and unfamiliar piece. Without fail, they were surprised that I couldn’t immediately play it effortlessly and would say something like ‘but that’s what it’s like when I practice!’.
They saw my abilities as so far ahead of their own that they couldn’t imagine me not being able to play whatever I wanted.
I would explain that the only differences between us were experience and the difficulty of the music. Whilst the material I was attempting might be more advanced than their own, the process of practice was the same - and always would be.
I now understand this is true of any developmental journey, whether it’s in art, fitness, business or anything else.
The material changes, the process stays the same.
So if the process is never going to change, and the doubts and fears are always likely to be a part of the creative path, that only leaves us one option.
To enjoy the moment.
Because the moment is all that there is. There’s no guarantee we’ll get to see tomorrow, the future is never clear, the work we are doing now is all there is.
So perhaps this is the key to ‘doing what you love’ - devoting yourself to something where your enjoyment of the act of carrying out the work is independent of its results.
When trying to find their way, people are often encouraged to ask themselves is ‘What would you do if you knew you could not fail’? I think a better question to build a fulfilling life is this:
If you couldn’t succeed in anything, what would you choose to fail at?
Because wherever your journey takes you, you’ll be doing that thing over and over and over again.
It is all there is.
Enjoy it now.
Barry Dallman is a musician, writer and eternal student of the creative process. He is fascinated by the process of personal change and the challenges creative people face in committing to truly meaningful work. He's documenting his own creative struggles in the hopes of inspiring others to pursue what really matters to them.
Why don't we do what we really want to do? Why do we sacrifice our lives to our art - and then hold back from making it? What does it take to make us do the work we were born to do? Why is it so hard to be yourself?
These are the questions I'm trying to answer.
After years of fear and procrastination, I'm on a mission to show my work, fight the little voice that wants to stop me and share what I learn along the way. I'd love you to join me.