Stealing Back My Joy

Sounds Like a Movement is a “a production company that believes every person is a movement in the making.” If you distill what they do on their podcast down to terms that most people can understand, they interview really interesting people Sleeping at Last and the guy who wrote the Lego Movie and post those inspirational interviews. And they do it better and more consistent than I do. Relevant Magazine is a magazine whose tagline is “faith, culture and intentional living.”  They produce and write a lot of great content, relevant to life and challenging to think about, in addition to podcasts and video with really great musical artists.  And they do it better and more consistently than I can.

There are a lot of really great companies, artists, stores, websites etc. out there that produce content/products way more professional, polished, raw, or eloquent than I can or a lot of artists can and yet we still write/paint/create. What is it that drives us to do this? Why is it that some people read Victor Hugo, or heck, even JK Rowling and say “I could never do that” and never try and others read it and are inspired. Why do some listen to “insert your favorite artist here” and give up and others listen and are inspired?

I have been there on both sides of the coin. Not exactly on the musical side, but on the writing side at least. In Les Miserables (book, not the play), there is a chapter “The Heroes” (Chapter 18(21) in Book 15) that is one of the most brilliant descriptions of battle I have ever read. After reading it, it made me wonder why every movie scene or book I have ever read about war never managed to capture the pain, the brutality, the beauty, the glory, the chaos of battle the way two pages in that book did. And it made me think “I could never do that. Why do I keep writing?” It is the same thing when reading Harry Potter or The Wingfeather Saga. Though they are kids books, sometimes I sit back in awe at writers who can capture a feeling, a story, real characters and keep it all in line to pull you into a full blown adventure. And I think, “I could never do that.” Other times I go into a business or a coffee shop and I love the atmosphere and think, “I could definitely pull this off,” or “Why didn’t I think of this?”

My Mom has a sign up in her kitchen that says “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I had a hearty debate with a good friend of whether that was true or not. He pointed out that comparison can cause us to run harder towards our goal and I took the position that if we are always comparing, we will never be satisfied where we are at. Comparison is often the thief of my joy but it is also the little spark that sometimes lights the fire to show me what makes me truly alive. I think that may be the secret in why we do what we do, even when there are hundreds of others that do it and probably do it better. We find what makes us come alive and we chase after that, even if we know we won’t be the absolute best. I need to forget about comparing and think about striving after doing what I was created for, striving for excellence in that. If I don’t, I become so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that I forget to dream. And don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for putting one foot in front of the other, but there is also a time to lift up your head to see the destination.

If No One Was Watching…

There is a song called “Who Are You” by a great band, Ivan and Alyosha, where the chorus says “Who are you when no one is around?” I have been thinking on what Taelor Gray said about making music if no one was listening. It was an honest answer and one that I have thought about taking it out of context of music. If no one cared about what you do for your living, or for creative fun, would you still do it?

Honestly, if I knew no one was ever going to read this blog, it would take on a whole new form. It would be more of a journal, something to vent what’s in my head but I don’t think I would care so much about quality or theme. It would be just another blog (which it still may be… so thanks for reading, loyal audience of five). I think part of the fun of creating something is to share it with others. Part of the joy is seeing something you put effort into taking form.

Let’s be honest, not everything we do is exciting or worth sharing. My day job is something that 99% of the world will find uninteresting but this principle applies even then. How would I perform my job if I knew that my boss didn’t care and no one would ever review my work. Weird concept, but what if you were given a task and told “Do this for the next year, we will pay you well and oh yea, no one, not even us, will ever see what you do.” Would you still do it? Motivations are a tricky thing. Depending on your belief system, you may believe (as I do) that Someone is always watching and you live for that higher motivation. But let’s be honest, even for the most devout, it is hard to stay motivated if we aren’t getting tangible feedback.

So what is it that you do? Any why do you do it? I don’t have great answers to this one, but it is something that has been on my mind. Who are you when no one is around? If we break it down to the most elemental that everyone can agree on, are you who you want to be? Or are you someone who is tossed about by the winds of culture and opinion?

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